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A new Terry Pratchett Discworld title is always a nice treat. Especially now that the author is battling with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, his legions of fans are aware that there might not be that many more installments to come.

With Pratchett's tackling his country's passionate love affair with football (or soccer, if like me you live on the other side of the Atlantic), I believed that Unseen Academicals had the potential of being another terrific addition to the Discworld sequence. With his trademark witty humor and intelligent narrative, I felt that this would be another winner. And yet, sadly, Unseen Academical was, for me at least, one massive failure to launch.

Here's the blurb:

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 when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else. The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt (and no one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too). As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever. 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!

The main problem was that Pratchett is all over the place with this one. And as a result, the novel fails to form a cohesive whole. The chuckles and the laughs are there, don't worry. But the various storylines don't come together very well. And for the first time in my life, portions of a Terry Pratchett book bored me out of my mind. I simply could not get into Unseen Academicals.

Some of the plotlines are hilarious, true. Everything that had to do with the Unseen University was a lot of fun to read. Alas, all the scenes regarding Juliet's burgeoning modelling career were on the lame side. The same could be said of the relationship between Mr. Nutt and Glenda the Night Kitchen cook. Mr. Nutt was an interesting character in his own right until the truth about his identity is revealed. Overall, these disparate storylines make for an uneven read.

At times it feels as though Pratchett lacked enough material for a complete novel, so he was forced to pad the plot with filler material. Given the fact that I was expecting another brilliant Pratchett offering, Unseen Academicals sometimes felt a bit uninspired.

Nonetheless, this novel will likely please some of the author's less demanding fans or those looking for light fantasy fare, but I doubt it will help win him new ones. If you have yet to sample Pratchett's comical and intelligent style, Unseen Academicals is not a good place to start.

Here's to hoping that the next Discworld book will be a return to form. . .
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I've been reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series in a sort of lackadaisical way, dipping a toe in here and there as I run across the books. Most recently, I picked up Unseen Academicals, from 2009, and managed to hold on to it until the opening of the World Cup, fitting because this is a story about soccer. Sort of. Well, soccer Discworld-style. You see, the Unseen University (whose faculty consists of magicians, natch) has long enjoyed the income from a bequest by a wealthy patron, but they discover that if they do not field a team in a soccer tournament for a period of 20 years, they will lose that money - and the 20 years are almost up! Fortunately, they can draw upon the wisdom of a strange being called Nutt, who appears quite meek yet seems to know everything when called upon, and they will try to recruit University staff member Trev Likely, son of the infamous Dave Likely, who was a star football player and died on the pitch. But Trev is besotten by Juliet, who seems to glimmer wherever she goes; and Juliet's best friend Glenda, the head cook of the Night Kitchen, sees that more is going on than meets the eye, and what's going on definitely needs her managing touch....As always, Discworld humour is very British, and may not be to everyone's taste, but I quite enjoyed reading this, particularly between bouts of watching world-class football! I have a post-retirement goal of reading all of Pratchett's Discworld novels, in order, but it never hurts to get an early start on such an ambitious project!
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on August 9, 2010
Unseen Academicals is certainly entertaining but its a little drawn out. Not /as/ clever as the standard set for Mr. Pratchett.
It does introduce some new and likable characters who give the feeling that a new generation is afoot in Ankh-Morpork, and bring back some older characters like Rincewind, ridicully and the Librarian but you probably won't feel inclined to read it over and over like Pratchett novels before.
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on July 6, 2013
I've read Unseen Academicals a few times. In print and digitally. And I've loved discovering and rediscovering the fine nuances and references so distinctive of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.

The characters are all well defined and their actions make complete sense in the context of the world they're in. And if you've had the pleasure of meeting them before In other Discworld books, you'd 'get' them even more.

I would recommend this to any lover of fantasy books.
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on June 16, 2010
As always a simply great read with many old friends represented and some new ones as well. When I read Pratchett, as I do often, the first time through is for the story which is always great fun. The second time through is to concentrate on the serious undertones, because no Pratchett novel is just a fantasy story that takes place on a funny flat world. Rather it is a fun house mirror which he holds up to show us ourselves at our worst and our best in such a way that we can laugh at ourselves or look at our darkest sides through unflinching eyes. Because of this reviewers have likened him to Chaucer and Swift, and he has been called one today's greatest writers. With a seemingly endless supply of unique characters and a way with dialogue that will make you laugh out loud not only at what he says but at what he leaves unsaid, Pratchett is always entertaining, often disturbing, and never boring. If you are not yet a member of the legions of readers worldwide who know and love his novels (just see how few ever turn up in used bookstores)I recommend this or any Pratchett novel. Open to page one and sit back and enjoy.The Unseen Academicals
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on July 5, 2015
Pratchett can do no wrong! Excellent as always!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 21, 2014
Not the best Pratchett, by any means
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