Book Review: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Unseen Academicals is an attempt to bring sporting melodrama a la ‘Dodgeball’ into Discworld.

The wizards of Unseen University are running out of money and may have to reduce the size of their cheeseboards, the fillings in their pies, their wine. But there is a way out of this, all they need do is play a game of football to acquire a financial legacy. There is only one problem though, football is not the athletic game of two teams of eleven primadonnas with skilfull mastery of a leather ball attempting to kick it into the opposition’s net. It is to all intents and purposes a mass riot where injuries are plenty and goals are few. Furthermore, the game has been outlawed.

Unseen University must get the game legalised, build a team and find some opponents from the rough streets of Ankh Morpork in order to get their hands on the legacy.

This is an amusing look at The Beautiful Game but it is rarely hilarious or original. It doesn’t really offer anything new in the sporting melodrama aside from Pratchett’s world. Romance? Check. Black sheep struggling against prejudice for acceptance? Check. Training cock ups? Check. A band of misfits facing a superior opposition who ultimately triumph either literally or by winning hearts? Check. Yes its all here.

The only real stand out scene is Vetinarii’s superb speech on morality where he declares at the end: ‘if there is a supreme creator it is down to us to be his moral superior’. Brilliant!



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