Book Review

Unseen Academicals | Discworld Novel | Book Review

‘It’s a kind of medicine with words,’ said Nutt, carefully. ‘Sometimes people fool themselves into believing things that aren’t true. Sometimes that can be quite dangerous for the person. They see the world in a wrong way. They won’t let themselves see that what they believe is wrong.’

Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett

Another hilarious book by Terry Pratchett. Unlike many of his earlier books in the Discworld series though, this one wasn’t just funny it also was meaningful. I started out reading The Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett and kind of hopscotched around a couple books in the series. However recently I went back to the beginning and tried to start reading through them methodically.

I’m not sure that’s the best strategy though, because there’s series within the series, and certain groups of characters that I prefer. All of the stories that focus on the Wizards of the Unseen University, for example, tend to be a favorite for me. I love how obsessed they all are with food!

In fact, food is a major theme in this book, as one of the main characters, Glenda bakes pies. Before I get too far into my analysis let me provide you with a short, snarky summary of the plot.

Summary

A girl who bakes pies works doggedly to clean up other people’s messes while the Wizards of the Unseen University embark on a quest to create a football team…with rules and everything! However this proves challenging as they get distracted by pie, food, and snacks along the way.

There is also an unusual servant named Nutt who seems gentle and weak, but in actuality has some very peculiar skills and strengths.

Pros

It gets very philosophical at points, which is one of the reasons I was first drawn to Pratchett’s books in the first place. I loved Glenda, who is one of the main protagonists and her struggle to find her identity. She starts out in the beginning a very capable and helpful person who’s trapped by her beliefs about how the world should run and how she should behave. There’s a lot of character development as she grows to understand how the limits she thinks exist are really just imaginary and she doesn’t have to live the life she thinks she does.

Crab bucket, thought Glenda as they hurried towards the Night Kitchen. That’s how it works. People from the Sisters disapproving when a girl takes the trolley bus. That’s crab bucket. Practically everything my mum ever told me, that’s crab bucket. Practically everything I’ve ever told Juliet, that’s crab bucket, too. Maybe it’s just another word for the Shove. It’s so nice and warm on the inside that you forget that there’s an outside. The worst of it is, the crab that mostly keeps you down is you…

Terry Pratchett has a very smart sense of humor, and usually his books (like this one) aren’t just focused on telling a joke or making you laugh, it’s more about making you think…and the laughter is just a by-product of that. Ultimately the more you think about something, the more you’re able to see the ridiculousness in it and the ridiculousness with which people behave. Humor does that, it lets you view things objectively, and often what you’ll end up seeing is pretty funny.

I loved the main romance, it was between two characters who you wouldn’t usually see in the starring roles in a typical romance. I especially loved how Pratchett has Glenda comparing real romance with what she reads in her novels throughout the whole book. Ultimately he does a lovely job building a relationship between two characters that feels real, and he just is able to describe things so accurately. I love how he uses metaphors especially. Since the two characters (one of them is Glenda) aren’t particularly physically attractive, he nevertheless manages to go beyond the surface layer and focus on what attracts each of them to each other in terms of their personality, beliefs and how they view the world. It’s not a very large part of the story, but it was just so well done in my opinion I thought it really stood out.

Cons

Initially I started reading this book, got 1/3 of the way through and didn’t continue it for 2 years. That’s because it did drag a bit in the beginning because he introduces so many characters and plot threads. That said once you get into it, it’s quick and flows fast and furious to the end.

Favorite Quotes

A lot hinges on the fact that, in most circumstances, people are not allowed to hit you with a mallet. They put up all kinds of visible and invisible signs that say ‘Do not do this’ in the hope that it’ll work, but if it doesn’t, then they shrug, because there is, really, no real mallet at all. Look at Juliet talking to all those nobby ladies. She didn’t know that she shouldn’t talk to them like that. And it worked! Nobody hit her on the head with a hammer.

The man had the quiet, friendly air about him of someone who had found the best way to get through life was never to give much of a stuff about anything.

‘And you are telling me I’m wrong. Are you?’ ‘I would rather you thought of me as suggesting a way in which you could be even more right.’

‘I would like to try a little experiment this afternoon, gentlemen. We will not talk about football, we will not speculate about football, we will not worry about football—’ ‘You are going to make us play it, aren’t you?’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes glumly. ‘Yes,’ said Ridcully, more than somewhat miffed at the spoiling of a perfectly good peroration.

What did you think? Have you read anything by Terry Pratchett before?

6 thoughts on “Unseen Academicals | Discworld Novel | Book Review

    1. They are definitely a very specific taste! Discworld is definitely his more zany series, but I really enjoyed Dodger as well, which was a bit more on the realistic side (relative to his other books haha).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I enjoyed this one too and I agree it not necessarily the best idea to start this series right at the start, as Pratchett certainly got better, funnier and smarter as the series progresses. My favourite instalments usually involve the witches. 🧙‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pratchett is always a wonder, but it is also an author that need the right mood or inclination. Or at least, it is so for me. But I love his books, and they are always a pleasure on more than one level. I am glad you enjoyed this one so much. At the moment I am reading the City watch sub series and taking my leasury time with it (at the moment this is my favorite sub series. I deeply love Vimes and Vetinari!) but I hope to go back to the Wizards books soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Vetinari! I think he’s one of my favorite characters. I’ve only read one of the City Watch books so far, but I went back and am starting with the first one now.

      I definitely agree you need to be in the right mood for a Pratchett book.

      Liked by 1 person

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