Pratchett's "Unseen Academicals" - a gift to Discworld lovers and an argument for the importance of sport

I always celebrate when a new Terry Pratchett novel hits the stands -- doubly so now that health problems are slowing him down from his normal superhuman output to a merely impressive one. But I confess I was a little less excited to learn that the newest Pratchett Discworld book, Unseen Academicals, was about football (AKA soccer). I'm not a sports fan. I wasn't a hockey fan when I lived in Canada. I wasn't a baseball fan when I lived in the US. I'm not a footie fan now that I live in the UK. But I gave it a whirl: this is Terry Pratchett, after all. I'd read his grocery lists.

A word about Pratchett for the uninitiated. Terry Pratchett is an incredibly funny, warmly human British fantasy (mostly) novelist. He writes at an impossible rate. Most of his books are part of a sprawling, infinitely varied fantasy series called Discworld, about a flat, disc-shaped planet that is carried on the backs of four gigantic elephants who tramp in slow circles around the back of a vast, interstellar turtle called A'Tuin. On Discworld, everything happens. There are imperial battles and barbarians; witches and trolls and dwarves in the hills; animist spirits on lost continents; and there is a vast and wonderful and terrible city called Ankh-Morpork. Ankh-Morpork is presided over by a tyrant called Lord Vetinari, who is quite progressive as tyrants go. For one thing, he's let the trolls, vampires, medusae, dwarves, werewolves, zombies, and assorted other nonhumans into the city. For another, he's organized the thieves into a guild to whom one can pay an annual license and be guaranteed a life free from official thieving (freelance thieves are dealt with most firmly by the guild).

You can read the Discworld books in almost any order. Some of them run in little trilogies that follow the same characters, but even if you picked up the second or third volume of these, you'd probably get along OK -- Pratchett is quite good at getting newcomers to Discworld up to speed on its basics.

Back to Unseen Academicals. Here's the setup: the wizards of Unseen University have discovered that a key grant from a former Archchancellor requires them to keep a football team that plays regular matches. It's been decades since the last UU team was fielded, and they're in imminent danger of losing a substantial source of funding. Meanwhile, football itself -- as played on the streets of Ankh-Morpork -- is a vicious game that is more riot than sport, and the wizards of UU have no intention of getting involved in that mess.

So they cook up a plan to reform football -- and to field a team of their own, coached by Nutt, a mysterious (and erudite) goblin who has been heretofore employed as a candle-dribbler (no self-respecting wizard wants to do magic by the light of a pristine, unmarked candle) in the cellars of UU.

That's the setup. Here's the payoff: it's brilliant. The novelist's best trick is to make you care about stuff you don't care about. It's what Fever Pitch does. And it's what Unseen Academicals does, too. Pratchett shows us how sport is part of the emotional life of a city, and how its significance resonates across generations, across regional parochialism, across social strata, uniting us behind something that transcends the mere game.

What's more, Pratchett shows us how fragile a thing this is, how vulnerable it is to greed and thuggishness and venality, and how those who defend the game do so for the best reasons imaginable. As Pratchett says, "The thing about football is, it's not about football."

I wouldn't call this the best Discworld novel ever (I think my vote for that honor would go to Monstrous Regiment, which, incidentally, can be read without having read any of the other Pratchett novels). But it's in the top five.

A word of warning: it's also one of the most inside-baseball (you should forgive the expression) of the Discworld books, requiring a fair bit of familiarity with the previous books in the series to be fully appreciated. It's a real gift from Pratchett to his fans, in other words, and I, for one, am grateful for it.

Unseen Academicals (Amazon US)

Unseen Academicals (Amazon UK)


  1. I like British humour. I like Terry Pratchett. I however did not enjoy Unseen Academicals as much as I have some of his previous novels. I can’t tell you exactly why.

    Normally his books are like candy and I can polish one off soon after I pick it up, but not this one. A quarter of the way through the book and I simply did not care about the characters. Halfway through and I barely cared. Eventually I got into it, but I must say that it was somewhat disappointing for a Pratchett book.

    I probably would not recommend this as someone’s first Pratchett book, but if you like the author already then by all means.

  2. I do all my Prachett on audiobooks. There is, of course, no bad Prachett. But this particular entry is middling Prachett, in my view. The review says it’s “inside-baseball”Prachett, but it came across to me as Prachett doing his schtik, and just kind of going through the motions. But amusing, nonetheless.

  3. This is not too different from the actual history of football- for centuries it was a street game until a number of different public schools and universities began to play a more polite version. In the 1860s they created a set of uniform rules or “laws” and formed the Football Association, the body which still governs football in England today.

