Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #22: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Number of Pages: 400

The wizards of Unseen University, Discworld's school of wizadry decide to form a football team.

This is the basic premise of this Discworld novel, and unfortunately I was disappointed by this. I had expected another Rincewind-centric book, all about more exploits from the character who made the first Discworld novel I read so great; instead, he doesn't appear until almost half-way through and is limited to very brief cameos. This book centres around other characters such as Archchancellor Ridcully, who I've always enjoyed as supporting characters; as the book's principal cast, they fare less well. There is also a subplot involving Orcs, which includes characters who were evidently supposed to be witches, but for some reason were not Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Like many recent titles I've read, I noticed that Death once again only makes a very fleeting appearance, and here it seems that Pratchett was desperate to shoehorn him in somewhere.

Like many of the recent Discworld titles I have read, this satirises human behaviour, this time targeting football and its supporters. In older Discworld titles that did similar, like Moving Pictures and Soul Music, I enjoyed it as Pratchett also created enjoyable adventure-based stories, which often pointed out the absurdities of the subject that they were sending up. In this book, it mostly references typical football conventions without exactly making them funny; also, the story did not feel like it could sustain a 400-page book.

This book isn't entirely bad, but it's definitely not one of the best titles in the series; it takes ages to get going, and everything builds up to a climactic football match that seems almost interminable. Personally I think reading or watching depictions of fictional sports matches is never as good as watching the real thing (I've felt the same way about constantly reading about Quiddich matches in the Harry Potter novels), and the same feels like its true here. There are some nice touches, like knowing nods to previous novels however, and my favourite bit was the moment where Ponder Stibbons has painful recollections of being last to be picked in a team; I do too.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped, and I do think that the Discworld series has been going downhill in the last 10 or so years.

Next book: God's Big Picture (Vaughan Roberts)
Tags: book review, british, comedy, contemporary, fantasy, fiction, magic, satire, sport, unimpressed, urban fantasy

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