Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett

This latest outing from Mr Pratchett (thanks, Heather) is deceptively low key. Given the subject matter, this could have been about mayhem on the streets. Instead we look at the story from behind, as it were. And being low key we are treated to a leisurely and classic piece of writing from someone who has long since had nothing to prove.

Although football is the overt subject, and it is a subject subtly milked for all it is worth, it acts as a vehicle for the way in which such things affect the lives of ordinary people. It shows how they are swept up by enthusiasm, caught in the dreams and plans of others, encounter friendship in unexpected places and hostility exactly where you would expect it to be.

And whilst we are treated to more of the antics of the shakers and movers of Discworld, the joy (as ever) is in the characters whose lives are lived quietly and often with difficulty in the back rooms. A variation on Romeo and Juliet is played out (and comment made on the original) almost invisible in the foreground; and in the background we have a wide ranging and typically gentle commentary of the morality to be found in many fantasy works where (as in films) a handy ‘villain’ is chosen in order that the hero can slaughter them wholesale without troubling the shrivelled peanut that serves as their conscience. What is more, and in passing, long-running story threads from several other books are carried forward (although not entirely resolved as I have seen one commentator claim) whilst others are (possibly) started.

This is a book without a word or scene out of place. It never flags, it is not padded, and it is beautifully written with a deceptive simplicity. Given the health of the author it is all the more remarkable and all the more precious. I hope there are more, but we have had riches aplenty from Mr Pratchett and I, for one (of the many) am extremely grateful.