    The older “street” or “village” type of football is still played in areas throughout the UK. For example:

    Being both a nerd, and someone who is into sports (especially football), I feel like I might actually enjoy this as an introduction to Pratchett’s work (a body that I have had limited exposure to before now).

  4. Monstrous Regiment is probably my least favorite Discworld book. I wonder, now, how Unseen Academicals will work for me. (My favorites are the later Watch books, Hogfather, Reaperman – anywhere Death gets a little more human, really – and the Tiffany Aching books are catching up.)

  5. I say, that was a bit of a spoiler about Mr. Nutt. Even though his true nature can be guessed, it is not really revealed until well into the book.

    Pratchett never ceases to amaze me. In Nation, it was obvious that he was extremely angry, although also hopeful. Now, it is quite the contrary. I mean, Vetinari is extremely light-hearted in Unseen Academicals, almost out of character. I guess it is a never-seen-before shade of the Patrician.

  6. Bought but not read yet.

    One of the first things I did when I got a place of my own was to buy the entire Discworld series (up to that point) and to put it on my dedicated Discworld shelf.

    As far as the best Discworld novels go, for me its definitely the watch books, since Vimes is my favourite character after the luggage. Or maybe the Death books, quite hard to choose…

    The watch is pretty much the best place to start with Discworld.

    This is a pretty good reading order (even though I went by published date originally):

  7. It is like all Pratchett an enjoyable read but not by any means his best.
    That honor falls somewhere in between “Night Watch”, “The Last Hero” & “Small Gods” for me.
    I have to say I am quite surprised By the nomination of “Monstrous Regiment” which I feel is easily the worst of a very good bunch.

  8. I liked it (I’ve never read a Pratchett that I’ve disliked) and it had a few laugh-out-loud-on-the-train moments, but what really stuck out was the whole premise was a city-wide obsession with this game…which had never been mentioned in any DW book before (unless you count Jingo, which portrayed it rather differently).

    So I wouldn’t put it in my top 5, probably not in my top 20, but as others have said, any DW book is a good book. Possibly this one is for established fans rather than new readers though.

  9. Hey, Cory – Sir Terry gave us a preview of Unseen Academicals at Discworldcon back in September. Apparently he wasn’t particularly a sports fan either, so he had to do Research. His gang of friends do have the Somerset Mountain Rescue Team – just because central Somerset is flat and there isn’t a decently high mountain closer than Wales doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared, do the normal social things such a club would do, or practice roping your team together as you cross the street from the pub to the cider house…

    The preview of the book was fun – his personal assistant did most of the reading for him. Sir Terry’s Alzheimer’s is an uncommon version called PCA – it mainly affects things like spatial perception and balance, while his speech and comprehension are fine and his memory’s not doing too badly. He has trouble typing, and IIRC he’s down to using three LCD screens at his desk instead of his usual six, and revolving doors are really unmanageable.

    He did make the usual self-deprecating humourous remarks that are expected of Brits who’ve been knighted. (The proper form of address is now “Hey, Sir Terry, can I buy you a beer?”, though occasionally the conference folks would slip and introduce him as “Mr. Gaiman” (yes, deliberately.)) He does enjoy the ability it gives him to bully bureaucrats, when previously bureaucrats tended to bully him.

  10. I read Unseen Academicals a few weeks ago and loved it, though I can also see why it may not be some readers’ most favorite DW novel. My personal favorites are the Sam Vimes/City Watch books. I’ve found that Small Gods is a good one to recommend for those who are reading Pratchett for the first time.
    Since you mentioned Pratchett and the Gaiman reference, you might also have mentioned their very, very funny collaboration on Good Omens.

  11. It ia good, clever, funny and a thoughtful book like most of TP’s work.

    My favorite of his books would probably be Thud! Vimes doing “is this my cow” in the cave is truly wonderful

    In a purely selfish way I hope is health stays good enough to write many more Discworld books but I really do feel for him, Alzheimer’s is a terrible way to go out

    God bless you Sir Terry

  12. It’s hard to pigeonhole this book into a discrete category though: along with the trials and tribulations of football, we also get a look into the world of high fashion, the normally unseen servants at Unseen University, academic competition, and why using chickens to run a computer is a really bad idea. A terrific read.

    ps I wonder how Sir Terry’s carnivorous plant are doing?

  13. Read UA a couple of weeks back– and it made me sad. It was pretty much a disjointed mess, with thin characters a thin plot, nothing really happened, and plot threads were left dangling at the end. Nothing approaching the depth given to his stable of recurring characters of the past, even when they had a cameo or even a significant role in the book. Totally disappointing. Sooooo very far away from the top quality of his books that it made me fear for how fast his health is going.

