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Imagine Harry Potter rewritten by Monty Python: That’s the mood of Pratchett’s return to Discworld (Making Money, 2007, etc.).

This account of Unseen University’s entry into the world of soccer (or, as they occasionally call it, “foot-the-ball”) pushes past the usual conventions of satire to offer equal parts absurdist philosophy and heartwarming romance. Here, all the professors are ponderous buffoons as well as wizards, though occasionally they indulge those they consider their inferiors with “the sarcasm of a born pedagogue.” Those inferiors generally have a whole lot more common sense and occasionally more learned erudition, particularly in the case of our hero, Mr. Nutt. A lowly candle dipper who is also a goblin and may well be something else as well, the humble Nutt ultimately reveals more brain power than anyone else in the novel, along with a variety of other powers, even though his background makes this intellectual range and depth seem unlikely. When Unseen University decides to field a soccer team, Nutt emerges as the coach, the driving force and the potential star, using his “talent for pattern recognition in developing situations” to train a team of players who previously had no conception of teamwork. In the process, Nutt not only falls in love with a worthy cook no one else considers lovely, he also helps his mate win the heart of the cook’s helper, who has somehow become the rage of the land as a fashion model. Pratchett has great sport with a university that employs a Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography and Chair of Indefinite Studies and spouts platitudes such as “if we can make a tradition out of not observing another tradition, that’s doubly traditional.” Of course, that’s not such a weird comment in a society whose adages include “the leopard may change its shorts” and “thirst springs eternal.”

A witty addition to the long-running fantasy series.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-116170-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2009


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