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Werthead

Book Review: The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

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And Unseen Academicals.

 

Haven't read it yet. Waiting for the paperback.

 

I just got it.  I've read the first couple pages.

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Unseen Academicals

 

For long years the game of foot-the-ball has been played in the back alleys of Ankh-Morpork, with teams formed from street communities coming together in sporting comradeship (involving violence and pies, not necessarily in that order). But the game is starting to turn ugly, and in the spirit of maintaining civil order the Patrician has decided to make the game legitimate, with professionally-organised teams and codified rules. The wizards of Unseen University are invited to form a team and Archchancellor Ridcully enthusiastically agrees, with new staffmember Mr. Nutt proving an invaluable asset. But the old street game isn't going to die peacefully...

 

Unseen Academicals is the most recent novel in the Discworld series and, at around 530 pages, is also the longest. It's also one of the more unfocused books in the series, with lots of excellent ideas which Pratchett is unable to bring together with his customary cleverness. For example, we are given two different reasons why UU has to form a football team. As well as the general sense of civic duty as the Patrician attempts to legitimise the game, we also have a requirement in the will of a deceased wizard whose money is funding the UU kitchens that the university has to field a football team or lose his money (and thus their food). This is an amusing idea, but also unconvincing and, after it is initially brought up, is promptly dropped.

 

Thankfully, for those who are not big fans of football, that element of the novel soon drops into the background, with Pratchett focusing most of the action on the character of Nutt and his enigmatic background. Nutt makes for a likable protagonist, but the revelation of his backstory lacks punch, mainly because with so many other formerly-considered-evil creatures now living in Ankh-Morpork, the addition of one more is not particularly notable. Glenda, the other main protagonist, is also interesting but there is little to distinguish her from Pratchett's other stoic, brave and resolute female protagonists. She is no Granny Weatherwax or Susan, that's for sure, but is likable enough.

 

The book also has its funny moments, with Ridcully given a new nemesis in the shape of his former Dean, who has 'betrayed' UU and become Archchancellor of Pseudopolis's magical academy, and the arrival of a flamboyant Genuan wizard who becomes the UU team's star striker, but it is definitely light in the out-and-out laughter stakes compared to many of the other volumes in the series.

 

Where the book does excel is in its worldbuilding. Ankh-Morpork has been the greatest fantasy city ever created for some considerable time, but here it gains additional depth as Pratchett delves into the social history and relationships of different communities amongst the common folk of the city and the world of servants below stairs at UU, and we get some nice additional insight into how the Patrician rules and orders the city so efficiently given its chaotic nature. In addition Pratchett uses his vast existing library of Discworld characters to populate the city, with William de Worde getting his biggest role (although still an extended cameo) since The Truth and the return of Rincewind and his luggage (although again only briefly).

 

Unseen Academicals (***) is well-written and occasionally amusing, but it is also flabby, overlong and unfocused, with protagonists who are intriguing but unremarkable compared to many others in the series, despite the excellent use of the setting. The book is available now in the UK and USA.

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I think a fairly accurate review. By the way love your site. It got me into Joe Abercrombie who is a great writer. Please could you do a feature on his next book Heroes or supple a link. I can't seem to find much about it. I'd be forever greatful.

I also like the way you do reviews on some older titles.

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I think a fairly accurate review. By the way love your site. It got me into Joe Abercrombie who is a great writer. Please could you do a feature on his next book Heroes or supple a link. I can't seem to find much about it. I'd be forever greatful.

I also like the way you do reviews on some older titles.

 

I put up the UK cover art of THE HEROES a few days back. I'm not sure there's anything to else to come before the book comes out in January, although I hope to snag a review copy before Christmas.

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I need to get Unseen soon. Heck I need to get all of them soon.  :P

 

Currently, I am reading through GOING POSTAL. So far, Moist Von Lipwig is pretty awsome.

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

A band of travellers from Ankh-Morpork have arrived in the town of Bad Blintz. The band consists of a boy with a flute named Keith, a tomcat called Maurice and a lot of rats. A lot of very smart rats. However, as the town suffers from a curiously well-timed rat infestation and Keith and Maurice prepare to enact 'the scam', it becomes clear that something else is at work in the sewers and tunnels under the town. Something that takes an interest in the curiously smart rodents...

 

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents was Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel aimed at younger readers, released in 2001. It was, arguably, the novel that finally broke Pratchett in the USA, where it won the Carnegie Medal and won more notice than his previous books (which had been a cult success at best). Subsequent Discworld books began to hit the New York Times bestseller lists, finally giving Pratchett some Stateside success after almost two decades as Britain's biggest-selling author (well, until the arrival of a certain J.K. Rowling).

 

It's an interesting novel, most notably because Pratchett makes exactly zero concessions to his apparently intended audience. The novel is written in the same manner as his adult books and in fact is actually among the most disturbing Discworld novels, with the revelation of the antagonist in the book being one of Pratchett's more revolting moments. It may have talking rats in it, but the tone is closer to Watership Down (complete with some pretty savage fights and deaths) than to Beatrix Potter. Pratchett seems to do this deliberately, with the rats' belief in a utopian future of animal cooperation stemming from reading a children's book called Mr. Bunnsy Has An Adventure, which becomes a totem of their tribe. Pratchett paints the internal divisions of the rat gang and each character in some detail, with his traditional economic-but-effective storytelling. The book has a darker tone than most of his novels, and whilst there are still a few laughs here, it's a more intense book than many of the Discworld series.

 

It's also quite snappy, coming in at a breezy 270 pages, avoiding the bloat some of the more recent Discworld books have suffered from. Pratchett sets up his plot and characters, tell his story with impressive depth and characterisation and gets out all in the time that some more traditional fantasy authors are still using to clear their throats.

 

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (****) is Pratchett at his more impressive, telling a darker story than normal but with his trademark wit and skills at character-building. It's also a complete stand-alone, with no connections at all to the rest of the Discworld series and can be read completely independently. It is available now in the UK and USA.

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