    It reminded me of my other least favorites of the Discworld books, Soul Music and Moving Pictures, that relied on a gimmick that was never mentioned before and likely never mentioned again.

    1. Wut?

      Perhaps you mistakenly obtained an identically named book? For I too have read ‘unseen academicals’ and it was none of those things you mentioned.. not a one.


  14. I want Cory to defend Monstrous Regiment, only read it once thought it was the worst. What’s good about it?

  15. this is Terry Pratchett, after all. I’d read his grocery lists.

    Don’t say that. He’s likely to publish them.

  16. I’ve been wondering when a new book by him would be out (and worrying that one had not come out this fall…). This will be a nice break from history for the Thanksgiving holiday… Thanks for the review, Cory and everyone who has already read it already.

    On a side note, has anyone heard anything about the Wee Free Men movie?


  17. I’ve basicly reached the point where I’ll read any Discworld book where the main character is either Rincewind or any member of the Death family… and nothing else.

    1. Which is funny, because my absolute least favorite character by a mile in the DW pantheon is Rincewind…I still read the books, but they never grab me as much as, say, the Vimes chronicles.

  18. @ Darren Garrison – the film industry has been mentioned in a couple of subsequent books, and I think even in UU.

    I have to say, I preferred Vetinari when he was more a Medici kind of ruler…the last few he’s become a bit too comical.

    My tastes. I’m sure Pterry would be well within his rights to disagree there :D

    1. “the film industry has been mentioned in a couple of subsequent books, and I think even in UU.”

      I do remember something about that that stood out like a sore thumb to me in UA– someone used the word “popcorn.” When of course the only term (IIRC) used in Moving Pictures was “banged grains” (which is how I’ve thought of popcorn ever since.)

  19. I’ve been wary of this book for the same reason that Darren Garrison mentioned — I tend to hate books that center on some new fad that is outside the canon of the rest of the books. Soul Music and Moving Pictures very much included.

    Really, any book with the Watch in it has my vote for best book. Feet of Clay and Nightwatch. Many other great books. His latest few, about money and stamps and what-not? Hmmm, not up to the old standard, unfortunately. (Nation being the complete and utter exception.)

    Also disliked Monstrous Regiment, as did all the other commenters, apparently. Odd.

  20. Man, but I don’t get the Monstrous Regiment hate. It’s one of my favorites, after Night Watch and Small Gods– great central premise, lots of humor and drama, a bunch of compelling characters who really change and develop over the course of the story, and what might be one of the most radically feminist statements I’ve ever seen in a fantasy book. Because a military (or a country) run by women turns out to not be much different at all from one run by men, due to the surprising fact that women, just like men, are people.

    I also quite enjoyed Unseen Academicals, which I suspect might be the first Discworld book in which Ankh-Morpork is the main character. Glenda gave us a street-level view of the city we haven’t had in a while– possibly ever, actually. Sure, we met Sam Vimes while he was (literally) in the gutter, but he’s been on a pretty steeply elevated path since then; ordinary A-M street life isn’t actually his purview.

    I felt like the pacing of Academicals was a little rushed, but it didn’t really bother me. I suspect a lot of things got crammed into Academicals that Pratchett might once have taken the time to split off into separate books, but if he’s rushing a little these days I’m sure as hell not going to complain.

    1. Nona, I don’t get the “Monstrous Regiment” hate either. I love that book for all kinds of reasons — what it says about war, what it says about soldiering, what it says about being a woman in a male profession. It’s funny and poignant. I found its characters to be rounded and real; Polly is someone I’d like to know.

      It’s “The Last Continent” I can’t get into.

      1. Caroline says:
        It’s “The Last Continent” I can’t get into.

        You’ve never been to Australia, have you? (I live just over the ditch, and he NAILS it to three sigmas.)

        Speaking more generally, I’m amused and intrigued to see how different folk have different favourites. It’s almost like they’re not all talking about a body of work by the same PERSON.

        We should all leave such a body of work. Vivat Pratchett!

  21. Love Pratchett. Love the Discworld series. I picked up the lot of them as secondhand paperbacks about five years ago, as I was going through one of the roughest times of my life. They kept me alive, offering up humor, warmth and hope, all of which were in short supply that summer. They also dished up a lot of absurdity and human frailty, all of which I was experiencing in spades, but seemed so much more bearable in his pages. Sir Terry will have a special place in my heart forever.

