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Discworld #37

Unseen Academicals

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Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork - not the old-fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go going. And now the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match without using magic, so they're going to try everything else.

The Big Match draws in an urchin with a gift for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might turn out to be the greatest fashion model ever, and the mysterious Mr Nutt. (No one knows much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt).

As the match approaches, four lives are changed forever. Because the thing about football - the important thing about football - is that it is not just about football.

Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!

417 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Terry Pratchett

504 books41.3k followers
Born Terence David John Pratchett, Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987, he turned to writing full time.

There are over 40 books in the Discworld series, of which four are written for children. The first of these, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal.

A non-Discworld book, Good Omens, his 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman, has been a longtime bestseller and was reissued in hardcover by William Morrow in early 2006 (it is also available as a mass market paperback - Harper Torch, 2006 - and trade paperback - Harper Paperbacks, 2006).

In 2008, Harper Children's published Terry's standalone non-Discworld YA novel, Nation. Terry published Snuff in October 2011.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” in 1998, and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Warwick in 1999, the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003, the University of Bristol in 2004, Buckinghamshire New University in 2008, the University of Dublin in 2008, Bradford University in 2009, the University of Winchester in 2009, and The Open University in 2013 for his contribution to Public Service.

In Dec. of 2007, Pratchett disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On 18 Feb, 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

He was awarded the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2010.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on 12th March 2015.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
April 8, 2021
Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37; Rincewind #8), Terry Pratchett

Unseen Academicals is the 37th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

The novel satirises football, and features Mustrum Ridcully setting up an Unseen University football team, with the Librarian in goal.

Unseen Academicals tells the story of the faculty of Unseen University being forced to choose between (only) three meals a day and playing a game of football, as tradition mandates the game in exchange for their large financial endowment by a wealthy family.

The wizards soon learn that the local version of football (similar to the actual game of mob football) is very violent and deaths are common.

Thus, in collaboration with the city's tyrant Lord Vetinari, they set out to make new 'official' football rules, which includes forbidding the use of hands and mandating the use of official footballs as opposed to the makeshift balls the street games use.

Parallel to this, the book tells the story of four young people. A candle dribbler named Mr. Nutt discovers that he is not what he thinks he is and must overcome the fear of his race, both by humans and by himself.

He is also chosen to train the university's team for the big match. Trev Likely, who is Mr. Nutt's coworker and best friend, is the son of Ankh-Morpork's most famous deceased footballer, but has promised his (late) dear old mum that he won't play, but ultimately saves the game.

Glenda is a friend of Mr. Nutt and Trev, runs the Unseen University Night Kitchen, and bakes the Disc's best pies. Juliet works for Glenda, has a crush on Trev, is simple and beautiful, and becomes a famous fashion model.

The four of them end up advising the wizards on their football endeavour, which culminates in an intense game between the Wizards and the former street footballers.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز سی و یکم ماه ژانویه سال 2021میلادی

عنوان: دیسک ورلد (جهان صفحه) کتاب سی و هفتم: دانشگاهی های نادیدنی؛ نویسنده تری پرچت؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20م

دیسک ورلد (جهان صفحه)، یک سری از کتابهای فانتزی هستند، که روانشاد «تری پرچت»، نویسنده ی «انگلیسی»، نگاشته ‌اند؛ داستان‌های این سری در جهانی با نام «دیسک‌ ورلد (جهان صفحه)» می‌گذرند؛ که صفحه‌ ای تخت است، و بر شانه‌ های چهار فیل، با هیکلهای بزرگ، قرار دارد؛ این فیل‌ها نیز، به نوبه ی خود، بر روی پشت یک لاک‌پشت غول‌آسا، با نام «آتوئین بزرگ» قرار دارند؛ در این سری از کتابها، بارها از سوژه های کتاب‌های نویسندگانی همچون «جی.آر.آر تالکین»، «رابرت هاوارد»، «اچ پی لاوکرافت» و «ویلیام شکسپیر» به گونه ای خنده دار، استفاده شده ‌است؛

از سری «دیسک ‌ورلد» بیشتر از هشتاد میلیون نسخه، در سی و هفت زبان، به فروش رفته‌ است؛ این سری در برگیرنده ی بیش از چهل رمان (تاکنون چهل و یک رمان)، یازده داستان کوتاه، چهار کتاب علمی، و چندین کتاب مرجع، و مکمل است؛ از این سری، چندین رمان تصویری، بازی کامپیوتری، نمایش تئاتر، سریالهای تلویزیونی اقتباس شده ‌است؛ روزنامه ی «ساندی تایمز» چاپ «انگلستان» از این سری به عنوان یکی از پرفروش‌ترین سری کتاب‌ها نام برده، و «تری پرچت» را، به عنوان پرفروش‌ترین نویسنده ی «انگلستان»، در دهه ی نود میلادی دانسته است؛

رمان‌های «دیسک‌ورلد» جوایز بسیاری از جمله جایزه «پرومتئوس»، و مدال ادبی «کارنگی» را، از آن خود کرده ‌اند؛ در نظرسنجی «بیگ رید»، که «بی‌بی‌سی» در سال 2003میلادی، در «انگلستان» انجام داد، چهار رمان سری «دیسک‌ورلد»؛ در فهرست یکصد کتاب برتر قرار گرفتند؛ همچنین مردمان «انگلیس»، در این نظرسنجی، چهارده رمان «دیسک‌ورلد» را، در شمار دویست کتاب برتر، دانستند؛ تا کنون، از این سری، چهل و یک رمان، به چاپ رسیده است؛ «تری پرچت» که پیش از درگذشتش؛ در ابتدای سال 2015میلادی، از بیماری «آلزایمر» رنج می‌بردند، اعلام کردند که خوشحال می‌شوند که دخترشان، «ریانا پرچت»، به جای ایشان، به ادامه ی این سری بپردازند؛ تا جلد بیست و ششم رمان این سری، رمان «دزد زمان (2001میلادی)» به دست «جاش کربی»، به تصویر کشیده شده ‌اند، اما نسخه ‌های «آمریکایی»، که انتشارات «هارپرکالینز» آن‌ها را، منتشر کرده، دارای تصاویر روی جلد متفاوتی هستند؛ پس از درگذشت «جاش کربی»، در سال 2001میلادی، نقاشی‌های روی جلد کتاب‌های بعدی این سری، بدست «پائول کربی» کشیده‌ شدند

کتابهای اول و دوم: «رنگ جادو»؛ کتاب سوم: «زنان جادوگر»؛ کتاب چهارم: «مرگ»؛ کتاب پنجم: «سورسری (برگردان فارسی جادوی مرجع)»؛ کتاب ششم: «خواهران ویرد»؛ کتاب هفتم: «هرم ها»؛ کتاب هشتم: «نگهبانان! نگهبانان»؛ کتاب نهم: «اریک»؛ کتاب دهم: «تصاویر متحرک»؛ کتاب یازدهم: «مرد دروگر»؛ کتاب دوازدهم: «جادوگران خارج»؛ کتاب سیزدهم: «ایزدان خرد (خدایان کوچک)»؛ کتاب چهاردهم: «لردها و بانوان»؛ کتاب پانزدهم: «مردان مسلح»؛ کتاب شانزدهم: «موسیقی روح»؛ کتاب هفدهم: «اوقات جالب»؛ کتاب هجدهم: «ماسکراد»؛ کتاب نوزدهم: «پاهای خشت (فیت آو کلی)»؛ کتاب بیستم: «هاگفادر»؛ کتاب بیست و یکم: «جینگو»؛ کتاب بیست و دوم: «آخرین قاره»؛ کتاب بیست و سوم: «کارپه جوگلوم»؛ کتاب بیست و چهارم: «فیل پنجم»؛ کتاب بیست و پنجم: «حقیقت»؛ کتاب بیست و ششم: «دزد زمان»؛ کتاب بیست و هفتم: «آخرین قهرمان»؛ کتاب بیست و هشتم: «ماوریس شگفت‌انگیز و موش‌های آموزش‌دیده‌اش»؛ کتاب بیست و نهم: «ساعت شب»؛ کتاب سی ام: «مردان آزاد وی»؛ کتاب سی و یکم: «هنگ بزرگ»؛ کتاب سی و دوم: «کلاهی پُر از آسمان»؛ کتاب سی و سوم: «گوینگ پوستال»؛ کتاب سی و چهارم: «تود!»؛ کتاب سی و پنجم: «وینتراسمیت»؛ کتاب سی و ششم: «بدست آوردن پول»؛ کتاب سی و هفتم: «دانشگاهی‌های نادیدنی»؛ کتاب سی و هشتم: «نیمه‌شب بایست بپوشم»؛ کتاب سی و نهم: «اسنوف»؛ کتاب چهلم: «بالا آمدن مه»؛ کتاب چهل و یکم: «تاج چوپان»؛

