Laurie's Reviews > Unseen Academicals

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
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Aug 02, 10

Read in August, 2010

Ever since I heard about Sir Terry Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I’ve read each new book of his with trepidation, fearing I’d find signs of decline. So far, so good- he hasn’t lost his wit or way with words. But Unseen Academicals *is* different from most of the Discworld books.

It doesn’t run at the breakneck pace of most of the Discworld novels. The jokes don’t fly quite as thick and furious. But with this slower pace comes something else: the characters emerge. Normally, characters in Discworld books are sketchy and somewhat caricatureish, made to fit a satirical situation and the satire drives the novel. In this book, while satire is the main thrust, the characters also drive the plot. I found that quite nice. While I adore the Discworld books where the jokes fly fast and thick, I found it interesting to see some backstory to some of the wizards. Normally portrayed as nothing more than incompetent gluttons, in this book we get to see them as people with pasts and relationships.

Unseen Academicals takes on soccer (football to everyone but Americans), fashion, and racial and class prejudice. I don’t follow soccer, but reading not long after the World Cup I was able to appreciate a lot of what he’s poking fun at. I would have liked to have seen more of the fashion satire, but perhaps those characters will be back some day. The parts about prejudice and stereotyping is heavy, unusual for a Discworld book, but it’s a subject that’s hard to be lighthearted about.

It all works. It may be different, but it’s wonderful.
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