    My favorite is “Hat Full of Sky”. I got it on CD and listened to it during a time of crisis in my life. I was driving from Flagstaff to Taos, across that long stretch of empty desert with my then 17yr old son. We laughed so hard that I almost drove the car into a ditch, and yeah, I teared up at times too! Altruism, imagine that, in a world so full of cruelty, a book about altruism! And all that in a freakin’ kids’ book.

    I’ll take Tiffany Aching over Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker any day of the week. And plenty of books offer heroes for kids, especially boys. But hey, Esme Weatherwax is my role model. In actuality, I’m shaping up to be more like Nanny Ogg.

    I am certainly going to buy and read this book, but I’ve been holding back. I’ve picked it up in the bookstore and run my hand over the cover, waiting, waiting. There’ll be a day in the next couple of months when I’ll need a good fresh fix of Pratchett.

    In the meantime, I’m going to continue my efforts to make my own scumble. I’ve got rather a nice lot of apples on hand…

  22. I was prepared to be generous to this novel, and delighted that I didn’t need to be!

    Putting aside the words, however, who is the person or people responsible for the US covers, and why are they still employed?!

    From the days of the whimsical Josh Kirby UK covers, the US editions have been uniformly embarrassingly trite and inferior.

    Take UA, for example. The UK edition (pictured here) is a lovely take on the largely interchangeable team photos on dusty shelves and clubroom walls the world over.
    The US version has a whole lot of hands reaching for a ball. Hands. Reaching for a ball in a game of soccer. Where only goalkeepers (and Maradona/God)are allowed to use their hands to touch the ball…


    1. I was confused by the US cover as well, but (without having read the book yet) figured that it was a game unique to Ankh-Morpork and unknown in this work. The ball depicted is a cross between a volleyball and an American football, for one thing. Is the sport in the book really just football/soccer?

  23. I, too am a Pratchett fan & no sports fanatic, but am glad that as in so many of the other Discworld books, Pratchett captures the essence, both good and bad, of whatever he is writing about- he could have been writing about Nascar and the qualities of the fans and the crowds and the attraction of belonging would have been the same. On a completely different note,I was particularly pleased that an Orc came to Ankh-Morpork, however briefly.
    I have many favorites among the Discworld stories, depending on mood and circumstance, but always loan the Death trilogy to people who haven’t yet read any of the stories. And I’ll stand by the statement that TP can put more meaning into a humorous footnote than many writers can get into an entire work (e.g., Unseen Academicals, pg. 9: “there are many kinds of darkness…)

  24. I never read that the elephants tramp either. Reference?

    BTW my favourite Pratchett would have to be the Tiffany Aching/Wee free men novels and the history monk stories.

  25. I am still reading it, and also feel this book is like a gift to the fans. It is so _dense_ (TWO love stories :-)

    I hope this is not some kind of fireworks where he crammed in many pending ideas because he knew that he would be lucky to get another one finished… Usually, in the past there was always some net buzz about what the next book would be about, but I cannot find any this time…

  26. “I tend to hate books that center on some new fad that is outside the canon of the rest of the books. Soul Music and Moving Pictures very much included.”

    You do realise that the ‘canon’ of the Discworld books is the real world?

  27. Well, everyone else has put out all the possible opinions on UA and Terry, so I’ll just add this.

    I hope we see Pepe again. I’d even enjoy a whole book of him, and fashion would be a topic you could spin a book out of. High fashion culture alone is so absolutely insane it and the Discworld deserve each other.

    Also, I was sad that one of the stray quotes Terry produced that came about when he must have been brainstorming the thing, didn’t get used in the book.
    Troll cheerleaders, “Two, Four, Many, Lots”

  28. Not his best, but not far from it.

    This book deals far more with social strata and class than football. It is another one of his “let’s see how this particular invention generates ripples through society” books, similar to The Truth, or Going Postal. As time goes by, his books are becoming more intricate, more deeply woven into the similarities between Discworld and “Roundworld” but without being moralistic.

    There are very few Discworld books that aren’t brilliant, and the YA Tiffany Aching adventures are quite good. Looking forward to re-reading this soon, and next year’s TA book.

    Keep pumping them out Terry!

  29. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t have a favorite book. There are some I like more than others, but I couldn’t single out one as the top book in my Terry Pratchett library. Not including Unseen Academicals, since I’ve only had it a month and it’s not the only book I’ve read in that time, they’ve all been read a minimum of 5 times, some more than 15 (you can tell by how dog-eared they are; I’m a horrible corner folder). consequently I’ve only read UA twice.

