Pratchett, Terry: (37-38) Unseen Academicals; I Shall Wear Midnight

A mix of catching up and new reading, this time, with Terry Pratchett’s two most recent Discworld books, Unseen Academicals and I Shall Wear Midnight. I read the first when it came out, but hadn’t gotten around to the second until just now. My reaction to both of these is pretty similar: they don’t quite hang together, but are nevertheless very hard to put down and have a more than sufficient proportion of awesome things.

Unseen Academicals is trying to do too much at once: football (soccer, to Americans), Unseen University politics, the fashion industry, and another take on species-ism. The fantastical bits regarding football seem entirely superfluous, and attempting to relate the book’s storylines to our world’s issues regarding racism and LGBTQ issues is not recommended. But I still like it for its treatment of class, which seems to me a bit more complex than usual, and because all of a sudden Pratchett can write these delicate touching romances—which I absolutely would never have expected after Carrot/Angua and Sam/Sybil, but there is it, Nation was not a fluke.

I also listened to Stephen Briggs read this, and he does his usual impeccable job. In fact, I’m pretty sure I listened to it first and then read it, because I remember thinking that when I got to a particular line in text, I was glad I had Briggs’ reading because otherwise I wouldn’t have got it “right” in my own head (oblique spoilers at most, but it is at the climax, so ROT13’ed (see sidebar): “pbzr ba vs lbh guvax lbh’er uneq rabhtu.”).

I Shall Wear Midnight, the fourth Tiffany Aching book, doesn’t feel terribly new after the other books about witches, Tiffany included, and has one thread that is both amazingly welcome and yet weirdly disconnected from the rest (spoilers, again ROT13’ed: vg’f ybiryl gb frr rfx ntnva, juvpu v arire gubhtug jbhyq unccra, ohg gur gvzr geniry ovg bgurejvfr frrzf, uzz, bayl gurzngvpnyyl arprffnel gb gur obbx, ng irel zbfg). But it has some great creepy moments, it surprised me in a few small ways, it has loads of momentum, and it feels like a good place to leave Tiffany and the rest of the witches.

Oh, and another format note: since this book had chapters, I wish the e-book put the footnotes at the end of the chapters rather than the end of the file; it would make it easier to see how much actual story was left when looking at the page X of Y status bar. (Also this book seemed to have more footnotes than necessary, but I suppose that may have been a concession to its nominal YA nature.)

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  1. Unseen Academicals felt middling, but I was deeply touched by I Shall Wear Midnight. It has the same emotional root as The Wee Free Men. It’s a farewell to an age, which is especially touching given Pratchett’s health, but also relevant to us all as we pass from brush burnings to internet flame wars. The old man dying was one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever read.

    The way that Tiff had passed up her father was a different kind of farewell to an age. She’ll never be a kid again.

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