Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Might contain spoilers.
Before this, the only Pratchett book I had (re)read in years was Small Gods , which is set long before the rest of the Discworld series, and Snuff , which I’d rather not talk about. Unseen Academicals was a balm for the soul. I do think this is a lesser work by Pratchett standards: it’s slightly lacking in substance, and it spends a lot of time anticipating something that isn’t quite as momentous as expected. On top of that, Glenda and Juliet aren’t as interesting as some other Discworld protagonists.
With that out of the way: good grief, it’s a Discworld novel! Of course it’s bloody amazing! I could take almost the entire book and reproduce it here under ‘highlights’. It’s absolutely hilarious, too, naturally: what other storyteller can make me laugh riotously again and again in the span of a single page? And this time, I even managed to notice a couple of literary allusions, including one to Romeo & Juliet.
Having Vimes be away for most of it is clever. I remember reading once that Pratchett felt the Watch kept taking over stories, and as such, it’s no mean feat to be able to hold them at bay. I enjoyed how Vimes removes himself by saying the Dean-who-was-Archchancellor is in charge inside as the referee. Obviously, the wizards are endlessly fun.
Nutt is an incredible character whom it would be difficult to include in any (imagined) future instalment. He’s simply too distinct; he’d steal the limelight. Trev is another interesting one. (It’s hilarious how absolutely no one believes he’ll keep his promise to his mother about not playing football.) I do feel Vetinari is uncharacteristically talkative, but perhaps I’m misremembering.
I think, apart from everything else that makes Terry Pratchett unique, his greatest gift is his ability to see the duality in everything, not to mention the insight that underpins all of his writing: everything and everyone who is really just wants to… be. In his worlds, people themselves are always both the villains and the heroes, and their belief breathes life into abstract concepts, who seek the same thing: survival.
I wish I could dig the entire series out of storage to read it all over again from the start. I itch
to rediscover its magic gradually, instead of diving into what I personally think of as the last
book. The mention of Mr. Shine reminded me so strongly of
Mr. Shine, Him Diamond, I could
feel a physical pang of yearning. Here’s hoping I won’t have to wait much longer now.
Next in series: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett(#2 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Books: Discworld (1983))