Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Reviews: Unseen Academicals

Like most Terry Pratchett books, it took me a while to get into this one. But once I was halfway through I couldn't put it down. For the record, I'm a huge Terry Pratchett fan, but even I was approaching this book with a skeptical eye. Seeing as how he's been having health issues I was concerned that the quality of his writing would start slipping. Were my fears warranted? Well, I could tell you right now, but then what'd be the the point of writing the rest of this review?

In classic Pratchett style, Unseen Academicals takes something from our modern world and inserts it into Pratchett's fantasy world, Diskworld. In the past it's been a parasitic shopping mall, Hollywood, and the Postal system. This time round it's soccer.

More specifically it's the evolution of soccer in Diskworld, portrayed in a way that accurately mirrors the development of Soccer in our world. Compared to the main themes of the book however, the soccer is more of a subplot to the self-discovery plot of a brand new character, Nutt.

The cast features the wizards, but they tend to make way for brand new characters, Nutt, Trev, Glenda and Juliet.

I found Nutt an interesting character, both brilliant and self-depreciating at the same time. The plot focuses around him and his heritage, but it allows for excellent development from Glenda, the female lead, and second tier characters Trev and Juliet.

I was a little wary about approaching the book with brand new characters, as I tend to be more appreciative of his established characters. Okay, that's a lie; I approached the book with unfettered fanboy giddiness. But my point still stands!

The writing quality is classic Pratchett, which according to people that know anything about grammar, means it's filled with grammatical errors. Oddly enough, this in no way detracts from the story. Perhaps this is just part of Pratchett's genius, that he is able to write an entertaining story while paying less attention to proper grammar?

The ending is satisfying, while at the same time being that vague ending that a lot of Pratchett's books have. You're left to figure out what happens to the characters afterwords, or at least up to the sequel.

Around halfway through the book or so you get an interesting plot twist that I still don't know what to think about. I won't spoil it, obviously, but it had me both laughing and thinking, "Seriously?"

Compared to many of his other books, this one doesn't rely on knowledge of existing characters as much. Granted most Pratchett books can be read out of order, but the prevalence of new characters in this book make for a much gentler learning curve. While the characters make the book easily approachable for new readers, Pratchett's style is something that needs to be eased into. Many new readers would most likely find this a bizarre book, which is exactly why we love it.

If you liked my review, buy the book here: Unseen Academicals


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