Monday, 26 October 2009

Unseen Academicals


A new Terry Pratchett novel is always an exciting thing and for the last few years I have always bought a copy for my boyfriend, the gift being a pretext for the opportunity to read it after (although once sneakily before) him. This year I actually received a review copy from Doubleday, which was very exciting; I had already pre-ordered and received (a day earlier) a copy but sold that on so a big thank you to Doubleday of Random House. Unseen Academicals is the latest novel in Pratchett's Discword series and satirises the game of football (or foot-the-ball) whilst focusing mainly on the below-stairs workers rather than the wizards of Unseen University. The introduction of these compelling new characters works mainly because they are supported by the wizards (Ridcully, the Librarian and Rincewind all appearing), the conniving Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Vetinari, and the obligatory cameo from Death in addition to a few other familiar faces. Glenda -cook in the Night Kitchen, maker of famous pies and a woman with a penchant for romance novels- and Nutt -a highly intelligent and articulate candle dribbler who is shrouded in mystery- join Discworld lore and its cast of other intensely well-characterised and amusing characters.

I know that not all of you are Pratchett fans and some of you have found the Discworld inaccessible. To discover what I myself love about the universe Pratchett has created then you can read this post. As for accessibility, I will share my boyfriend's experience: it took him until his sixth attempt at reading the Discworld series (a new book each time) until he was hooked; he now considers Terry Pratchett his favourite writer, has read and reread all of the Discworld novels and has read everything else he has written. For those of you who are completely averse to attempting to read any of the Discworld series then I would recommend Nation, which is a deeply intelligent and entertaining novel with one of my all-time favourite quotes across literature.

As always I enjoyed reading Pratchett; I find him very comforting and he brings me out of any book slump that I occasionally fall into. I find that he is exceedingly difficult to review; I've summarised what Unseen Academicals and my response but the joy of reading Pratchett is inexplicable to describe. You do not need to be a football fan to appreciate this novel as it is not so much about the cult of the sport but the societal observations surrounding the game; it is easy to see the humour in the making of the offside rule without the need to understand it oneself. It also isn't essential to have read any other Discworld novel previously although it is bound to help (the frequent "(no relation)" allusions after Bledlow Nobbs may be mildly irritating otherwise). I will leave you with two of my favourite quotes -both featuring Glenda, whom I loved- and the sheer intelligence of the first one in its allusion to Virginia Woolf is why I love Terry Pratchett.

A couple of graduate wizards were working in the university boatyard nearby. One looked at her and said, 'Are you supposed to be walking on the university lawns, madam?'
'No, it is absolutely forbidden to kitchen staff,' said Glenda.
The students looked at one another. 'Oh right,' said one of them.
And that was it.
As easy as that.

Very slowly, Glenda raised her right hand into a fist and lowered it into her mouth, and bit down very hard in at attempt to somehow retrieve the last fifteen minutes from the records of the universe and replace them with something far less embarrassing, like her knickers falling down.


21 comments:

Lezlie said...

**Big sigh** I *love* Terry Pratchett!!

Lezlie

farmlanebooks said...

OK - I'll try to get hold of a copy of Nation! I am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed his new book. It is great when a favourite author delivers!

Annabel Gaskell said...

I admit I'm ambivalent about Pratchett - I enjoyed his first few books when I was much younger, but have not got on so well lately - I re-read a couple a few years ago and was rather underwhelmed this time. So I may take you up on Nation, as I would like to love his books!

Bart's Bookshelf said...

I'm going to get this one for Christmas! Can't wait! :D

Darlene said...

Love that little slice you offered up, the word 'knickers' never fails to make me laugh. I'm going to flip through this book once it shows up on the counter at the library...you never know when you're missing out.

Paperback Reader said...

Lezlie, he's bloody brilliant!

Jackie, I don't think I could have faced another disappointing book just now! Nation is aimed at younger readers -to warn you- but it is very witty and wise.

Annabel, I have a friend who is the same. I think we all move on from authors who we read compulsively when we were younger, I know I have. Nation is great and very, very different from the Discworld.

Bart, not long to wait! I'm hoping Santa brings me some books...

Darlene, "knickers" is a brilliant word! You should flick through it definitely; there are lots of little gems of witty observation about human nature to be found in his writing.

Book pusher said...

It also took me a while to come round to Pratchett but now he is one of my favourite authors and I love the books he has written for younger readers, the Tiffany and wee free men novels as well as Nation A Pratchett novel represents such good value at our house as everyone reads it. And as I have recently discovered there is nothing like Pratchett for overcoming a reading slump.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I've not read anything in the Discworld series, but, I really should start... that's what your previous Pratchett post reminded me of, and this has done exactly that as well!

I did pick up The Wee Free Men and Wintersmith the other day though, to finish off the trilogy A Hat Full Of Sky belongs to.

Mrs.B. said...

I've heard so much about Pratchett but have never read him. If I attempt the Discworld series, which book should I start with?

verity said...

My boyfriend is reading this at the moment - brand new library copy. At first he didn't like it, he just said "It's not one of his best" but now he is laughing out loud and constantly tellng me how clever it is. Still doesn't appeal to me, but I'm glad you got something good and relaxing to read finally!

Jodie said...

Hurray so glad to hear this is good and that the Luggage is back! Is the cover fab as well?

Paperback Reader said...

Book pusher, without fail Pratchett brings me out of a book slump and he is also value for money in this household as we both read him (relatively rare).

anothercookie, glad I could remind you! The Hat Full of Sky trilogy is such fun.

Mrs B, I'd suggest starting with Mort (which my previous review was on); I didn't start there but everyone's answer to that question is different. Mort and the Death novels would make a great starting point.

Verity, I'm impressed you could borrow it so quickly! It is very clever and I'm glad Ken is enjoying it.

Jodie, the cover is fabulous. My boyfriend and I spent some time together working out who everyone was!

savidgereads said...

Right then... I need your advice. I have never, ever read Terry Pratchett and always think I won't like him so I would like your advice on where to start, I like things in order but apparently there isnt one with TP?

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, there's the chronological order but that doesn't really work for me. I'd start with Mort or read Nation first and then enter the Discworld.

savidgereads said...

Thanks Claire, I know I have one (I think its the Colour of Magic) but if you reckon either of the others are the way forward I shall keep me eyes peeled as I trust you implicitly.

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, The Colour of Magic is the first and sometimes chronologically works but the first few books of the series aren't my favourites until they reach Mort and then Guards, Guards.

Aarti said...

I just started this book this morning and am SO EXCITED to get back to it. Gosh, Pratchett makes me happy. And half the time, I get the impression that I miss half his allusions ;-)

Paperback Reader said...

Aarti, that's the way I felt! It's like reaching Winter and snuggling back into one's favourite cosy layers.
I often think that some it could be missed and/or is going over my head as Pratchett's work is so rich in witticisms, intelligent observations and allusions that it is hard to keep up!

Nymeth said...

I was saving reading your review from when I'd finished writing mine, which I just have. Not at all surprised that we agree :D

Zee said...

I just started to re-read Reaper Man over the weekend. I had forgotten how much I love Pratchett. Now I am going to have to settle down with all of them again. Bliss.

Paperback Reader said...

Ana, I'm looking forward to it! I find Pratchett books difficult to write about - it must be the lack of articulation in all of the gushing "oohs"!

zee, bliss indeed! I haven't read them all yet and find myself rationing them out.