The thoughts, views and opinions expressed in the posts and comments of this blog are the product of the author alone. Nothing expressed here is intended to represent any person or entity other than the author. Everything here should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official in any capacity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: Unseen Acedemicals

(I have done my best to keep the spoilers out of here but something may have slipped through. Sorry.)

I was hanging out the other day chatting with a friend of mine about some things. The first topic we had to discuss (as is the case whenever the chance presents itself) was the most recent release from Terry Pratchett.

Unseen Academicals was a great book although, not quite up to what we have grown to expect from Terry. Maybe expect isn't the right term anymore though. It would be more true for me to say that the book wasn't on par with what we have come to hope for from Terry.

Not too long ago, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer Syndrome. When the announcement came it was met by a worldwide wail of horror and disappointment from millions of his fans worldwide. Was this it? Would we never see another Pratchett novel on the shelves? Was Discworld doomed to forever stand still and never again move forward into interesting times?

Then one day, we all stood with baited breath to hear the announcement that a new novel, Nation was going to be released. When the big day came we flocked to the bookstores in droves to purchase this new offering. Nation was not a Discworld novel but, well, who cares! Pratchett is Pratchett and we will take whatever we can get!

Or not...

Personally, I still haven't finished the book, but that's just me. I have spoken to people who are convinced Nation was his best book to date but the school of thought to which I ascribe is that we have been woefully disappointed. Who knows? Maybe the book improves as you get farther into it. Maybe one day I will force myself through it to find out.

But back to my original topic...

Unseen Academicals was good. It just wasn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be. A friend of mine has described the Discworld novels as having started at a seven, moved up through eights and nines, leveled off at ten and has been going strong ever since. Sadly, it seems like this most recent in the series has dropped back to a nine.

Now, please understand, I am being a harsh judge because I have known this author for so long I feel like I am critiquing a friend. (Yeah, I'm a bastard to all my friends. So?)

A nine out of ten is, by no means, a bad book. Very few authors ever achieve a ten in my world. The only disappointment here is that I was really hoping for a ten.

Maybe it is the Alzheimer Syndrome showing through. Or perhaps it is because he dictated the book this time around rather than doing all the writing and editing himself. It could even be a simple matter of it having been a new set of central characters and not quite having gotten into the groove of them yet. The bottom line though, is that the scathing wit he generally utilizes to point sharply to the stupidity surrounding us felt like it was blunted a little bit this time around.

For my part, I think that it would have found its way to damned near perfect with, maybe, one or two more read-through and edits by the man himself. Just enough to sharpen the blade so to speak. The story line was there and the thinking was clearly present. I think it just needed a little more kick to it.

To be entirely honest here, if I hadn't had all of Terry's other novels here to compare to, this one might have been a ten as well. I am grateful for anything new I am able to put my hands on from this author and will read each new work he gives us until the day I die. (It is my devout hope that I go before him so I never have to go a year without a chance of a new Pratchett novel.)

In closing, I would just like to say, "Long life to you Terry! And good health plague you for all your years! Keep 'em coming!" (Not that I expect he will ever read this but, just in case, I want my encouragement to be noted as being loud boisterous and heartfelt.)

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.
-Terry Pratchett from Lords and Ladies-


  1. I love Pratchett. If I had to choose a book to live my life by, it would be a Discworld novel. Preferably anything with Sam Vimes. Thud. Nightwatch. Men at Arms. Anything Vimes. I love Sam Vimes. I lust for Sam Vimes. Is that sad?

    I still haven't finished UA. It's too painful. The magic isn't there. The words are flat. The characters just sit there, on the page, none of them speak to me. So sad.

    Alzheimer's is a cruel bitch of a disease and if I have one question to ask God, it will be, "WHAT THE FUCK? All the minds you could erase and you chose HIS? Fuck you, sir. Fuck you and the winged horse you came in on."

  2. Nik, I felt the same way about Nation. I still haven't managed to finish reading the whole thing. I cant figure out what it was that turned me off from it but I could barely even get started.

    A friend suggested the other day that, when people read UA, they go into it looking forward to reading a terrific fan fiction that just borrowed discworld as a setting. Let me know if that perspective actually helps any.