    I find I tend to want to read them by topic (my own personal criteria of course). Some times I’m in the mood for Vimes which, according to my personal criteria, includes Monstrous Regiment. Sometimes I’m in the mood for the Witches, other times for Death or Wizards. The other topic I include is the City, which includes The Truth as well as Going Postal, Thud and now UA. I never seem to read them as a single book, almost always as a series, which may be why I’m unable to single out a favorite.

  30. Just finished UA and I have to (reluctantly) endorse some of the other comments here. The established characters, especially Lord Vetinari, seem rather ‘out of character’ while the new central characters seem rather two-dimensional (this defect also made Monstrous Regiment less enjoyable for me). As with all Discworld books, it will stand a repeat reading in a few months to bring a final judgement. Still, there were several laugh-out-loud moments and did anyone else note the arrival of public transport in Ankh-Morpork (love the “trolley bus”!)? Must also speak out for Going Postal, which I’ve re-read countless times. Moist and Adora Belle are two of Terry’s finest creations, and the sheer chaos of the mountains of undelivered mail is a delight. I think UA will eventually rank alongside Soul Music and Moving Pictures as a one-off in the Discworld canon that sought to make a point about a particular phenomenon and said all that needed to be said in a single work. And I treasure my copy of Night Watch, autographed by the great man himself before my very eyes. “You had to be there”, he wrote. Indeed.

  31. This makes me so happy! I was worried that we weren’t going to get another from Terry Pratchett. Hooray!

  32. UU was okay (and an “okay” Pratchett book is far superior to most other popular books) but I agree with others who wouldn’t recommend it to a Discworld newbie.

    As someone completely disinterested in football it managed to convey what’s enjoyable about the sport, while at the same time making me never want to go to a match, for fear of consuming a pie.

    PS What’s up with the US cover? Seriously?
    PPS I nearly geek-swooned at the Nr Nutt Weapon X references. Pity TP never mentioned him having doubly-pointy hair…

  33. Oh, and my favourite Pratchetts are the Moist VonLipwig novels, Going Postal and Making Money. Though I do love the Watchmen and the Witches, especially Maskerade. OK, there likely isn’t a Discworld novel i haven’t read a dozen times.

  34. One thing about Discworld Con, being a single-author-centric event, was several panels with him and his publishers talking about the experiences of publishing and marketing his work over the years, Sir Terry going on book tours, etc. For a long time the publishers who carried his stuff in the US Just Didn’t Get It, had no clue how to market books that were selling like hotcakes in the rest of the English-speaking world, or even how to sell the things to people who would otherwise be ordering them from England. “Covers” was one of the topics that especially got ranted about – mostly the older series of US covers. He’s fairly happy with most of the current ones, and generally with his current publishers as well.

    Another topic was writing process. He collects lots of things and ideas and kicks them around for a while, writes bits and pieces, and eventually gets some idea what he’s going to be writing about or who the characters are and what stories they have to tell. In general, if Granny Weatherwax is in a story, she dominates it. If Sam Vimes is there, it turns into a police procedural. The early couple of Rincewind/Twoflower books weren’t really novels; they were more genre parodies before he figured out where he was and what he was doing (and occasional authors were quite grumpy about having their sort of work caricatured.) Tiffany Aching seems to be a rather strong character, and IIRC he’s working on another book with her. Death was a flexible enough fellow that while he got some books about his business, he can show up anywhere without disrupting the rest of the story too much (er, except for the individuals he encounters who may find that their stories had already just been disrupted.)

  35. I’ve just finished the audiobook and I can safely say that there is only one author who is allowed to end a book about football (or about life around football) with “It is now.”

    Well done, Terry, may this not have been your last one.

  36. I agree- I would read his grocery lists too. I was never interested in army stories but Monstrous Regiment was what got me started on the series!

  37. I love Monstrous Regiment and would put it in my top five, although Jingo and Hogfather would definitely be ahead of MR. The Truth and Going Postal would be about concurrent with, but Monstrous Regiment does really resonate with me, because I think he wrote such a realistic depiction of how an oppressive religion slowly eats into a community and causes decent people to slowly ignore their own humanity. (The bird picture scene particularly stands out.) And his depiction of being a woman in a traditionally male profession also was pretty solid. All in all, he packed A LOT into Monstrous Regiment. It’s one of his denser books, I think.

    I tend to recommend that people start with Guards! Guards! or Mort or Wyrd Sisters and expand from there. I lurve the City Watch, but I enjoy seeing them from other people’s views, and I thought he did a good job of exposing what the Watch look like from the other side in Unseen Academicals. (I’m thinking of the scene where Trev is being grilled about Nutt.)

