Sunday, November 01, 2009

Goodbye to Discworld - Unseen Academicals

My Amazon review of Terry Pratchett's latest, and perhaps last, book: Unseen Academicals (Discworld) (9780061161704): Terry Pratchett: Books

There are two things to know before you buy this book. If you've read Pratchett you must of course by this book. Beyond the pleasure it brings, you owe it to the author.

The first thing to know is that the author is fading. Terry Pratchett has early onset Alzheimer's disease and is not expected to write another book.

The second is that this is not the Discworld book to begin with. There's no need to start at the beginning of the series, because you can enter at about any point and choose your own path. Still, don't begin here. Choose one from the early to mid-range and roam about a bit. Then, when the time comes, and perhaps with a glass of your potent beverage of choice, read this one.

Whatever your history, do buy this book now. Keep it on the bookcase, knowing it will be there when the time comes.

If you know the Discworld, you probably pre-ordered this book and have read it by now. For my part it was all the sweeter for being an ending. Standing alone it is not Pratchett's best work -- though is his best work is among the best of anything written. This work is fine enough.

The characters are more simply drawn than in his earlier books, the narrative more linear, the allegory less subtle. He has a lot of ground to cover, a lot of people to say goodbye to, and he's racing the clock. In the end I think he felt like Vetinari, who abhors slavery and carries the world on his shoulders. He has set his people free, and left their world as ordered as it might be. Glenda and Nutt shall have to take it from here ...
If by some miracle there is a future book, perhaps written from Terry's notes or with his help, I'd nominate Neil Gaiman. We haven't yet said goodbye to the Witches, and Pastor Oats came of their world.

Update: In comments Curt referred me to a Paul Kidby "blog" telling us that Pratchett is making good progress on a new Tiffany Aching (Discworld, witches part) book:
... On the up side, the progress on I Shall Wear Midnight is rapid, thanks to Dragon Dictate and rather more to the guys at TalkingPoint - the front end that makes it much easier to use - who made contact with me through this very page. I'm so impressed by it, that if my typing ability came back overnight, I would continue to use it...
Sometimes it's quite agreeable to be (most likely) wrong. I shall be buying Midnight when it comes out. Kidby's site reminds me of Gwynne Dyer's web page. It's resolutely low tech and feed free (oddly, Kidby once had a feed!)

By the way, looking at photos from Kidby's site, I'm reminded that the US hardcover edition has a ridiculous cover. It makes it look like UU is playing basketball. The UK cover is far better in every way.


Curt said...

On Kidby's blog, this month, Pratchett said progress on Midnight is going well. Unless you don't count the Tiffany Aching books as Discworld, which I do, what with their being sent in, well, Discworld, it seems unlikely that this is the last one.

JGF said...

I certainly do count Tiffany Aching, and of course I've read them.

Sometimes it's a relief to be wrong.

I'll buy Midnight of course!