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206 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent as (almost) Always
I was a little bit apprehensive about the idea of Unseen Academicals. I couldn't see how even a writer as gifted as Terry Pratchett could make football something true to the spirit of Discworld. Happily, the book manages to meld the strange worlds together in an energising and entertaining whole. I wasn't sure I was going to like it when it arrived, but as usualy Terry...
Published on 3 Oct. 2009 by Dr. Michael Heron

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A jolly good romp around the field.
Pratchett doesn't write duff books anymore: he'd gotten into his stride by around the 4th book in the Discworld series, and by now every volume is very well crafted. This one's about football: the Unseen University's wizards discover that to preserve the legacy income that provides their cheeseboard, they must play a token football match. At the same time, football on the...
Published on 22 Jan. 2011 by Jason Mills


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206 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent as (almost) Always, 3 Oct. 2009
By 
Dr. Michael Heron (Brechin) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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I was a little bit apprehensive about the idea of Unseen Academicals. I couldn't see how even a writer as gifted as Terry Pratchett could make football something true to the spirit of Discworld. Happily, the book manages to meld the strange worlds together in an energising and entertaining whole. I wasn't sure I was going to like it when it arrived, but as usualy Terry Pratchett delivers something much more than we have any right to expect.

Some parts of the book are an unusual departure in terms of the theme of the book - not so much inconsistent but as part of a continual evolution of the character of Ankh-Morpork and its various inhabitants. More so than any other Discworld book, I got the feeling from this novel that things are genuinely changing in the world. People are moving on and growing up, sometimes with surprising results. It genuinely feels like the book moves the continuing story of the Discworld on a few years.

I don't want to say too much about the plot itself, but it manages to avoid that which I had feared - the 'gimmick of the episode' style thing so common to the later stages of popular franchises. It's never the case that the football element is crowbarred in - it emerges rather nicely from the usual serendipitious circumstances that we come to expect. That's especially welcome, because not being a fan of football myself, the whole theme of the book is somewhat alien to me. However, really it's not about football - it's about the people, the mythology, and the spirit of the game. In the same way that the West Wing is not a show about politics, and House is not a show about medicine, this isn't a book about football. Football is just the vehicle used to deliver some important lessons about the nature of community and belonging.

It's a wonderful book, and a very worthy addition to the Discworld canon. Thanks, Terry!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three lions (and an ape), 24 April 2011
I probably fall in a third camp that neither loved nor hated this novel but enjoyed it as a generic Discworld story that ticks all the usual boxes with some memorable new characters to boot.
The Unseen University crew are some of Pratchett's most memorable creations, but I thought that the majority were underused here, apart from Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully about whom we learn a little more. Rincewind and his brilliant walking chest were largely absent from the action, but the eternally put-upon Ponder Stibbons and bolshy (ex) Dean are given plenty to do.
The story is a straightforward TP satire on society and the way it treats those seen to be different, and is a thoroughly enjoyable read; it just doesn't take the Discworld series anywhere new.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A jolly good romp around the field., 22 Jan. 2011
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Pratchett doesn't write duff books anymore: he'd gotten into his stride by around the 4th book in the Discworld series, and by now every volume is very well crafted. This one's about football: the Unseen University's wizards discover that to preserve the legacy income that provides their cheeseboard, they must play a token football match. At the same time, football on the streets of Ankh-Morpork is becoming a dangerous problem. The ever-resourceful Patrician takes the matter in hand, manipulating the wizards into fielding a team against the best players from the streets, thereby seeking to manage the problem.

The real story, however, focuses on a quartet: Glenda, the wizards' doughty cook; Juliet, her beautiful airhead friend; Trevor Likely, a lazy lad with untapped footballing potential; and a mysterious goblin called Nutt, who works with Trevor in the University's candle vats. Juliet's star quality becomes apparent at a fashion parade, and as she and Trevor fall for each other she is lined up as the Discworld's first WAG. Glenda has to work out whether to assist or hinder this process; while the curiously over-educated Nutt seeks to avoid a looming and disastrous destiny.

The complicated interactions of these four with the footballing 'upper' plot are handled gracefully and with plenty of good laughs. Pratchett finds time to rail against a street culture of low aspirations and thuggishness without hammering the reader over the head. Welcome cameos from the likes of Rincewind and Vimes, as well as the full stock of wizards, round out the tale. It's not his best Discworld novel, but there's nothing to dislike and everything to enjoy.
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unseen Academicals, 11 Oct. 2009
By 
Brian Lelas "laerfan" (Chapelizod, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Terry Pratchett's recent form has been criticised by many. "Nation" divided fans. "Making Money" couldn't live up to the standard set by "Going Postal" a few years before, much like "Wintersmith" with the two previous Tiffany Aching novels. But one thing was clear about these books, it was that Pratchett, even when slightly off the top form we have cme to expect from him, can still win awards for his books and is usually leagues ahead of the competition.

