Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unseen Academicals

by Terry Pratchett
400 pgs  (Discworld series #37)

In Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld book, Unseen Academicals, Pratchett sets his satirical aim at the game of football (soccer). The wizards of Unseen University are faced with a financial crisis. In order to ensure the continuation of a large financial endowment to the university, and to avoid having to resort to eating only three meals a day, the wizards are faced with the task of participating in a game of foot-the-ball.

Foot-the-ball is a violent street sport played in Ankh-Morpork. No real rules exist, the game resembles a street brawl more than an organized sport, and referees use poisoned daggers. Death is not a possibility, it’s an expectation. The wizards, whose idea of exercise historically has been raising a fork repeatedly to their mouth, decide that if they’re going to embark on this new more active lifestyle, the game needs to be tamed with some rules.

With the help of the city’s ruler, Lord Vetinari, a handful of rules are implemented in order to make the popular spectator sport more civilized. Players will no longer be allowed to use their hands, which the wizards hope will significantly reduce their likelihood of dying. The position of goal keeper is devised, which will reduce the potential for scoring, but which should replace the crowd’s anticipation for seeing a player’s death with seeing only one or two goals scored each match. Referees are also given whistles to replace their daggers.

The game of football provides a lot of the action in this story, but Pratchett also throws in a couple of budding romances, which are equally as entertaining and humorous. Trev Likely, the son of a legendary foot-the-baller, falls madly in love with the beautiful, but not-so-bright, Juliet Stollop, a chain-mail fashion model. and Juliet’s boss, Glenda Sugarbean, falls in love with Mr. Nutt, an orc.
I have only a handful of Discworld books left to read. Unseen Academicals was the first book to come out following Terry Pratchett’s diagnosis with a form of Alzheimer’s. Thankfully he was able to continue writing for a few more years, despite the effects of the disease, which eventually ended his life and all those living on Discworld.  

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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