    I would place this above Thud! (and a bit below my favourites) in terms of story and cohesiveness. Honestly, I thought the plot was a bit diffuse, but the core of Nutt, Glenda, Trev, and Juliet and how they interact made up for the iffy plotline. (My bf loves the Wizards and is pretty much pleased whenever they show up anywhere, although both of us think the first few books are the weakest.)

  38. I agree with some of the people on not ranking this book in their higher up favorites. It took me 3 weeks to read it. In comparison, I have stayed up until way to late at night/early morning to finish some of his in one day. It just seemed like all the stories within the book were forced to be connected, not flowing together naturally. However, I might give it a chance someday. I hated Monstrous Regiment on the first read, but only was neutral toward it on the second.

    I was a little sad to see my favorite book hasn’t been mentioned yet. I absolutely LOVE The Fifth Elephant.

  39. I’m with those who found Unseen Academicals to be one of Pratchett’s lesser works. The people we already know all act out of character, the plot isn’t the greatest, and Vetenari makes the exact same joke to Margolotta twice. (That the author would inadvertently repeat himself is understandable under the circumstances, but the editors really should have caught it.) But with all of that said, even lesser Pratchett is better than most other writers on their good days, and there were flashes of brilliance here and there.

    As for others named… Monstrous Regiment is pretty close to the bottom of my list. Cute concept, but driven into the ground and not really enough to sustain the book. I loved Soul Music. I also loved The Fifth Elephant and The Last Continent; Rincewind may be one of the weakest characters on the Disc, but he drives some of the best books. (Conversely, Granny Weatherwax is one of the best characters, but I’m not to be as fond of the books she’s in. The Tiffany Aching series excepted. Love Tiffany Aching.)

  40. Well, unlike most of the horde, I loved this book- I’d definitely rank it among his best, and I found it almost impossible to put down until it was finished. Personally, my favourite is Night Watch. Monstrous Regiment, Small Gods and the Von Lipwig books come close, though. The more recent books with Rincewind (except this) are the more average ones. This is a classic.

  41. “Unseen Academicals” started slow, granted, but picked up very, very well along the way. Towards the end it had me standing on the edge of my seat, literally. It has romance, street wise and adventure, exotic characters from the mountains, and football! Loved seeing how Ankh-Morpork evolves with each book. Loved the way Trev and Juliet talk.

    The only (minor) gripe I have with the book is Vetinari. He talks too much in this one. :)

  42. Strange – Monstrous Regiment is one of my least favourite Discworld books of all time. As for reading order, I would only recommend reading them *vaguely* in the order written – not for in-universe continuity but just for literary appreciation reasons. For my money, they get better and better as they go on. In a nutshell: early ones are parody; later ones are *satire*. The first few I read when I was at school, and LOL STUPID SLAPSTICK WIZARD amuses greatly, but when I reread them more recently they sometimes seem a bit thin. Whereas newer ones I find have more of a genuine ‘multi-level’ contruction – alongside the parody/fantasy/humour elements is a social commentary on our own planet as insightful, or more, than many supposedly “serious” books can offer. The evolution of Ankh-Morpork into a multicultural, “post-industrial” city in the later Watch and Moist books being prime examples. Looking forward to checking out UA.

  43. Loved Monstrous Regiment; it was my introduction to the series and the author.

    I thought UA was a wonderful gloss on many Pratchettish themes (redemption, tolerance, self-acceptance and confidence, the victory over ignorance by the forces of understanding) but I would only recommend it to people who are already fervent fans.

    There are plenty of other entry points I recommend to *anyone who will listen*, though, especially the Tiffany Aching subseries.

  44. I didn’t read all the comments, and haven’t had a chance to read Unseen Academicals yet as I bought it for an anniversary pressie for my bloke and he hasn’t finished it yet. >:o( Hurry UP!!!

    My favourite Pratchett is Thud. The cave scene gives me goosebumps every time. Sam Vimes’ darkness is the best. I love that he understands the worst in humanity (and dwarfs/trolls/vampires etc) because it’s the worst in himself. I think TP has gone from strength to strength with the Moist books being among his best.

    I didn’t like Monstrous Regiment the first time I read it, but subsequent readings gave me a greater appreciation. Also, having heard of Margaret Bulkley between readings gave me an idea of where he came up with the idea. What I love most about TP is the fact that he knows so very much and uses his vast amount of knowledge to make silly jokes. I can’t wait for the Moist Von Lipwig Tax one!