"Unseen Academicals" on the other hand, is utterly joyful to read. On the outside it seems like a book about football, but as the quote on the back quite aptly points out, "The important thing about football is that it isn't about football." What we have here is a novel about the uncontrollable culture of football and the broad range of football zealots, from the lovers of the game and the men with the skills to the angry old women shouting "kick 'im in da nutz!" and violent hooligans that dominate the Shove.

But wrapped even more deeply is a realisation that Pratchett was actually warning us with that back cover quote. It really isn't about football. The sub-plot, surrounding Mister Nutt, an intelligent and incredibly polite goblin, and his Unseen University colleagues, Glenda the Night Kitchen cook, her assistant Juliet and candle dribbler, Trev Likely. This sub-plot, however, takes up at least 60% of the book, so to call it so would be an injustice. And further so, because it is a wonderful tale of romance, adversity and acceptance. Pratchett has created something quite special with the character of Mister Nutt, who will be a favourite of fans for years to come.

The laughs are more frequent than "Making Money" and the novels of the last few years, with the Wizards, Archchancellor Ridcully in particular, and his ever present number two, Ponder Stibbons, always nearby when something is making you laugh out loud. Only Pratchett has the ability to bring such a clever wit to the level of blurt-out embarrass yourself in public laughter, and you'll experience this many times while reading "Unseen Academicals." Fans of Rincewind, be aware that he has only a cameo appearance in this book and is by no means the main character. But you will not be disappointed, because Ridcully, Nutt, Vetinari and Glenda will be more than enough to keep you entertained.

"Unseen Academicals", while not one of the overall best in the Discworld series, like "Night Watch" or "Mort", is certainly in the second tier of greats and is the best Pratchett for many years, and when the final whistle blows, you'll be wishing for more!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice one, 30 Oct. 2009
By 
C. Lloyd - See all my reviews
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What only three stars?

Yep. It's good, but there are about 20 better ones to read first. It is nicely written and has the usual gentle humour shot through it. What it doesn't have is much plot. At all. If Mr. Pratchett's editor is reading this, please get tougher! There are some lovely themes, characters and events. Just not much in the way of actual story. There is a game of football and Nutt is revealed. That's your lot. Some tired themes here too, Nutt is introduced as a Gobliln, a horrible monster that people hate, so that means that he is not horrible at all. How did we guess? It would be nice to have a proper monster now and again, its all a bit PC sometimes. Mr Nutts origins turn out to be an anti-climax, although it does lead to a nice gag when he confronts the crowd, even if you can see it coming three streets away. The two stories are poorly connected to boot.

Liked it though. At the end of the day, nice one.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back of the net for Mr Pratchett!, 1 Oct. 2009
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Mr Pratchett has used many of his novels to give a comic fantasy twist to many subjects ranging from Banking, movie making to newspapers. Here he turns his hand to blending football into the Discworld.

I have been with the Discworld novels since the very beginning, way before the author turned into a phenomenon and then an official National Treasure. Recently his much discussed illness has perhaps made us appreciate his genius even more. Now, a slight confession, although I was there from the start, I kind of lost my way about Hogfather - maybe it was my age or my tastes changed, but suddenly the books weren't doing it for me and since Hogfather I have only been dipping in and out of the occasional one.

But I love football and was keen to see how Terry Pratchett would morph the beautiful game into a Discworld version! And would the classic humour and clever writing be there as I remembered it from the days of avid reading. In short, yes.

In essence, the wizards of the Unseen University have to win a football match. And they are not allowed to use magic. So they resort to bringing in some players all of whom, in typical Pratchett fashion, are not quite what they seem. But although there are many amusing digs at the football culture, football and the challenge match are just the framework in which the author places interesting characters and very funny interplay. And there comes a point where you realise that actually this book might be about something that is nothing to do with football!

It's astonishing that an author who is suffering with a serious illness can still produce such high quality stuff. The word genius was never more appropriate.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intermittently entertaining, but also flabby, overlong and unfocused., 9 July 2010
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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For long years the game of foot-the-ball has been played in the back alleys of Ankh-Morpork, with teams formed from street communities coming together in sporting comradeship (involving violence and pies, not necessarily in that order). But the game is starting to turn ugly, and in the spirit of maintaining civil order the Patrician has decided to make the game legitimate, with professionally-organised teams and codified rules. The wizards of Unseen University are invited to form a team and Archchancellor Ridcully enthusiastically agrees, with new staffmember Mr. Nutt proving an invaluable asset. But the old street game isn't going to die peacefully...