کتاب سی و هفتم را ایشان با فوتبال آغاز کرده اند نقطه ی اوج کتاب مسابقه ای بین دانشگاهیان و بازیکنان حرفه ای است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 18/01/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
January 30, 2019

Or futbol, or football, or whatever.

Terry Pratchett has created a sports novel, or not, or whatever.

Yes, Lord Vetenari has agreed to allow a disorganized sport for ruffians and street thugs to have rules and even develop a league of sorts. Like crime, if there is going to be sports, it should at least be organized.

The 37th Discworld novel, first published in 2007 is about sports, but like all of Pratchett’s books, Sir Terry stuffs a Librarian (OOK!) sized amount of charisma, philosophy, and human nature into a ball-sized package.

Pratchett explores themes of sport in culture (and sport as a less destructive outlet for innate human bellicosity) sport rivalry and stereotypes. Pratchett examines how gang mentality closely parallels fan mentality and how the expectations of a group do not always apply to the individual.

Although Pratchett included many of our favorite Discworld characters in this novel, to me, the most interesting player here was Mr. Nutt. Without giving away any spoilers, Nutt is an ironic example of how group stereotypes are inapplicable to individuals. Never one for overly simplistic morals or sappy life lessons, Pratchett instead explores these themes amidst the backdrop of tribe structure exemplified in Discworld sports as much as in ours.


Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 64 books233k followers
June 25, 2012
I first read this book when it came out in 2009, and to be completely honest with you, I was kinda disappointed.

The book wasn't bad, mind you. But it was merely good. Pratchett's work is usually somewhere between brilliant and excellent.

Still, I wasn't particularly surprised. I've known about Pratchett's struggle with Alzheimer's for a while. I've known it was just a matter of time before it started to impact his work.

That said, even a somewhat lackluster Pratchett book is pretty good, and I enjoyed the book. I know all the characters, and it's nice seeing them again, even if the storytelling wasn't up to Pratchett's usual standard.

But I read the book again this month, and I enjoyed it much more the second time around. True, the ending isn't as strong as some of Pratchett's books, but I honestly can't tell what bothered and disappointed me the first time around.

If I had to guess, I'd say that I was probably expecting the book to be bad, and that colored my initial reading. I was probably also predisposed to skepticism by the brief introduction where Pratchett mentioned that he had dictated most of the book.

When all the singing is done, I think this book is about 4.5 stars. (With Pratchett's best being around a 6.) But I'm rounding up given that he got me involved in a plot that centers around soccer, something that I really couldn't care less about.
Profile Image for Kat.
67 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2010
When I was a teenager, a friend and I wrote a behemoth of a three-page letter on A4 paper to Terry Pratchett. We were amazed and grateful when a reply arrived from him a few months later, apologising for the delay and attempting to answer some of our many questions. One of the questions we asked was, "What football team do you support?" He replied something to the effect of not watching football because he thought it was weird.

Warm, fuzzy memories aside, I wanted to love this latest Discworld novel. They've been on a good run for over a decade (in my opinion, they'd started going a little stale between Jingo and The Fifth Elephant but were refreshed again from The Truth). However, in the end I didn't love UA - but I did like it.

Mostly it felt like business as usual in the Discworld. The theme took a well-trod path - a protagonist who stands out in a suspiciously mystical way during a current craze, reminding me a lot of Soul Music and Maskerade. So many of the new main characters have analogues in other DW novels - Glenda = Agnes Nitt; Nutt = Wazzer; Trev Likely = Lobsang Ludd; Juliet = Christine. It's inevitable that with so many books in a series, some will echo others but Pratchett usually imbues enough of a twist to stop the whole feeling formulaic. Not so here.

I like the familiarity of reading a new Discworld book, like meeting up with an old friend again but, to overstretch an analogy, this felt like they were telling the same story I heard last time I saw them.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
October 16, 2012
Football (soccer to Americans like myself) is all the rage in Ankh-Morpork and Vetinari, the Patrician, has given Unseen University the duty of refining it from a street game to an organized event. Only some people don't want it organized. Can the Unseen Academicals, with Trevor Likely and the mysterious Mister Nutt, overcome football's rowdiest hooligans?

The thing about Terry Pratchett is that while his stories take place in a fantasy world, they are about real world events and concepts. This one speaks about stereotypes, prejudices, the fashion industry, and sports as religion. The romance between Trevor and Juliet is an obvious sendup of Romeo and Juliet, except that they're fans of opposing football teams.

The story itself is pretty funny. Lots of one-liners and wordplay. I spotted a P.G. Wodehouse reference that I wouldn't have gotten the last time I read a Pratchett book. The wizards are a funny bunch. The story of Mr. Nutt was well done, as was the modelling subplot. I hate to admit it but slight goosebumps arose when Trever Likely stepped up.

While I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite Discworld book, it's definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
June 30, 2020
Re-read 6/20/20:

Still as good as usual. :) Still not a big sports fan but I can see the intellectual side of it. :)

Original Review:

I've never been a sports fan, unless I were actually doing the sport in question, but I found a discworld adaptation of a sport completely apropo and more than a little snide. Fortunately for those of us who don't care too much about sports in general, the reoccurring characters more than make up for the intrusion. I will always enjoy these series of books because they're gentle and wise and so wise-cracking and quite un-genteel.
I think, for lack of a large cast of favorite Orcish characters in my life, I feel I'll be doing an injustice in calling Nutt my favorite Orcish of them all. That being said, I find him to freaking fantastic and smart and courageous and hope he'll be around for at least a few more books.
I suppose I got into the book a bit more because I knew it was a satire of sports, but more so because I really enjoyed the developing aspects of the modern city of Ankh-Morpork and how close it really seems to resemble London... Hmmm... :)
Profile Image for Trish.
2,016 reviews3,436 followers
June 30, 2020

Yes, I’ve read this before, out of sequence, back in 2018 when I was watching the Soccer World Championship. The version back then was a full-cast Audible exclusive. This is the original novel by Sir Terry.

Over 80% of Unseen University’s food is paid for by the Weatherwax inheritance. Since having only three types of cheese to choose from would be torture, the wizards decide to abide by the rules stipulated in the will/inheritance and play a game of Foot-the-Ball, aka Mudball, in order to not lose all that wonderful food money in the future. Originally having been about technique, the modern name of the game already suggests what it has descended into. Add to that the fact that the wizards have never exactly been known for their fondness of physical activity and you know why Lord Vetinari has to pull some strings.
We thus meet Glenda and Juliet, both working in UU’s kitchens, as well as a young man with a legendary but sadly dead father, and the mysterious Mister Nutt.