  45. Man, this book sucked. Why can’t TP write more about Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax and maybe even throw Agnes Nitt in a story again? That’s not to say I don’t love the rest of the series as well, but the witches were what got me started and they’re what keeps me going. And hoping.

  46. Now I know what to get my wife for Christmas. A present I can enjoy too! (Although I still need to read Thud! and Making Money.)

    Over at Stately Omir Manor we are big fans of the Tiffany Aching series, although I really enjoy the Witches, Watch and Death series as well. My secret ambition is to have my wife make costumes for us so we can appear at conventions as Lord and Lady Vimes; by the time she gets around to it my grandson should be about big enough to tag along behind us, carrying a copy of “Where’s My Cow?”

  47. A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end… (Sorry. Terry Pratchett’s implied folk music is hard to get out of one’s head.) The Lost Continent is a gem and it is highly recommended. Also; Feet of Clay, The Fifth Elephant, Jingo, Hogfather, The Truth, and every book that has Esmerelda Weatherwax in it. (Yes, even Lords and Ladies.) Small Gods was brilliant, also.
    “If its God wanted it to live it would have made it fireproof!” (Look, if it has Ponder Stibbons, the Bursar, the ever osmotic Dean and Archancellor Ridcully, where can it go wrong?)

  48. Unlike my kids , I came to Terry Pratchett too late and can’t say that I know his work… but what little I’ve read is a beautiful fantasy world and I particularly loved the character ‘DEATH’! This character actually got me thinking about death as a kind experience. I was horrified to read that Terry had a form, I believe, of Alzheimer’s Disease…. it seemed to my cynical self that day that bad things always seem to happen to good people and that that old saw was true. I felt very bitter about it. But now that he has written another book, maybe his demise will be slower and with dignity.

  49. Small Gods is the best Pratchett by such a margin it’s not even funny. It borders on Aesopian, but it’s more fun than most of his other works too.

  50. For the benefit of some of the commenters above it appears that Raising Taxes – 3rd Moist Von Lipwig book is planned, also ‘I shall wear Midnight’ fourth Tiffany Aching.
    She may visit Ankh-Morpork and there might be urban feegles so go rumours from Discworld cons in US and Ireland and Hogswatch in Wincanton.

    There is a very active message board at – all are welcome.

  51. It’s always lovely to be back in the Discworld, even if some of the people you’re with aren’t as diverting as those to whom we have become accustomed.
    Football does not thrill me. Juliet enrages me. But the orc and the night kitchen manager make it worth it. They have just as many flaws and foibles as we could want.
    Also, Carpe Jugulum. Just let me say. The best.

  52. I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett and hope he will keep writing forever. However, most of this book doesn’t read like it was written by him at all. While there are still some delicious parts that are all Pratchett, huge parts of the book seem to be written by somebody else. The voice, pace, vocabulary, style, everything is so totally different than any of the other Pratchett books, even the earlier ones that I have my doubts they were written by him. And while the Pratchett pearls are as shinny as ever, they are few and far between. The other voice, telling most of the story, is unpolished, unsophisticated and holds very little attraction or interest (yawn).

    I do hope this is the case of two writers. I would rather see fewer books by Mr. Pratchett than see this kind of books. I love his previous book Nation, which was all Pratchett. I understand why writing might be harder for him these days, but his unique voice and quick wit are what we are all waiting for when we buy his books.

  53. Light, I expect it has something to do with that degenerative neurological condition he has.

    Fiction writers write with their whole selves. Changes in their circumstances show up in their writing. Terry Pratchett’s holding up quite well.

  54. Given neither of us know the truth, I beg to differ. Terry Pratchett has a distinct and unique style, which shine through all his works, Diskworld or otherwise. I am well aware (and grieving) of Mr. Pratchett predicament, and when reading this book I couldn’t help but wonder where had that unique style and quick, ceaseless wit gone. If it was uniformly different I would have been more inclined to contribute it to his condition. However, the book has two distinct and very different voices interchanging (and not seamlessly) throughout the manuscript. They are SO different it is hard to believe they were written by the same person. A possible explanation might be that some parts were written in the past and integrated into this new work. I would be more inclined to believe this is the case (or it might be only wishful thinking on my part) if it wasn’t for Nation, which came out last year. Nation was Pratchett at his best. This work, on the other hand, is not less than the usual Pratchett; some of it is all Pratchett, while other parts are totally different. There is no mix, it either reads like Pratchett or it doesn’t. Thus I am more inclined to speculate about ghostwriters and Orcs. I wish Mr. Pratchett all the best and many more great books.

