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Saturday, December 05, 2009

UNSEEN ACADEMICALS By Terry Pratchett. London: Transworld, 2009

Who would have thought it? They play football in Ankh-MorporK! Well, there were those street urchin games run by Captain Carrot, it’s true. But in this novel, we learn that not only is the game played, but there are teams and passionate supporters of one or another. It’s not the kind of football(or even soccer) we know. It’s the early form played out in the street hundreds of years ago in our world.

And the wizards of Unseen University have discovered a clause in the will that gave them quite alot of money - only on condition that they play football. They have no choice, really; the bequest pays for most of their food - and what would the wizards be on a mere three meals a day?

Although the closest thing to a protagonist in the book is Night Kitchen chef Glenda (who makes the best pies in the city), there are plenty of other characters of importance. There’s Trevor, who is fabulous at kicking cans, but won’t play a game that killed his father. There’s his beloved Juliet, who isn’t too bright, but just might become a Discworld supermodel. In this novel, we find that there is actuazlly a Dwarf fashion scene, and all Juliet has to do is put on a fake beard to join in.

And there’s Trevor’s friend, Mr Nutt, who is believed to be a goblin, but may be something more. Even Mr Nutt doesn’t know. Yet.

This novel is as strong as ever, possibly better than Making Money, the last one. We get to take a good look into the kitchen of Unseen University. Some characters from other books appear (Rincewind, who appears briefly, seems actually to have succeeeded in living the boring life he wanted). There is a mention of Mightlily Oats, who appeared in Carpe Jugulum, and, it seems, has turned out to be the kind of decent holy man we hoped he would become. The only minor disappointment I felt was that, with the factor of awful pies at the football, mentioned early in the book, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler only appears once, and he’s selling souvenirs rather than pies. But there’s an emphasis on Glenda’s superb pies and perhaps the author didn’t want them to clash.

Normally, I wait for the paperback, but I just couldn’t, this time. And I don’t regret it. Another fabulous Discworld novel!

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