Only Terry Pratchett could mange to combine a funny and satirical take on football (soccer) and its mad fanatics fans with a deep tale about belonging and having been tortured for what you are (yes, literally racism here) - not to mention the sidestep into the glamorous fashion world!
But, as usual, he pulls it off masterfully, thus delighting the readers with a fantastic version of a very popular European sport that I, regrettably but understandably, don’t get to watch this summer because of a certain stupid virus-that-shall-not-be-named.

Ankh-Morpork is such a weird place and I’m not a city gal, but I love this place and every quirky inhabitant of it (well, except for those I don’t ;P). There is nothing you cannot find in the city and I adore Sir Terry for his take on the world that peppers every tale with snarky remarks on this or that behaviorism of us silly humans. As usual, if you want a glimpse at the mastery I’m gushing about, take a look at the quotes I’ve highlighted because they explain / showcase it much better than I ever could.

Another great addition to the series though not one of my absolute favorites as especially these last volumes pack(ed) quite a punch while this particular one is simply (though wonderful) silly fun.
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,245 reviews642 followers
August 27, 2017
The Wizards of unseen University must play a game of football (the round ball variety) to meet some historical statute required to keep them housed and fed to the standard they have come to expect. This requires taking the current form of the game played in the the streets by thugs and transforming it into a more civilized form watched in a stadium with rules and a referee. Although anything involving the wizards is likely to have it's own form of chaos.

Perhaps because I am not a big fan of football, this is not going to become one of my favourite Discworld novels. I found it overly long and a bit rambling, but it is 37th in a series that has held up pretty well despite Sir Terry's battle with Alzheimers towards the end. And any Discworld book is still a very good read and lots of fun by any standard. This was no exception, with the main characters featuring four employees of the University - a Romeo and Juliet pair from opposing football teams (Trevor and Juliet), a strange character called Mr Nutt who is not what he seems and a queen of cooks called Glenda who rules the Night kitchen.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
July 16, 2018
While this story was never exactly anywhere close to one of my favorites in the Discworld books, I'd be remiss in saying it isn't excellent.

I mean, it has everything. Star-crossed romance between orc and kitchen maid, underdog sports story, and a heartwarming tale of raising Ankh-Morpork out of the mud and into civilized behavior once and for all.

A game of Foot the Ball can make all of that happen.

Brilliant? Perhaps! It has all the elements that people love and this particular Audible production has a full cast of actors and actresses to bring a ton of life to it in an extra-special edition. I have a grand fondness for full-cast productions. :)

So why didn't I give this a full five?

Because I felt the excisions in the text. Sad, but true. It's short and abridged. That, and I never really get into sports tales. Alas. But that's just me! But despite all that, it *IS* an excellent production that is nonetheless entertaining as hell TO ME. :) Despite me. ;)
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,527 reviews979 followers
January 21, 2020
‘I would like to try a little experiment this afternoon, gentlemen. We will not talk about football, we will not speculate about football, we will not worry about football – “
‘You are going to make us play it, aren’t you?‘ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes glumly.

The population of Ankh-Morpork has caught the soccer fever. They fill the streets with chaos and wild chants, with violent mobs, greasy food stands and with rising passion for their version of the ‘foot-the-ball or Poor Boys’ Funne which, in its Discworld incarnation, is closer to open warfare than to a gentlemen pastime. Lord Vetinari, the tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, is not about to let his subjects run wild and destroy the city. He summons the Dean of Unseen University, Mustrum Ridcully, to his office and gives him the task of rewriting the rules of the game into something more palatable. You would think that after 37 episodes, the Discworld series would run out of steam, but social satire will never run out of fashion, at least for me. This one turned to be, in U.U. parlance, a veritable heyhoe-rumbelow !

‘Have stranger than usual things been happening?’
‘Young ... man, stranger than usual things happen all the time.’

Meanwhile, at the Unseen University, a young man employed deep underground in the making of candles is about to come to the attention of the pointy hat mucky-mucks in the university Council. Mister Nutt is an anachronism, trying his best to pass unnoticed, socially awkward ( ‘Better not use the word ‘mature’ unless you are talking about cheese or wine. Not good to use it for ladies.’ ), eager to please, diligently doing the most menial of tasks yet using in casual conversations an academic vocabulary miles above his station in life. He is also much, much stronger physically than his thin frame would warrant. Pretty soon we found out he is actually a goblin, a mythical monster that Discworld parents use to scare misbehaving children.

Somehow, in all the confusing histories that had been sung or written, the goblins were down as nasty cowardly bastards who collected their own earwax and were always on the other side.

Yet both Vetinari and Ridcully are aware of him. Unsurprisingly, Nutt is one of the key players in the coming foot-the-ball game. By his side, also working in the dim underbelly of the Unseen University, are his friends Trevor Likely, Glenda Sugarbean and Juliet Stollop. Trevor is Mister Nutt’s supervisor, an easy-go-lucky young scoundrel who likes to delegate his jobs while he kicks a tin bottle around. Trev also likes to scrounge the occasional pie from the pantry of Glenda Sugarbean, the master cook of the Night Kitchen, a vital function in the University, given the proverbial appetite of the wizards. Glenda is also good friends with Juliet Stollop, a young lady from the slums of Ankh-Morpork whose beauty can distract even the pointy hats from the incoming cheese trolleys. Juliet also attracts the eye of young Trev, developing a third story thread in the novel (after the football match and the mystery of Nutt’s origins) along the lines of the classic Romeo and Juliet drama.

‘Don’t you know anything? Dimwell Old Pals? The football team? The Dollies are Dolly Sisters Football Club, Dollies hate the Dimmers, the Dimmers hate the Dollies! It’s always been like that!’

Trev’s father was the most famous player for Dimwell, while Juliet’s father is the current captain of the Dollies. That makes the chubby yet delightful Glenda the right choice for the role of the Nurse. Speaking of story threads, there’s also an amusing subplot involving Glenda and Juliet getting caught in the web of (dwarf) fashion shows, chainmail dresses, direct-selling cosmetics for troll ladies and celebrity rags : The place looked like a foundry on the day they let the clowns in.

Coming back to the main event, willingly or not, the Council of Unseen University is pushed into fielding a football team in a demonstration game to establish the new rules. Vetinari intervenes to raise the stakes and make things even more interesting:

‘Capital,’ said Lord Vetinari. ‘It seems to me like we have a challenge. University versus university. City, as it were, against city. Warfare, as it were, without the tedious necessity of picking up all those heads and limbs afterward. All things must strive, gentlemen.’

I can understand how some of the long term fans of the Discworld series might consider the present episode as one of the less successful ones, but as a kid who grew up kicking all sort of more-or-less-round objects down dirt streets, in summer dust or winter ice, and as one who had interminable arguments at home and at work about the merits or demerits of each national or international team, I can say that Nutt, Trev and the star player Bengo Macarona made my day brighter as I followed their exploits.

You’re saying that football is not about football?’
‘It’s the sharing. It’s being part of the crowd. It’s chanting together. It’s all of it. The whole thing.’

An example of the chanting that can be heard around the city on game day: “When dragons belch and hippos flee, my thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee,” . Eat this, Manchester United fans!

Like all true fans of the game, I had a favorite player, one that has graced the pages of the series right from the first volume. He is just as comfortable defending the goalposts of the UU team as he is swinging from the rafters of his library.

It is said that the onlooker sees most of the game. But the Librarian could smell as well, and the game, seen from outside, was humanity. Not a day went by without his thanking the magical accident that had moved him a few little genes away from it. Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, ‘The mountain is, and is not.’ They will think, ‘The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.’

