[Wednesday, November 25, 2009]

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett:


It's the one about football.

Before I go into this, I have to say that it's the one sport I might have been fanatic over back in my youth. While I am not fanatic fan now (due to the local league being a bit boring) and do not stay up to watch live matches, I do watch the World Cup next day re-runs. While I stopped caring about individual footballers after reading about exorbitant transfer fees and a particularly interesting yet depressing talk with my financial adviser about the betting that goes on behind the scenes, I do know what being offside entails and what the red and yellow cards mean.

If there is one thing I have learned about football is that it is what it is. It just is. So for this reader, the levels of fanaticism in the book about the game is . . . not very surprising at all.

The second thing is that the huge chunks of football rules and the complicated bits should not detract from the story. They might if you tried to understand them, but football is football and the rules make about a much sense as the rules of any other sport. Once you have understood this point, the rest of the book is a walk. I may be alone in this, but I do wish there was more game-play though.

Unseen Academicals proper . . . The dust jackets may do a better summary--I don't really know, but I'm not summarising. I never really liked the stories with the wizards very much--although this could be because The Last Continent, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic rank as my least favourite Discworld novels. Rincewind ranks as my least favourite Discworld Protagonist (for most of the reasons stated by Ridcully in page 188--I always wondered if Pterry meant for that to happen) and I prefer Stibbons and Ridcully. I liked Moving Pictures and Soul Music so much more with them in. Hence Unseen Academicals does not fall into the "Wizard-centred books" for me (despite the fact that it is partially wizard-centered). Rincewind so much more effective when he is a supporting character to the larger-than-life Archchancellor and overworked Stibbons.

(And he would be great at football for the obvious reasons stated in the book and utterly crap at it for failing to attack the opposing goal.)

The new characters--your mileage may vary and so does mine. Glenda is my favourite of the new characters--the Agnes Nitt Mk II. Could do without Trev and Jools, but they were necessary for the plot. Not sure about Nutt, because the fleshing out of his character may have got lost in the ambitious plot. Then again (one of the) the point(s) of UA could be to create a character from a blank slate. Nutt's slate still needs some filling in.

The plot as ambitious as Vetinari's plans for Ankh Morpork. Add in new characters, new (ancient) history and a new chapter in the history of Ankh-Morpork. Even the culture is changing, as demonstrated by dwarves and trolls becoming a valid market for luxury goods. There is the slightly rushed evolution/development of characters--Nutt the mostly blank slate that fills itself and Glenda the slate that rewrote itself--that makes most Discworld novels more than just books about witches, wizards, policemen, anthropomorphic personifications, reporters and con-men. Granted, the evolution of many familiar characters took place over a great many books, but it does not affect the overall flow very much as they are the supporting cast. And UA needs a strong supporting cast to bolster some of the weaker parts and shore up the foundations. (One of the possible flaws/strengths of the Discworld series could be the multiple protagonists/no real lead character in most books that are not Vimes-centred.)

UA is proof of how far Ankh Morpork has come under Vetinari's special brand of tyranny. It's very Vetinari to gamble on people--it's what he does and has done for many books. And he has more faith in certain people than his Uberwaldean counterpart. That, or better character judgement.

From a footy-fan's point of view, it's the evolution of the game from the ancient Beautiful Game, which degenerated into the Shove and football hooliganism (personified by Andy Shank) and is being revamped back into the Beautiful Game. From a Discworld fan's point of view, it could be about the continued evolution of Ankh Morpork from the big bad city of the bad old days into a modern metropolis as Vetinari intended. (Hmm, we have been convinced to read books about the evolution of banking, the postal service and the police force. Why not about football?)

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[Sunday, November 15, 2009]

Settled some more vacation stuff with Ad and Ed. (Poor Ad has been so stuck in work that he hasn't even replied to my messages, but he made up for it today by driving us down to get JR rail passes.)

Was terribly amused today when I followed Ad and Ed around and realised that they use more product than I do.

Read "Unseen Academicals" by Terry Pratchett. Cannot see why so many people are nit-picking its flaws. More on this later.

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[Saturday, November 08, 2008]

Read Nation by Terry Pratchett in under 5 hours. It's not Discworld, but it's good on its own.

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