Monday, 14 June 2010

Unseen Academicals

Unseen Academicals: A Discworld Novel Terry Pratchett, Doubleday, 2009, 400 pages, hardback, NZ$65.99

Terry Pratchett is the world’s most beloved author. Decades of dedicated after-sales service at author-signings have created an international army of supporters, who love his 36 Discworld novels and are worried that the 37th might not be as good. Alzheimer’s disease means Pratchett can no longer type, so Unseen Academicals was dictated, which explains a slackening of incisiveness in some of the dialogue.

Fans will wince in sympathy when he uses ‘popcorn’ instead of ‘banged grains’ (p.282) but the wordplay is witty, the footnotes are funny and the social satire is as sharp as ever, with Pratchett’s crab-bucket theory of social improvement.

While football and fashion (specifically dwarf micro-mail) offer some Ankh-Morporkians a chance to rise in the world, life seems more complicated for Nutt who is (possibly) a goblin. The result is the ultimate town-versus-gown grudge match. Although Death is strangely absent, many Discworld characters – including Low King Rhys, Dr Lawn, Stanley Howler, Reverend Oats, Hwel, Lady Margolotta and Mr Shine - get brief nods.

Unseen Academicals makes great reading.

Trevor Agnew

This book review first appeared in Your Weekend Magazine, New Zealand 19 December 2009

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