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203 of 211 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

versus
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice one
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...
Published on 30 Oct 2009 by C. Lloyd


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203 of 211 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent as (almost) Always, 3 Oct 2009
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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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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
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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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Nutt - the new Pratchett hero, 9 Oct 2009
By 
D. Thurgood "dan.tee" (Liverpool Uk) - See all my reviews
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As always, I won't bother giving a synopsis here as others already have. This book easily gets 5 for a number of reasons: 1) It's got loads of new characters, 2) It's got loads of old characters, 3) It's got goodies and baddies, 4) Sir Terry has managed all this in spite of his illness - well done sir!, and 5) oh, you'll just have to read it and make your own list!

I love stories with an underdog, and Mr Nutt, the mysterious goblin, is my favourite out-of-the-gutter character for years. He's fabulously complex, with a dark and troubling past that is gradually revealed as the story progresses. In some ways, I was a little disappointed by the climax of this process, but overall, Mr Nutt is my new favourite character, or at the very least, in a tie with Gaspode.

More insight is given in to Vetinari's character, which is always good, and as usual he excels in making everything work. We even see into his relationship with Lady Margalotta, and there's some revelations there too.

So, on the whole, a thumping good read and well worth purchasing for the fans. If you're new to Pratchett, starting here won't help much (there's not even a mention of the turtles...) so go back a few novels and catch up first!
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best and funniest Discworld novel in a while, 6 Oct 2009
This new addition to the adult Discworld series is the most enjoyable since, for me anyhow, The Hogfather, and much more entertaining than I expected it to be at this stage in the series. The recent books have been light on laughs with the stories not being all that riveting either. Happily this is not the case with a book about football, although as it turns out, it's about a lot of things other than football.

As someone who has no interest in 'foot-the-ball' the set up for the plot didn't fill me with excitement: the wizards of Unseen University must win Discworld's murderous version of the game using the proper non-magic rules in order to continue to enjoy their slothful lives. But rapidly it becomes clear that knowledge of the game isn't required to enjoy the story. This isn't a satire on modern day football, but more a satire on lots of aspects of our lives such as celebrity culture, fashion, education... Ankh-Morpork has also changed a lot, certainly since the early books. This has been going on for a while as the satirical element to the series grows, but the feeling that the town has moved on is noticeable and makes the direction of future stories interesting.

This story is in essence a parody of that perennial favourite, the no-hope team winning a game against all the odds aided by a washed-out coach who used to be big once... But as this is Discworld, story logic subverts everything and is mingled in with several other perennial favourite stories such as Romeo and Juliet. But what makes the book is the characters. The problem with recent books is that new main characters, such as Moist in Going Postal, were so uninteresting they had to be livened up with appearances from old favourites like Vetinari. This time the tale gets the balance right by adding in few good new ones while keeping old favourites in cameo roles and larger roles. So the Luggage, Rincewind, and The Librarian are back, along with Death, Vimes of the Watch and many more. But they are not just there to cheer up the fans as the new ones such as the sardonic Glenda, the seemingly nave Juliet, and the brilliantly enigmatic Mr Nutt are already strong enough to carry the story.

All right, the comic bits won't make you drop the book while you laugh out loud; they tend to just generate wry smiles or a knowing nod as another facet of life you've never considered before gets considered from a new, twisted angle. But as with Pratchett's best books I often found myself re-reading the last few paragraphs just so I could enjoy again a great set-up or a well-delivered turn of phrase. And as I haven't done that for a while, that means this is one of the better Discworld books. Oh, and all the best for the future Sir Terry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not the Discworld I'm used to, 30 May 2011
By 
A. H. Ford "petiteamour" (England) - See all my reviews
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I love the Discworld books. Over the years I have read them I have come to know all of the characters and was looking forward to this one. Sadly I find it really hard going. Where I would normally read until I finished the book, I am taking weeks over this one. There are the occasional funny bits and the dark and scary bits but I hate the football stuff. There's not enough of the interesting characters like Vimes, Nanny Ogg or even Death. To be fair, I'm only 3/4 of the way through it so maybe it might pick up a bit soon but so far it just doesn't make me feel like reading and as a child of the pre TV generation, I usually love reading.
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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
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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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