Unseen Academicals is the most recent novel in the Discworld series and, at around 530 pages, is also the longest. It's also one of the more unfocused books in the series, with lots of excellent ideas which Pratchett is unable to bring together with his customary cleverness. For example, we are given two different reasons why UU has to form a football team. As well as the general sense of civic duty as the Patrician attempts to legitimise the game, we also have a requirement in the will of a deceased wizard whose money is funding the UU kitchens that the university has to field a football team or lose his money (and thus their food). This is an amusing idea, but also unconvincing and, after it is initially brought up, is promptly dropped.

Thankfully, for those who are not big fans of football, that element of the novel soon drops into the background, with Pratchett focusing most of the action on the character of Nutt and his enigmatic background. Nutt makes for a likable protagonist, but the revelation of his backstory lacks punch, mainly because with so many other formerly-considered-evil creatures now living in Ankh-Morpork, the addition of one more is not particularly notable. Glenda, the other main protagonist, is also interesting but there is little to distinguish her from Pratchett's other stoic, brave and resolute female protagonists. She is no Granny Weatherwax or Susan, that's for sure, but is likable enough.

The book also has its funny moments, with Ridcully given a new nemesis in the shape of his former Dean, who has 'betrayed' UU and become Archchancellor of Pseudopolis's magical academy, and the arrival of a flamboyant Genuan wizard who becomes the UU team's star striker, but it is definitely light in the out-and-out laughter stakes compared to many of the other volumes in the series.

Where the book does excel is in its worldbuilding. Ankh-Morpork has been the greatest fantasy city ever created for some considerable time, but here it gains additional depth as Pratchett delves into the social history and relationships of different communities amongst the common folk of the city and the world of servants below stairs at UU, and we get some nice additional insight into how the Patrician rules and orders the city so efficiently given its chaotic nature. In addition Pratchett uses his vast existing library of Discworld characters to populate the city, with William de Worde getting his biggest role (although still an extended cameo) since The Truth and the return of Rincewind and his luggage (although again only briefly).

Unseen Academicals (***) is well-written and occasionally amusing, but it is also flabby, overlong and unfocused, with protagonists who are intriguing but unremarkable compared to many others in the series, despite the excellent use of the setting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unseen Academicals, 12 Nov. 2012
The first novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (The Colour of Magic) was published in 1983 so it's no surprise that I feel like I've been following the series for my whole life. Pratchett is one of the best-selling authors in the UK and is a prolific writer - Unseen Academicals is the 37th novel set in Discworld - but his standards never slip.

In Unseen Academicals Pratchett focuses on life above and below stairs at the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork and turns his satirical eye on the world of football. The faculty of wizards at the Unseen University are faced with a difficult decision - either survive on only three meals a day or form a football team to compete in a tournament that would ensure funding for the University from a wealthy family of patrons. They are not keen to lose their meal privileges. Unfortunately for the wizard, football in Ankh-Morpork is a particularly dangerous sport and deaths are common. The wizards therefore team up with Lord Vetinari, beloved dictator of the city, to compile a set of official rules for football, which includes the banning of handling the ball and proscribes the use of unofficial balls. The rules might well make the game somewhat safer, but they're certainly not enough to guarantee the wizards victory in the tournament.

While the wizards are concentrating on training and tactics, four ordinary citizens of Ankh-Morpork are becoming mixed up in some shady footballing business. Mr Nutt is a candle dribbler who must shake-off his race's reputation for being mindless killing machines when he is appointed as trainer for the wizards ahead of their big match. Mr Nutt's co-worker and friend, Trev Likely, is the son of the most famous deceased footballer in Ankh-Morpork but has unfortunately promised his mum that he will not play in the match. Glenda is a friend of both Mr Nutt and Trev and works in the Unseen University's Night Kitchen making the best pies in the whole of the Discworld. Juliet works for Glenda, fancies Trev and might just be the best fashion model to ever grace the Disc. These four disparate characters all end up advising the wizards during the build-up to their epic match against the former street footballers of Ankh-Morpork.

With Unseen Academicals Terry Pratchett has written yet another cracker of a Discworld novel. I'm not a big fan of football myself so I wasn't sure whether I would find the set-up here to be as interesting as the previous novels but it was quickly clear that Unseen Academicals is a satire on the old formula of 'team of no-hopers coached by a washed up, one time great player must play and beat the favourite team' and the situation of the wizards having to win using official non-magic rules in order to guarantee the continuation of their slothful lives is just as hilarious and entertaining as the previous satirical Discworld novels (Pratchett having parodied the post office and banking, amongst other famous British institutions, in recent novels). I've always enjoyed witnessing life in the Unseen University and several well-loved characters from previous novels (such as The Luggage and Rincewind) crop up again to great effect in Unseen Academicals. Each of the four new characters introduced in this novel were strong and likeable and help to drive the plot forward. I particularly liked the enigmatic and stoical Mr Nutt. The plot knits together well through a series of amusing happenstance and the pace of the story is lively. The tone here is less dark than that of the more recent Discworld stories and there are many laugh-out-loud moments.