With the presentation of the goalkeeper, I would stop for now revealing more about the plots and subplots of the game, and close my review with a couple of quotes that illustrate the reason I will always return fondly to Discworld and to Ankh-Morpork: it is a mirror of our own world, of our humanity, done for laughs with goblins, orangutans, vampires and whatever Corporal Nobby Nobbs is:

‘What does “worth” mean, Mister Nutt?’
‘It means that you leave the world better than when you find it,’ said Nutt.


The Librarian was not very familiar with love, which had always struck him as a bit ethereal and soppy, but kindness, on the other hand, was practical. You knew where you were with kindness, especially if you were holding a pie it has just given you.

Be kind! Read on!
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
811 reviews138 followers
June 14, 2022
It's not Sir Terry's fault.

Partly it's because I haven't read this book. In fact, I have not read it twice now. The first time I didn't read it, it was on audiobook. I needed something to listen to on my iPod while I walked around with my baby girl in a carrier, so lovely and sweaty against my chest, to get her to nap, and I had a free Audible trial and this was the only thing that appealed to me, being slightly behind on my lifelong keeping-up with Discworld. They say that audiobooks count as reading, but. I had a hard time paying attention, despite the excellent and accentful narration by Stephen Briggs, and found myself often rewinding a few minutes at a time. I was very confused when, years later, I looked at reviews of the book and they all said it was about football. I didn't think so; it was about that goblin dude.

It's not Sir Terry's fault.

I haven't read this book for a second time now, this time on e-book. I'm usually down with e-books although my first choice will always be print, but this particular one, a posthumous edition by Transworld Publishers (part of Penguin Random House UK) was horrific. It opens with a "Introducing Discworld" page and fuck that, like I hadn't been reading Discworld for 25 years already, who needs that? And then before the book starts they slip in an advertisement, disguised as a "Note from the Publisher" pushing a Discworld splat book. Rude. The formatting was terrible; section breaks were not indicated when they happened across page turns, with the dinkuses (***) from the print version included, creating three different types of section breaks which is entirely sloppy. Worst of all, though, is that they took the footnotes, Sir Terry's precious footnotes, and made them into endnotes but on a page still titled "Footnotes" and DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE YOUR FOOT IS SIR. I think I have this in paperback but it's in a storage bin under other storage bins while I am in a temporary abode. I absolutely must read it in a proper early edition next time.

It's not Sir Terry's fault.

Partly it's because I care not a whit for sports, which explains why I had wiped that out of my mind as a major component of the book. I still don't think it's about football (which some in North America and, apparently, parts of Ireland, call "soccer".) It's still really about Mr. Nutt and his journey of self-discovery, which the reader is plopped into without introduction. The "big game" is, frankly, a mess and easily the worst part of the book. And I'm also just not a fan of the characters, at least how they were used here. There are many new faces in an upstairs/downstairs situation that lacked any Disc-specific features; that whole storyline and its players could be transported into a contemporary setting with very few changes. I did like Dr. Hix, however, the necromancer Head of the Department of Post-Mortem Communications, returning to the page after a good turn in Making Money.

It's not Sir Terry's fault.

It's not even his fault that the writing is kind of terrible, at least by Discworld standards. From page one the prose seemed off; not bad, but different, distinctly more wordy than usual. Chatty, really, and this extended to the book's characters, even those who are decidedly not chatty in any other appearance. Vetinari, for one. He has always been restrained, razor-sharp, but here he's consistently chatty-chat-chat, and it boggled my mind. That verbosity continued throughout the book, which went on to further failings of pacing. Pratchett's usual chapterless style, when done well, drives the reader ever onward, rolling incessantly forward. When done poorly, like here (especially in the second half), it makes the story choppy and disjointed. I found myself, for the first time since Sourcery, actually disliking picking the book back up to carry on.

It's still not Sir Terry's fault.

It's not his fault, because this is the first book written after his diagnosis of Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a rare variant of Alzheimers. I remember well my sorrow on learning of it, and my later joyful surpise that he continued to bring us excellent novels for years to come (excepting, it seems on not re-reading, this one). But it didn't leave all of Sir Terry's abilities intact. For one, he could no longer type, and this novel was produced by dictation. I think this is the culprit behind the wordier style; whatever filters were usually in place between his brain and his fingers on the keyboard were removed, and a more conversational tone emerged.

I don't recall disliking any of the books that followed (barring The Shepherd's Crown which remained, in truth, unfinished) and I for-real read those, so hopefully there's at least one more 5-star Discworld book ahead in this, the tail-end of my monthly Discworld re-read. But even if not, it diminishes nothing.

Thank you, Sir Terry, for everything.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,016 reviews3,436 followers
July 16, 2018
Last year, I finally started reading the Discworld novels. Thus, I've read this out of order since it's actually #37. However, there having been the World Cup, this was too good an opportunity to miss.

For years, Ankh-Morpork had a game called Mudball. Originally called Foot-the-Ball and being more about technique, it has descended into a violent jumble thanks to the city's Hooligans. As fate (or Lord Vetinari) would have it, the son of a legendary Foot-the-Ball player has been incarcerated and the only way to remain free and unpunished is for him to coach the wizards' team. You see, Unseen University's wizards have to play a match against a team from the city in order to be allowed further funding from the Weatherwax inheritance (in case some are now confused, it's not Granny funding the game, one of the Archchancellors from the beginning of the series had the same surname). Without these funds, the university would likely have to close down so they have to win. Moreover, Trevor Likely (the afore-mentioned football legend's son) has to take a certain Mr. Nutt as an apprentice. Add to that a young women more beautiful than anything Trevor has ever seen and another woman who cooks unlike anything Mr. Nutt has ever tasted and the chaos is bound to erupt. Especially since Mr. Nutt harbours a dark secret and Lord Vetinari has good reason for his scheming (as usual).

As the blurp says: football is never just about football. And Terry Pratchett's side-stabs at maniac fans with their violent outbursts as well as the quirky cast of characters makes this a delight even for people who are definitely not interested in sports.

Moreover, this is not the usual audiobook version but a full-cast dramatization, which makes the bar fights and the football match itself as much a delight as the fashion show or the courting of the ladies. *wiggles eyebrows*

Definitely a more than worthy addition to the series that made me burst out laughing quite a bit.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews886 followers
July 7, 2011
Football has come to Ankh-Morpork. Strange that, in the scale of Ankh-Morporkian evolution, football arrives after the genesis of iconographs and moving pictures but there you have it. That is one of the joys of evolution is it not? The element of surprise?

Surprisingly the arrival of football also coincides with the arrival of high fashion, fashion models (maybe not that surprising given the association between fashion and football a la posh n becks), the rediscovery of the Orc (like the rediscovery of the Coelacanth only much more dangerous) and the arrival of the Avon Lady on the doorsteps of everyone in Ankh-Morpork who is conventional/ traditional/ rich enough to have a door.

So as all the dwarves, werewolves, goblins, imps, troll and humans of a female persuasion prepare to adjust to being sports widows for at least the duration of the foot-the-ball season, the men-folk don their scarves and head out onto the streets in search of a match and pie. Veterinari has promised a mostly gold coloured cup to the winners of the league and the wizards are playing (but not cheating) for a hat, or THE hat as it is better known.

Once again Pratchett skates (or perhaps gleefully glides) across the literary thin ice that is the barrier between the reality of good old planet earth and the unreality of the Discworld. His books are a literary guilty pleasure, the written equivalent of http://www.cuteoverload.com or secretly googling Jensen Ackles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Fz_e... when you're supposed to be working.

