|Cover artist||Paul Kidby|
37th novel – 7th individual story
|Subject||association football (soccer)|
Unseen Academicals is the 37th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. The novel satirises football, and features Mustrum Ridcully setting up an Unseen University football team, with the Librarian in goal. It includes new details about "below stairs" life at the university. The book introduces several new characters, including Trevor Likely, a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can; Glenda Sugarbean, a maker of "jolly good" pies; Juliet Stollop, a dim but beautiful young woman who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been; and the mysterious Mr Nutt, a cultured, enigmatic, idealistic savant. According to the publisher, Transworld, the "on sale" date for the hardback was 1 October 2009 although the official publication date is 8 October 2009. Bookshop chain Borders included a small set of exclusive Discworld football cards with each book.
The time in between the publication of Unseen Academicals and the previous Discworld entry, Making Money, was over 2 years, making it longest time between Discworld novels since 1983's The Colour of Magic and 1986's The Light Fantastic. Between 1986 and 2007, at least one Discworld novel was published every year. This delay was in part due to Pratchett's Alzheimer's diagnosis, which led to a great deal of his time being taken up with interviews and public advocacy.
Unseen Academicals tells the story of the faculty of Unseen University being forced to choose between (only) three meals a day and playing a game of football, as tradition mandates the game in exchange for their large financial endowment by a wealthy family. The wizards soon learn that the local version of football (similar to the actual game of mob football) is very violent and deaths are common. Thus, in collaboration with the city's tyrant Lord Vetinari, they set out to make new 'official' football rules, which includes forbidding the use of hands and mandating the use of official footballs as opposed to the makeshift balls the street games use. The book includes a satirisation of the Mallard ceremony performed at All Souls College, Oxford
Parallel to this, the book tells the story of four young people. A candle dribbler named Mr. Nutt discovers that he is not what he thinks he is and must overcome the fear of his race, both by humans and by himself. He is also chosen to train the university's team for the big match. Trev Likely, who is Mr. Nutt's coworker and best friend, is the son of Ankh-Morpork's most famous deceased footballer, but has promised his (late) dear old mum that he won't play, but ultimately saves the game. Glenda is a friend of Mr. Nutt and Trev, runs the Unseen University Night Kitchen, and bakes the Disc's best pies. Juliet works for Glenda, has a crush on Trev, is simple and beautiful, and becomes a famous fashion model. The four of them end up advising the wizards on their football endeavour, which culminates in an intense game between the Wizards and the former street footballers.
A proposed two-part television adaptation was to be produced by The Mob for broadcast on Sky1 (and in high definition on Sky1 HD), with filming set to take place in 2011. It was to have been the fourth in a series of adaptations, following Hogfather, Colour of Magic, and Going Postal. However, by August 2012 it was reported that The Mob's option for the rights was not renewed.
It was announced by Discworld Monthly on 29 May 2018 that Audible has created an Audio Dramatisation of Unseen Academicals. The adaptation has been directed by Dirk Maggs, and the cast includes Josie Lawrence, Matthew Horne, Tony Gardner, and Phil Davis amongst others. It will be available to purchase on Audible from 2 July 2018
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