    1. I agree with Light. The book felt wrong like it was ghost written. Vetinari’s behaviour and demaneour, for example, was vastly different from previous books. I really didn’t enjoy it.

      Though I agree with Cory on Monstrous Regiment – not my number one but in the top 5. Mine is probably Nightwatch, The Fifth Elephant or Feet of Clay.

  55. I’ve got good news for people who liked Unseen Academicals. You’ll be able to read more by the author(s) once Pratchett succumbs to Alzheimers. Parts of this book were ghostwritten or I’m on dried frog pills.

    Think for a second: we’re dealing with possibly one of the largest book ‘franchises’ in history. This cash cow won’t be allowed to die.

    This is, of course, impossible to prove without doing some sort of comparative analysis of earlier work with this work, however, I’d bet on more Discworld books being released a respectful, but otherwise short, period after his death.

  56. Judging by the Adams estate authorizing Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing… the future doesn’t look bright for Pratchett fans. I’ve already had my childhood stomped on by the Herbert estate, the Geisel estate and now the Adams estate. I don’t see why the future Pratchett estate won’t take their turn making pudding out of our collective hearts.

  57. Was most likely my least favorite book by Pratchett. I think he spent too much time developing the Mr. Nutt character and I think it was Glenda. Felt he should have spent more time on the wizards. I did however like the glimpse at Vetinari. Going to just say my favorite Pratchett book is Reaper man.

  58. I love all the books, too. Except for “Unseen Academicals,” with its one last glimmer of what-might-have-been that escaped from Sir Terry’s incredible mind (and perhaps a preliminary outline?) only to be sucked away into a steaming vat of goo straight out of the Dungeon Dimension. Shameless, these Ghost Writers in Yer Eye, shoplifting Wolverine’s retractable claws (“X-Men”) and Terence Stamp’s elegant way of handling bullies (“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”) without even cracking a smile. Oh well, at least they didn’t name the juvenile leads Posh and Becks!

  59. Personally I liked it, a lot. If you rank all the Discworld books into about five ranks, with e.g. Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and Going Postal in the top rank and Moving Pictures and Thief of Time in the bottom rank, I’d say this was second rank, about as good as say Maskerade – and this is despite the fact that football bores me.

    I especially liked the development of the Patrician. He wasn’t being “light-hearted” – he was showing the thin edge of desperation and hysteria. And Mr Nutt was a wonderful character imo.

    The one thing I thought didn’t come off was that the involvement of the goddess-figure was perfunctory – it seemed to have been squeezed in at the last moment and didn’t really connect with anything much.

    I’m quite sure the book wasn’t ghost-written but it clearly *was* dictated, not typed by Terry himself, and that may have affected his ability to edit it properly. We can see this is so because Terry has trouble pronouncing his ‘r’s and ‘w’s, and there’s one place in the book where Nutt talks about carrying “the rate of Forgiveness” and it’s quite clear in context that that should have been “weight” and the secretary misheard it, and neither Terry nor his editor spotted it.

    But it’s not like this represents some huge deterioration, since Terry’s never been very good at proof-reading: in The Light Fantastic one of the characters actually changes names halfway through.

  60. Re #68- Terry’s long-term practice of working on three books at once – outline one, writing another, doing final polish on a third – often shows as a joke that didn’t quite fit into one book may show up in another. The next Moist book is about taxes. “Rates” is the UK sort-form word for “tax rates” and to tax someone with something is also metaphorically to burden them with it. The “rate of forgiveness” in UA may have been a deliberate pun.

  61. Dear God, we’re NOT talking about bad puns, proofreading errors, or even transcription glitches here! Sir Terry-as-he-was had a wonderfully irreverent, sharp-tongued, idiosyncratic point of view that was informed by a great love of the downright weirdness of everyday-folk-as-they-are from all social strata, along with years of service on the front lines in a very tough-sell-field for PR. Whoever strung together all of these wildly romantic clichés has done a poor job of connecting the dots. They don’t seem to have ever set foot on a real city street, much less cared to speak for one moment with anyone actually selling rat-onna-stick there. At least, the publisher should give them a byline alongside the presumed author (perhaps “and” or “with” or even “assisted by”) as fair warning to the unwary.

  62. A book about football. And immigration. And psychologie. And academic competition. And haute couture; all incorporated in a story that manages to satirize “Romeo and Juliet” and “Green Street” AT THE SAME TIME.
    Yes the plot is a bit too packed near the end and yes, the cameos could maybe have been shaped a little bit different, but who cares about such details in a novel that manages to enlighten and amuse so phenomenally? Once again a real Pratchett.

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