Answers on a postcard if anyone has any suggesting about what will stop the ball from rolling off the edge of the disc?

Profile Image for Paul.
2,143 reviews
August 23, 2020
Wizards are not known for their physical prowess, they would rather forgo exercise or similar activities for seconds and maybe even thirds at the dinner table. But if they want to keep eating, they are going to have to play a football match to ensure that the substantial financial endowment that they have from a local family continues.

They soon come to realise that the game of football played in Ankh-Morpork is pretty dangerous, two mobs swarm after the ball and there are lots of injuries and often deaths too. Worried by this, after all, you can’t eat if you’re dead, they concoct a plan with Lord Vetinari, the city tyrant and ruler, to amend the rules to make it safer for everyone. The wizards begin their training regime.

The new game of football has a lot of appeal to the people of the city and four unlikely people are pulled into the excitement surrounding the game. Mr Nutt has been employed at the Unseen University as a candle dribbler, he has always thought he was a goblin, but it turns out that he isn’t. His colleague and best friend there, Trev Likely, is the son of the Ankh-Morpork’s most famous deceased footballer, but he had promised late mum that he won’t ever play football. Also linked are Glenda and Juliet. Glenda works the night kitchen at the Unseen University and makes the very best pies on the Disc. Juliet is her glamourous assistant who has a bit of a thing for Trev and somehow ends up as a model for the latest micromail fashion.

As the two teams start to practice with the new rules and balls, everyone in the city is captivated with the match, after all, it is not just a game of football.

I am not a football fan, it really doesn’t do anything for me at all, I much prefer other sports such as cricket. Pratchett’s brilliance is taking a subject from our world and showing it a mirror. The reflection is not exactly the same, rather the traits and foibles that add to the richness of human life can all be seen in their stark and humorous shades and he has done that with this subject rather well. There are lots of other themes in here about the way humans work too that you really have to read to understand and empathise with. If there was one flaw, I thought it dragged a bit in the middle. It is not a book to be read in public as outbreaks of guffaws can happen fairly often with his prose. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,205 reviews1,329 followers
December 24, 2022
I always feel that subjects that I've got affections for that are parodied in the Discworld will always resonate more with me, again that was the case as Pratchett and the Wizards tackle the topic of football.

The whole set up is wonderfully simple as the faculty of Unseen University discover they must play a traditional football to keep their funding in place.

Like most sports comedies is the manner in which the group train and try to learn the rules that are most amusing.
But of course this being a Pratchett novel, it's the subplots that help make this to be such a great read.
The 'below stairs' characters of 'UU' helps make this one of the longest books in the series and covers class insecurities.

The new characters introduced continues to make this series still fresh, especially as Mr. Nutt features so heavily.

The combination of football and fantasy again highlights why this series is so great.
Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews973 followers
May 2, 2010
Contrary to popular belief, I don't hate sports.

I know this may come as a surprise, since I studiously avoid all but the most cursory acknowledgment of current sporting events. I finish the paper when I hit the sports section, and the sport report on the news is, for me, time to wash the dishes. I have no favorite teams of any kind, no players I look up to, and no interest in following play-offs, bowl games, championships or derbys. Hell, even with the Olympics my interest plummets after the opening ceremonies.

But I don't hate sports.

You see, in order to hate something, you have to actually care about it. And that's the thing about sports - I just don't care.

I wasn't always like this, of course. When I was a kid, I tried all kinds of sports. I tried (deep breath) baseball, basketball, skiing, swimming, sailing, soccer, tennis, golf and judo. And those were after school. In PE class we had all the usual PE things - volleyball, softball, track and field, running, archery, field hockey, dodgeball.... What it came down to was that I had no natural talent for sports [1:] and, more importantly, I never had fun. I never saw the point of the whole thing, so I pretty much said "Bugger this," and turned to other areas of entertainment, thereby sealing off the sporting world from my interest forever.

A lot of my friends do love their sports, though, so I try to keep a cursory understanding of things - you know, how many touchdowns there are in an inning, that kind of thing. I mean, there's nothing more disappointing than trying to talk about something you love, something for which you have great passion and enthusiasm and having someone just ignore you, right?


Anyway, I'm telling you all this so that you can correct for it when I tell you about Unseen Academicals, the latest of the Discworld books. If my attitude seems kind of lackluster or disinterested, keep in mind that it's probably not Sir Terry's fault.

The book, you see, is about football. Not the sissy-pants American kind where the guys are so afraid of grievous bodily harm that they wear protective armor all the time, but the good, old-fashioned British kind, wherein people get their heads cracked open by cobblestones and die on the streets. You know, fun for the whole family.

In the great and exciting city of Ankh-Morpork, footy is a tradition. It's a lifestyle, in fact. Where you live determines who your team is, and who your team is tells you with whom you can associate and mingle. A supporter of one team wandering into the territory of another is a person asking to be beaten to death by enthusiastic and drunk hooligans. "Suicide," I believe the police refer to it as. It's a game that goes beyond the simple description of "rough and tumble." It's a substitute for war in a time where war is neither profitable nor productive. It's a channel for long-standing feuds and grudges and aggressions, and is practiced religiously in the streets of the city every weekend.

So obviously what this grand, injurious tradition needs, then, is the introduction of wizardry.

The wizards of the Unseen University are forced, through a clause in a long-forgotten honorarium, to put together a football team and play a match. Despite most wizards having the athletic ability of an overstuffed beanbag chair, it's either play the game or lose so much money that they'll have to cut down to only three meals a day. So, with the help of the son of one of the greatest footballers in the city's history, two cooks from the Night Kitchen and a young Orc who is trying to find value in his life, they put together a team and oh gods, I'm bored already.

Seriously, I couldn't care less about football. The book's not really even about football, to be honest. It's about identity and self-image, two things that are inextricably tied up in sports and sports fandom. The book is a lot less subtle than usual, pretty much hitting you over the head with a mallet and saying, "You are who you choose to be!!" over and over again.

Actually, what gets said over and over again is a variation on "A leopard can't change its shorts," a kind of humorous eggcorn that loses its humorous value after about the fifth time it gets used in the book. But it's pretty much the theme of the book - what is identity, and can it be changed?

To explore this, we have, for example, Trevor Likely, the son of a famous (dead) footballer who has sworn to his (also dead) mother that he will never play football again after what happened to his father. He's introduced as a young layabout, a lazy grifter who works very hard at not having to work, and desperately doesn't want to live up to his responsibilities. Unfortunately for him , he falls in love with young Juliet, a beautiful - if somewhat dim - young woman who works in the Night Kitchen. Standing in the way of their love, however, is the fact that they support opposing teams, and her family would never allow her to see the young man if they knew.

Hmmm. Trev and Juliet. Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Also mixed up in this is Glenda, the head of the Night Kitchen, whose identity as a below-the-stairs cook is so ingrained into her head that trying to become something else is almost unthinkable. The wizards themselves face an identity crisis as well - the Dean has gone off and accepted the Archchancellor's position at another university, and has now come back to try and stand as an equal to Ridcully, the head of the Unseen University.

At the center of the book is Nutt, a strange young person who possesses a mysterious past. He looks a little odd, has an enormous intelligence, and harbors an unshakable desire to acquire self-worth, even if he's not entirely sure what that means.

All of these people are trying to figure out the same thing - who they are. Some of them are surprised by what they find, others dismayed. Nutt discovers that he is an Orc, a race of creatures so hated and reviled that he could be killed on sight. Juliet discovers that her beauty is her path out of the kitchens, Glenda that her desire to control others can be focused into something productive, and Trevor that the destiny he has avoided for so long is what he always should have been.

