Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett – a new Discworld novel – is out now


Imagine my surprise, me, a so-called self respecting pTerry fan, when walking into Chapters yesterday I saw there’s a new Discworld book out. A full novel. Unseen Academicals. The 37th in the Discworld series. A hardback. €19.99. A book I didn’t know was due out so soon.

Woot :)

We’re back in good old Unseen University for this one, with Ponder Stibbons, Ridcully, the Librarian and the rest of the wizards up against a rather unexpected challenge not from the Dungeon Dimensions this time…

Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork – not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go gloing when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they’re in the mood for trying everything else.

The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt (and no one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too). As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever.

Because the thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.

In fact I went on a bit of a spending splurge yesterday, picking myself up a few missing-from-the-collection Pratchetts, introducing Steph to the wonderful world of Disc and picking up the new Eoin Colfer book, the new Audrey Niffenegger‘s Her Fearful Symmetry (author of The Time Traveller’s Wife), Dacre Stoker‘s Dracula The Undead and A book about Innocent among others. So lots of reading ahead.

But back to the Pratchett book. Now, I know Ronan will be reviewing it for Broken Spine, so I won’t anticipate that. Added to that, and possibly more importantly, I’m not finished it yet – there’s 400 glorious pages and I’m only on page 327 – and really, well, I’m no book reviewer. I like what I like. But I do want to share something about it with you.

I don’t know if you saw the BBC TV show earlier this year – Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer’s. It was a very powerful two part show showing Terry’s battle with Alzheimers, his announcement to the public, his frustration and his optimistic outlook in looking for a cure.

…In fact, it was his own brain that was out to get him, in the form of a rare form of Alzheimer’s, posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), which corrodes visual recognition and short-term memory while postponing dementia. So you know what’s happening to you for a long time.

This Telegraph review gives a good taste of it but for me there was one heart stopping, tear inducing “Ahhh BOLLIX” moment that still sticks with me.

It’s the moment that Terry admits he can’t find the S key on the keyboard.

Alzheimer’s is such a hideous, bastard of a disease – I can relate to it almost first hand – and to see the author of the books that I love – and I really mean LOVE – stricken, handicapped and just unable to type out the characters and the words that would bring me another joyous escape into the Discworld was awful. Awful.

So I didn’t really look out for when the new book would be out. It would happen when it would happen. God help him, he had enough to be worrying about and besides, I delved right back into the Discworld, starting this time with Small Gods and working my way on.

But… and here it is, pre-finished as all as I am – Unseen Academicals is superb. I don’t just mean it’s a good Discworld novel or a great read or a nice compromise considering the circumstances, I mean it’s fantastic and funny and brilliant and interesting and informative and is well on its way to being my favourite of the entire series – definitely up there with Jingo (the first I ever read), Pyramids, Moving Pictures, Reaper Man, Small Gods, Soul Music, Feet of Clay, Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant, The Truth, Thief of Time, The Last Hero, Night Watch, Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal, Thud and Making Money. So, erm, yeah. The top of my “love to read again of all the series” list.

I’m flying through the book not because it’s any more simple than the others, but because the story is so well told, the characters so rounded and believable, the setting so rich and despite it being about football, it really is just a great Ankh-Morpork story.

Terry Pratchett never lost it. Fine, his PCA might be preventing him from doing it as quickly, but the quality, the eye, the genius is still there. Thanks be to all of the Gods, Blind Io included. I can’t wait to finish it. In fact I may do so now…

I’m looking forward to the Discworld Conference in November more and more now…


About darraghdoyle

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13 thoughts on “Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett – a new Discworld novel – is out now

  • Ronan

    Will be reading this comprehensively over the weekend. Going to be great.

    That BBC documentary was fantastic. It’s such a shame thatsomething so awful happened to someone like this.

    That ‘S’ segment was harrowing. But it’s fantastic to see the effort he’s putting into combatting the disease.

  • Stephen

    Totally agree Darragh, the book is fantastic and easily up there with his best. Not getting through it as quickly as you, but savouring each page…

    Didn’t realise Eoin Colfer’s new book is out, must pick that up. It seems so long ago since he was teaching in my primary school – oh hang on, it is…

  • Arnie

    “It’s such a shame thatsomething so awful happened to someone like this.”

    It’s such a shame that something so awful happens to anyone. Nobody is any more or less deserving of such a cruel fate.

  • Travors

    I think the moment in Living with Alzheimers which struck me the most (and at the same time, showed me the true measure of this man), was when the doctor showed Pratchett the results of his brain scan, basically confirmed that he wasn’t going to be cured, and that the Alzheimers was progressing fast. Pratchett fell quite and the doctor asked him if he was ok.
    He took a moment and said “I’m just trying to work out if I have enough time left to finish my book”. Utterly breathtaking & heartbreaking.

  • Will Knott

    Finished the book over the weekend. Just one non-spoiler and non-review question.
    At various spots in the book a sub plot about selling feminine products to trolls pops up seemingly at random, in two or three places and goes nowhere.

    To me it feels more like a corrupted file error showing removed parts of the plot rather than an intended plot. Or maybe a forgotten edit.

    Is it just me?

  • sharon

    Was bought this last night :) didn’t know it existed either! itching to read it this wkend.

    @will knott. the troll stuff may be a continuation of a sub story from ‘Making Money’? will know better when I read it.

    As for the documentaries: he’s brave to share something so personal and frightening with the public. I admire him greatly for that.

  • sharon

    @will the audio books. ah. the tony robinson ones? or the other crowd. ISIS I think. I borrowed a friends but the group version audiodiscs had such good voice actors I’m going to buy them myself to listen again! especially ‘Guards Guards’

  • Niall

    @Will I think the selling feminine products to trolls is in there for a number of reasons. It’s a subtle dig at the fashion industry (in that trolls what things to make them feel bigger rather than smaller), it’s a development of the movement of social change occurring in the Discworld since The Truth, and it’s part of the character development of Glenda.

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