I can't wait to see what will be happening in the Discworld next!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortlessly portrays the bizarre inhabitants of this remarkable and surreal world, 18 Feb. 2012
I've been a fan of Terry Pratchett's novels for as long as I care to remember. Just after Mort was published a colleague introduced me to The Colour of Magic in paperback and within a few days I had got up to date. I've been getting each new Discworld novel as it comes out, until very recently. Due to various other pressures I failed to notice the publication of Unseen Academicals at the end of 2009 and it wasn't until last Christmas that I managed to remedy that situation.

As ever, (Sir) Terry Pratchett manages to combine familiar characters with new ones in a way that enables him to take a theme or genre or even a well-known story and give it a different and unaccustomed polish by viewing it from the Discworld perspective. His wordplay is, of course, legendary - to my mind both he and Douglas Adams are equal and otherwise unrivalled masters of the witty turn of phrase that we all wish we had thought of first :-)

Not being much of a fan of football, I suspect some of the more subtle jokes and references passed me by. But then one of the greatest, and cleverest, beauties of Terry Pratchett's writing is that the humour frequently works on multiple levels and can appeal simultaneously to audiences of all ages, backgrounds and experience. I was glad to meet many of the inmates of the Unseen University again, especially the Librarian. The Discworld novels effortlessly portray a wide variety of inhabitants of this remarkable and surreal world, in a way which makes even the most bizarre creatures endearing - where else would you encounter and empathise with a Troll, dwarf, vampire, zombie, assassin and dodgy fast-food retailer all at the same time?

So, you don't need me to recommend this as I would be mad not to!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Injury Time ..., 29 April 2010
Injury Time is what a lot of people are thinking, I guess. I disagree. pTerry's books are as lucid as ever.

OK we're in Ankh-Morpork yet again, OK you just _know_ the outsider is going to triumph yet again. OK Vetinarii is just too sharp not to cut himself yet again. But that's no problem. You can't surprise all the people all the time and you shouldn't have to.

The gratification for me is the way the old characters grow as pTerry's style grows. After the example of acquired taste that is Monstrous Regiment, the con-man laid bare that is Moist von Lipwig (and the subtle avatar that is his ever-smoking better half) and the gothic governess that is Susan Death, I firmly believe that pTerry can knock Jonathan Swift into a pointed hat. He _is_ English satyr now that Tom Sharpe has slowed down. Seriously, if you don't like him, I challenge any reader of this review - show me better! Come on, have a go ...

Around 1990 or so, my younger brother brought me the still-quite-young The Colour of Magic to read. I think you know the joke that had me bursting out of my skin. You know, the one about wet copper armour? That was an unforgettable moment in British fiction and if you don't know what I'm gabbing on about read the first couple of pages of the book again ...

Since then ... it's been a long climb up Fun Mountain, and pTerry is still climbing. In Unseen Academicals, he tackles football. He's funny, articulate, insightful, clever, a little bit preachy, but not so much as in Small Gods. These are a few of my favourite things.

He keeps his eye on the ball. So what if Carrot already had one in Jingo! He'd been clever with a bladder. This book is different. This time it isn't the King, nor the Guards, nor the nobs who push the creaking wagon of Ankh-Morpork history along. This time, it's not just about the ball, is it? We're all in it together, apart from those who don't like to play, of course. There are always a few.

Thankfully, the Patrician isn't the one-dimensional smart-alec. I'm _glad_ pTerry did that. Much better than his behaviour in Feet Of Clay - casually allowing himself to be poisoned slowly while he waited for others to work out what was happening. Now we have someone who enjoys a drink and a laugh. Oh, and food. So maybe he isn't some kind of eldritch distillation of Sun-Tzu and Macchiavelli after all. Maybe he has a pulse and a stomach. Coo, what next! What fun! People in pTerry books are changing - just like real people! Do try to keep up. It really isn't that hard.

Nutt and Vetinarii were perhaps a little archetypal (sounds better than "cardboard-cut-out-ey," dunnit?) but this is _such_ a silly little complaint when we are in the realm of satire and allegory. Incidents of gratuitous stereotyping _will_ take place in the genre otherwise It Doesn't Work. The rest of the population of the book were just the biz. Complex, engaging, believable. Glenda and her crabs bring tears to your eyes.

Read it. It's brill. If it doesn't sparkle immediately, read it again. Like the taste of a new single malt, the good stuff often takes a little time to learn to appreciate, right?
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