Threaded throughout all this is the love of the game, the dedication of these people to their football. Indeed, the identity of the game itself comes into play here as well - will it remain a violent street game, wherein the only rule is that there are no rules, or will it gain a sense of purpose and order? How will the old-school, bare-knuckle footy fans deal with the changes imposed upon their game by Lord Vetinari and the Wizards?

It's hard for me to filter through the sports aspect of this book, which is disappointing because it's something that a lot of people will probably enjoy. There's something about the devotion to a sport or to a team that is very important to most people that I just don't get, and so my general lack of interest in this book is entirely my fault, and not Terry's. I enjoyed the identity theme, of course - that's always a rich seam of storytelling material. Watching Nutt come to grips with his identity as an Orc, or Glenda realize that her entire sense of self has been culturally imposed upon her, well, that was fascinating. It's just that there was a whole thematic element to the book that I couldn't identify with and didn't care about.

It's kind of like listening to Mozart and wishing someone would just shut all those bloody violins up.

So, if you're a fan of Discworld, pick this up. If you like sports, pick this up. If you don't like sports, well, you take your chances. As a Pratchett completist, there was no question about reading this book. But I don't think it'll be one that I come back to very often.

It's not you, Terry. It's me.

[1:] I think I made it to first base once in my Little League career, and actually got hit on the head by a fly ball - which, I am given to understand, are the easiest to catch. I nearly drowned myself repeatedly trying to learn how to sail. I used to knock myself over trying to kick goals in soccer, my trick ankles pretty much meant that tennis and basketball and any other activity involving quick stops and starts were out, and I got tired of being thrown to the ground real fast in judo. If there was ever such thing as an anti-athlete, I was it. I feared to shake hands with the jocks because I thought we'd both vanish in a cloud of photons.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,673 reviews489 followers
October 11, 2009
What do you get when you mix football, magic, academic rivalry, an orangutan, the world of high (sorry) low fashion, a thumbing of nose (if not outright rasberrying) of Harry Potter, commentary on religion, and a designer named Pepe?

Unseen Academicals.

Most readers consider the last few Discworld novels to be good, though not great. In Unseen Academicals, Pratchett is back to his top form. Perhaps, a break from Discworld to write the wonderful and thought provoking Nation was what he needed. Regardless, this book is far better than Making Money or Going Postal. Several well loved Discworld characters make cameos, and there are many small touches that a long time reader of the series will love.

I must say, first, however, that I give a huge round of applause to HarperCollins, the publishers. Too often, publishers Americanized British novels, and it was nice to see football called football, and not as most of us Americans call it, soccer.

Unseen Academicals is a story about football, love, understanding, tolerance, worth, and pies, among many other things.
In many ways, the book is in part a love poem to sports, football, in particular, and to the fans of those sports. While Philadelphia fans do not have the reputation of European hooligans, ahem, fans, we do have a rather unique reputation in the states. In fact, Philly fans once threw snowballs at Santa Claus at a football (American) game, and the current Pennsylvania governor was one of the people throwing them. Pratchett’s The Shove, therefore, feels like home. Yet, there is something about sports that brings a city together. For instance, the thrill of seeing a team make the World Series, or even win it. There is this knowledge that the whole city shares. I can still remember going to see a production of Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers. I exited the subway to the sound of church bells ringing, not because it was Sunday, but because the Eagles had made to the Superbowl. After the play, the lead led the audience in an impromptu Eagles chant. Or, last year, after the Phillies had won the World Series when the bar up the street irrupted into celebration. Despite the fact that you had to wake up early the next day for work, despite the fact that the party lasted until well after two in the morning, for once you didn’t care because the PHILLES HAD WON THE WORLD SERIES! And nothing at that moment was more important. If the bar had been subdued that would’ve been wrong, a sin. Sports can bring people together, and Pratchett does a brilliant and touching job of showing this. There is the shove, there is Mr. Nutt’s feeling that, as Trev points out, is something that isn’t talked about very often.

Pratchett also does a far better job at reporting on the concluding match than Rowling does at Quidditch in the Harry Potter series. The football match makes up the end sequence of the novel, is the climax, and is told in real time interspersed with comments from a newspaper. It is a thrilling rendition of an event. The reader feels as if she is right on the pitch. Pratchett also makes good use of the actual history of football, and captures a time of transition, where a once outlawed sport is becoming legal. The conflict of tradition versus change is caught very well. I also wonder how much of Mr. Nutt’s coaching style is based on a real English football coach. Perhaps there is a connection to the new movie The Damm United, the story of Leeds United Coach Brian Clough. I don’t know, but I do know there is a beautifully funny discussion about offside, and that several players seem like real league players.

Pratchett introduces more new characters in this novel. Several characters, however, seem to be similar to others. Glenda, for instance, has a strong resemblance to the witch Agnes. Trev Likely seems to be a toned down version of Moist Von Lipwig. Juliet reminds one of Christine, though “Jewels” is far more likable. Mr. Nutt is a distillation of several characters, including Death. Despite the similarities, the characters stand out on their own. They are like others characters but transcend being just types. This is not a surprise; Pratchett is after all a humanist.

More established characters have supporting roles or make cameos. The UU is present in strong force with Ridcully and Stibbons at the forefront. There is an interesting development with the Dean that leads to a nice play with academic rivalry at the college level. Mrs. Whitlow makes a cameo as does Rincewind (whose mother gets a mention). The Watch is in the background, though Angua and Vimes make cameos. In fact, instead of the Fuzz; the watch is called The Sam. Gotta love it. Of course, both the Librarian and Death show up.

One of the things that is good about this novel is Pratchett’s use of Vetinari. Here the reader we see additional sides of Vetinari, his love for pies and the fact that he can laugh. Forget Arnold. If the Constitution were to be changed, I would want to be able to vote for Vetinari as president.

The Discworld series got its start as a send up of popular fantasy, and Pratchett returns to that here. There are a few references to Harry Potter, including trading cards, Dr. Hix, and wizardly schools. One wonders if Pratchett got tired of being asked if UU was inspired by Hogwarts. Can’t blame him if it did.

Unlike Rowling, Pratchett’s sense of humor is far more, well, funny. There are several one liners that will lead to chortling if not outright laughter. Take for instance, “Glenda realized that right now she would not have minded if there had been hanky panky or even spanky”. Sometimes the humor extends to exchanges, like discussion about sexual congress and oral sex.

Because this Pratchett, however, some of the zingers contain truths. There is Ponder and Glenda’s exchange about newspapers, “ ‘I seriously think that it’s their job to calm people down by first explaining why they should be overexcited and very worried’ ‘Oh, yes, I know they do that,’ said Glenda, ‘How would people get worried if they weren’t told how to be?’”. Considering the reporting on swine flu, among other things, it is hard to argue with that criticism. Pratchett also address the issue of community to accept different people and of the position of the “hated” or “maligned” minority with the character of Mr. Nutt. Several of the most touching and humanely true scenes involved Mr. Nutt. The book is like Small Gods, a plea to understanding and acceptance. It is also better than Small God.

There is one truly heavy, pause and think about scene in the book. This scene concerns Lord Vetinari and religion. When dealing with religion, Pratchett lacks the obvious atheism of Pullman. I’m not sure what Pratchett believes, if anything. But Vetinari’s view on higher power are powerful, thought provoking, heavy, and beautiful written. I wonder if it is Pratchett’s comment on his illness. Regardless, you can’t turn the page for a few moments after reading it.

