****** 6 out of 6 star
Cover - I love this cover - it's just a hint of what's going on. Only I would have expected a rugby type of ball....or at least the shape. However, I realize this game is symbol of ALL games everywhere, and therefore, it's totally possible that a basketball like ball is used in a combination football/rugby/soccer type game....hell, it could even be a head being kicked around by an ancient people in a precursor to the game of ..... well, soccer/ :)
For some odd reason, totally not my usual way of doing things, I bought this book the moment it came out (okay, that's normal with a favorite) and then put off reading it for quite a while....which can be normal for me with a lot of books, but NEVER with a Terry Pratchett book. In fact, I ended up reading the next book, Snuff, before I finally dug Unseen Academicals back out of the TBR pile. Of course, once I began reading I was soon pulled into the story....
Reading a Terry Pratchett novel is quite an experience. The man is clever, brilliant AND on top of that, can write a charming, interesting, humorous novel full of twists, turns, surprises, tidbits and social satire. He does not shy away from difficult or uncomfortable subjects and yet can write with humor, so while you're laughing, you're still thinking about the injustices of the world. Somehow, and rightly so, you're left know just how idiotic these injustices are yet even while the novel seethes with trouble makers, the poor, the desparate - by the end of the book you are enjoying the fact that while still imperfect - the characters have had small victories, huge victories, or temporary victories, and even if they don't necessarily get a fairytale happy ending - they get the right ending.
In this case, we're not only reading about sports and how it affects people, but all the other behavours and issues that a popular well attended sporting event can bring up - bigotry, politics, rights of the people, rioting, cheating, loyalties, competition, ....you know, all the craziness that can accompany sports and sporting events and even within sporting families.
There's this game that's been going on since forever, it gets bigger and bigger, truly mythical proportions, even the spectators seem to be part of the game (like in American football, when they call the crowd the 12th man). The game seems to be a cross between Rugby, Soccer and Football, and in this early, discworld version the game seems to move from place to place; not because of the day, but because of where the players are throwing the ball. The game and "12th man" becoming so epic has drawn the attention of Lord Vetinari. When he becomes interested in something - watch out.
There are some familiar faces in Unseen Academicals - The Unseen University, the wizards within; Ponder, Stibbons, Ridcully, The Librarian, etc. However, Pratchett introduces new characters to readers: the head of the night kitchen, Glenda, who is a no nonsense type of woman, one everyone depends on and who seems to be middle ages, though she's much younger; Juliet, the beautiful worshipped maid, who is the same age as Glenda, yet seems years younger; Trev, who works for the Unseen University - a young handsome roguish man, big sports enthusiast, and unfortunately a supporter of the wrong team. Unfortunate, because he's in love with Juliet and her family/neighborhood are for the other team. There's a bit of a Romeo/Juliet thing going here - just the beginnings.... There is also this whiz of a candle maker - Mr. Nutt. In fact, he seems to be an expert on just about everything, and yet there is something slightly sinister and mysterious about him People seem nervous around him...
There's such a wondrous mix of stories here. I see a sort of West Side/East Side, Romeo and Juliet, Necessary Roughness, all kinds of stories going on here - and it's all weaved into one master story by this brilliant writer, Terry Pratchett. As usual, Pratchett uses humor, satire, cleverness, multiple storylines and wonderful dialogue all together to bring his take on things - in this example, sports and love. If you haven't yet tried a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, this is a good one - though he has over 30 novels set in this Discworld, they all stand alone in their own right. And if you have read them, just haven't yet picked up this one, go get it, you won't be disappointed.
Sir Terry Pratchett has already released one new book, The Long Earth this year, and is releasing another book in September, 2012. The Long Earth is a mix of Science Fiction and Fantasy - looks very interesting. Out right now.
Dodger, coming out in September, is Young Adult, and mixes in some history with fantasy elements - Sweeney Todd, Charles Dickens, promises to be an interesting novel.