Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett is the 37th novel in the Discworld series. It’s available everywhere, including from Powell’s, and on audio read by Stephen Briggs.
When the Unseen University—a college for wizards—discovers a law that states that they must participate in the city football games, Mr. Nutt, the assistant candle dribbler at the University, is brought in to coach the seemingly hopeless team of over-the-hill, over-weight wizard professors. But there’s something odd about Mr. Nutt. He appears to be a goblin, but he can’t remember for sure. His new friends at the University help him tap into the closed doors in his mind to rediscover who he is, but it turns out those doors had been closed for everyone else’s safety. Meanwhile, Mr. Nutt’s candle dribbler boss, Trevor Likely, falls in love with assistant cook, Juliette, who has recently been signed onto a modeling contract. Her supervisor in the kitchen, Ms. Glenda, has spent her whole life warning Juliette against men but ends up falling for Mr. Nutt.
It’s match day, and Trevor—whose father was a famous footballer killed in a game—won’t play because he’d promised his old mum never to end up like his dad. But the opposing team is headed by Andy, the meanest, toughest crook in the city. Trev sees that the wizards have all turned off their magic and the Watch is smart enough to stay bloody well out of this, so if he just sits on the sidelines, this friendly football match is going to be a bloodbath.
Terry Pratchett is best known for his 41 Discworld novels, humorously satirical stories about a fantasy world. He has also written science fiction novels, YA novels, kids’ books, and Good Omens with Neil Gaiman. He passed away in 2015 from Alzheimer’s. @terryandrob
This wasn’t my favorite Discworld book. Along with books #39 and #40, Snuff and Raising Steam, the Discworld formula is starting to feel formulaic. Each of the Ankh-Morpork sub-series novels comes with an invention, be it newspaper or steam engine or soccer, and we watch our favorite characters learn to deal with progress. This one takes a lot of the classic Discworld tropes and switches in sports and modeling. That said, if you’re already a fan of the series, it’s got all of your favorite wizards (except the Bursar) and Vetinari even “gets drunk,” if you can imagine that. In my opinion, if you’d like an introduction to the wizards, start with Reaper Man. It’s one of my favorite Pratchett novels.
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