All in all, Unseen Academicals is a really good book. Go read it now!
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 35 books378 followers
August 20, 2020
Excellent - one of the finest books written about the beautiful game, except when Terry Pratchett writes about football, it becomes the beautiful, funny, humorous, witty, and deeply meaningful game.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
659 reviews80 followers
April 30, 2017
This book was semi-entertaining, but it definitely won’t be one of my favorites from Discworld. I also think I was a little misled by the Discworld chart I’ve been referencing. The chart lists this as part of the Rincewind series, but he hardly appears in the book at all and has very little to do with the story. He’s a fun character; I was looking forward to one last book about him.

Our main characters are four non-wizards who work on the staff at Unseen University. The other wizards who often feature in the Rincewind books also get a fair amount of page time, more than Rincewind himself does. The basic story is that the wizards of Unseen University, to avoid the travesty of a reduced cheese selection, must form up a team and participate in a football competition. (Soccer to us Americans.)

It wasn’t a bad book, and I liked the main characters, but it was an easy book to put down. Part of that wasn’t the book’s fault; it was my week to be on call for work, and month end is never the calmest time to be on call, so I was distracted and tired. It took me most of the week to get through the first half of the book, and then it started to pick up and I was able to finish the second half more quickly.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,159 reviews76 followers
April 17, 2023
Der Club der unsichtbaren Gelehrten ist eines meiner Lieblingsbücher der Scheibenwelt.
Terry Pratchett hatte es geschafft, dass ich mich für Fußball interessiere - zumindest für den in Ankh Morpork. Dieses Buch ist ein einziger Schelmenstreich. Es hat alles, was ich an einer guten Geschichte liebe, Witz und Scharfsinn, intelligente Erzählweise, tolle Charaktere und in diesem Fall meinen Lieblingsschauplatz.
Wie oft ich diese Geschichte inzwischen gehört und gelesen habe, weiß ich nicht zu sagen aber es war bestimmt nicht das letzte mal.
10 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2009
The challenge with trying to review a book by the inimitable Terry Pratchett is finding something to say that hasn’t already been said. The man’s unquestionable skill as a writer and the extensive body of his work makes it all but impossible to say anything about a new addition that hasn’t already been said—often.

I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy of the newest Pratchett, Unseen Academicals, from the publisher, Harper. And trust me, it was very much a pleasure because once again Mr. Pratchett has cast his sharp eye and even sharper critical skills on two cultural phenomena that cry out for both--organized sports and the groves of academe.

Frequent visitors to Discworld are familiar with Unseen University, where the best of the world’s wizards, warlocks, sorcerers and magicians impart their wisdom whenever unable to avoid doing so and occupy the remainder of their time ensuring they do not suffer from malnutrition or lack of beverages suitable to accompany their comestibles.

In the mean streets of Ankh-Morpork, meanwhile, the citizenry engages in what passes for regular games of foot-the-ball, a game of long standing which leaves few of its players in the same position. In fact, football, as played in Ankh-Morpork, is essentially a gang war with cheerleaders.

It would seem these two societies would never have occasion to meet, but that’s not how Mr. Pratchett works. No, in Unseen Academicals, the faculty of UU are informed their steady supply of dining pleasure is based on an endowment that requires the university engage in a sports competition at least once every twenty years or lose their funding. And the twenty years since the last engagement are just about up.

The quartet whom we follow through the madness that follows are an engaging and eclectic group: Trevor Lively, whose late father was the last man to score four times in a game--and was killed in the process; Nutt, an alleged goblin who works with Trevor in the cellars of UU as a candle-dripper; Glenda Silverbean, the supervisor of the UU Night Kitchen, and her beautiful if not terribly bright neighbor, Juliet Stollop.

Many writers in the satirical vein would have left Juliet as she first appears, which is as someone for whom the term “dumb blonde” is high praise.

“Juliet was still reading as they waited for the horse bus. Such sudden devotion to a printed page worried Glenda. The last thing she wanted was to see her friend getting ideas in her head. There was such a lot of room in there for them to bounce around and do damage.”

Reading that might incline the reader to judge Glenda harshly, but that would be leaping to conclusions. Glenda is the kind of earth-mother character many either have in their family or wish they did--the steady-minded, practical, efficient woman who may not heap praise on your head but will always be there to bandage the hurts and fight for justice when the world turns against you. In her view, she’s not judgmental but clear-sighted, seeing both the virtues and flaws in those she loves.

“She didn’t have a career; they were for people who couldn’t hold down jobs.”

The pivotal character, however, is Nutt. He is a mystery, a creature clearly not human placed into service at the university by powerful people for reasons even he doesn’t seem to understand. It would seem that being a pivot is precisely why he’s there, not just to drive the story, with all its many threads, but to bring about the growth of those who come to care about him despite his differences.

“He was good at liking people. When you clearly liked people, they were slightly more inclined to like you. Every little helped.”

Nutt is the icon of the underlying lesson of Unseen Academicals. All of the varied threads and subthreads focus on the simple yet hard to implement idea that judging people on their surface appearance--whether it be Nutt or Juliet or even the seemingly “normal” Trev and Glenda, is shortsighted. In a world where people are deemed threatening solely on the basis of the color of their skin or their country of origin or their religious beliefs, this book warns that we risk depriving ourselves and our world of not just the wonderful uniqueness of the individual but also of any contributions they might make to society as a whole.

However, another lesson lurks in the alleys of Ankh-Morpork and the labyrinthine halls of Unseen U. That lesson is that sometimes what we tell ourselves is practicality is, in fact, fear of stepping beyond our comfort zone to see just what we, and those we care about, are capable of. If we trust and believe in ourselves, if we step beyond our self-imposed limits, we may just discover there really are no limits to what we can achieve.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,540 reviews12.9k followers
March 20, 2013
This is my first Discworld novel in 4 years, the last one I read being the largely mediocre "Thud!" and a below average outing for the City Watch. I tried "Making Money" a couple of years ago but it was the first Discworld I couldn't finish it was so poor. That was really it for me, I thought I'd not be returning to Pratchett again. I felt sorry for Terry hearing of his illness but his continued forays into the dubious realm of "Young Adult" fiction often yielded poor books for a bloke in his 20s. The bafflingly crap "Amazing Maurice" and the increasingly tedious Tiffany Aching series "Ach it's sh*t!" seemed to be where Terry was happy to stay especially as his last book was (according to a friend who is similarly disenfranchised) a poor attempt at Castaway crossed with RL Stevenson, "Nation". I think it was seeing the Librarian on the front wearing a bandana kamikaze style that brought me back. Has Terry gone back and done justice to the series that made him? Thankfully the answer is a deafening cheer from the crowd. He has.

The wizards' food budget is threatened if they don't observe a centuries old tradition and take part in a foot-the-ball game, and off they go. It's as simple as that, plot wise. The familiar faces are all there, Rincewind and Luggage, Death, Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons, the Librarian, CMOT Dibbler, Commander Vimes, the Patrician and Wuffles, and the glorious setting that has become a character unto itself, the city of Ankh-Morpork.

Though there isn't much in the way of plot, the interactions between the characters more than makes up for it. The conversations between Vetinari and Ridcully were the highlights of the book for me - two superbly realised characters verbally sparring is a rare thing in fiction today and Terry writes their scenes masterfully. If I hadn't been told that Terry had Alzeimher's or that this was the first Pratchett novel he had to dictate I wouldn't have known the difference.

It should be said though that the bulk of the story follows several new characters: Glenda the head of the Night Kitchen at UU, her ditzy friend Juliet, the head of the Candle Vats and talented foot-the-ball-er Trev Likely, and the mysterious goblin Nutt with a past. Glenda is your typical strong headed, independent woman character that Terry is so adept at creating while Nutt, basically the hero, is your "perceived as bad because of his appearance but salt of the earth" character that Terry's also done many times previous. Trev and Juliet are a sort of Posh'n'Becks parody.

Despite the book not being a revolutionary new change to Discworld, it is the type of Discworld book that I loved reading back when i was 12. Discworld has never been about plot anyway, its about the characters and the places and Terry provides a masterclass in writing both in this book. It's also a tribute to his writing ability that you don't care that Death and Vimes appear for less than a page each, or that Rincewind and Luggage are bit part players while Vetinari seems worlds apart from the character he was when we first met him, you like getting to know the new characters just as much.

If, like me, you just enjoy spending time in Ankh-Morpork with its eccentric citizens and brilliantly named streets, as familiar and enjoyable as seeing an old friend, you'll love this book.
Profile Image for Knjigoholičarka.
153 reviews8 followers
April 26, 2019
Volim fudbal. Štaviše, moglo bi se reći da mnogo volim fudbal, iako je u poslednje vreme evropska fudbalska scena počela da poprima karakteristike stočne pijace. Nevertheless, supkultura koju je fudbal kao sport iznedrio nastavlja da se razvija nekim svojim tokom, a old school sukobi navijača i rivaliteti među klubovima i dalje inspirišu što filmadžije što pisce širom sveta. Makar onog dela sveta koji iole gotivi ovaj sport.

Elem, Pračet nam u ovom romanu donosi gomilu već-viđenih stereotipnih stavova o hard core fudbalskim navijačima (sve bazirano na britanskom navijačkom mikrokosmosu, da ne bude zabune), a story arch o Romeu i Juliji iz zavađenih navijačkih skupina samo je tu da utrpa još jednu suvišnu stvar u ionako pretrpanu knjigu, koja se davi u digresijama i nepotrebnim detaljima i kalamburima kojima nema kraja, niti mere.

Opisivanje Gradske Straže, nekada omiljenih, gotovo montipajtonovskih čuvara reda, prešlo je u holivudski kliše o žderačima krofni među kojima ima onih koji prvo pucaju, a zatim postavljaju pitanja.

Imam utisak da što više Pračet pokušava da parodira neku pojavu iz stvarnog života, to više ona liči na otrcani šablon koji je samo puko postavljen u Disksvet, u izmaštani svet koji je nekada imao sopstvena pravila, koji je bio potpuno otkačen i drugačiji od drugih izmaštanih svetova, čiji su likovi ponekad dostizali granice apsurdnog smisla za humor, kao i demonstrirali onu poznatu ostrvsku oštrinu i ljubav prema jezičkim smicalicama koja britanski humor i čini tako specifičnim. Svežina se odavno izgubila, i ponekad treba znati kada je vreme da se stane. Pisanje jeste najveća zabava koju sebi čovek može da priušti, ali ukoliko već tu zabavu želi da priušti i drugima, mora biti svestan toga da ona više ne pripada samo njemu, baš kao ni Disksvet, koji je odavno postao svet svih nas koji ga volimo.
Profile Image for Nigel.
848 reviews98 followers
February 18, 2021
Hum... OK - this was one I had missed out on reading though probably it was intentional. I am not a fan of football and while the Unseen University was partly responsible for getting me into Discworld books many years ago it isn't my favourite part of TP's output.

The football bits were somewhat amusing and the librarian is always a good character. However the stars of this book for me were Glenda and Mister Nutt. I won't explain - those who read Discworld will either know or find out about them - it would in part ruin the story. They do speak to the talent that TP has of looking at things differently and looking at differences too. For me they have far more in common with the Witches books and Tiffany Aching (arguably my favourite). They manage to amuse - a lot! - and make you think too. Perfect Pratchett stuff. 3.5/5 overall for me.
Profile Image for Max.
762 reviews20 followers
April 18, 2023
Enjoyable take from mr. Pratchett on sports and sports tournaments. Features many Discworld favourite characters! I could not really follow everything, but I sometimes have that with Terry Pratchett books. Good fun!
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,451 reviews474 followers
September 21, 2021
I'm not big on sports, either participating or spectating. But I am perfectly capable of enjoying a novel about sports, particularly one by Pratchett.
Profile Image for Seth.
122 reviews194 followers
October 23, 2009
There isn't much to say about a Discworld novel at this point.You like the series or you don't, you shouldn't start with this one (although it isn't that bad of a starter, it doesn't give a lot of background on the characters--start elsewhere), and you just want to know if it's one of the (rare) standouts, either as extra genius (Night Watch) or a klunker (Monstrous Regiment).

It's a solid Discworld book, and we seem to have precious few of those left, so cherish it.

For recurring characters, it revolves around Vetinari and the yahoos at the Unseen University. Lots of Mustrum Ridcully, we see Vetinari actually drunk, Lady Margolota makes an appearance, and we have passing time with Angua, the Librarian (more than usual), and Rincewind. Yes, the Luggage does drop by.

For new characters, we get the usual lovers who probably only appear in this book, we get a classic "what is he? he's new! he plays against type!" Pratchett character (the actual star of he book), and we meet a wonderful member of the University staff, the professor of "Post Mortem Communication," which, unlike necromancy, is legal. He wears black robes, has a widow's peak and goatee, and sports the official University skull ring, so he is required to be slightly, but acceptably, evil, break rules, and undermine the staff at predictable and mostly-harmless intervals. He apologizes a lot. I loved him.

Oh, and a *lot* of Ponder Stibbins. Which is always good. We get to see Stibbins competitive and crafty side, as well as some actual vindictiveness. He is certainly on the second- or third-tier of the Discworld's "dangerous when aroused to anger" list, the first being Vetinari and Esme Weatherwax and the second being Death, Susan Sto Lat, and Sam Vimes. Third tier is not bad.

The plot revolves around Vetinari, for some reason, interfering in the working-class sport of football (Ankh-Morpork football is like Soccer plus Rugby plus American Football, with some cage match and fan interference thrown in). The University is forced to choose between their food budget and fielding a staff/faculty team, which means, to Ridcully's delight, the professors have to actually go outside, wear trousers and exercise. Which apparently does not involve picnics and smoking their pipes. Stibbins is the team coach, which leads to the expected hilarity.

Of course, the romantic subplot, the underlying observations on class, politics, and human nature, and quietly put message about human dignity and equality are all present. Pratchett is at his best when he lets those underly, but not consume, his stories and he's as good as usual here (i.e., this isn't Monstrous Regiment).

And as expected, nothing that Vetinari does is what it seems. His motives and his plans (layered several on top of each other) are brilliant as always.

Not a "top 3" Discworld book, but well in the space of the more recent books (and far better than the early ones).
Profile Image for colleen the convivial curmudgeon.
1,155 reviews296 followers
January 28, 2019
The wizards have never been my favorite, and we keep getting a dose of new characters, and football is hardly my favorite topic, but, for all of that, it was still an enjoyable story. It'll most likely never be one of my faves, but it was good.

I liked Nutt and Glenda, and wouldn't mind seeing them again, but I particularly liked the addition of Mr. Hix to the UU staff - the man with the skull ring who has license to be just a little bit evil, and to say the things everyone else is thinking. He wasn't in it much, but I enjoyed most of the parts he was in. And I shall have to see about getting myself a skull ring. ;)

Other than that, it was a pleasure, as always, to see Vetinari, but I was a bit disappointed with the presentation of the Watch when they were around.


3.5 stars on reread

I really enjoyed the stuff with Nutt and Glenda, and the explorations of what it means to be human, to have worth, to be good.

I remain a bit underwhelmed with the representation of the Watch in books that aren't Watch books. They always seem like such thugs.
September 12, 2022
Will never ever get over how good this is. Y'all can keep your throne games and ring lords, give me wizard football. Give it to me hard.
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