||Wearying, at least until the author
got to the point of the tale, and then it wasn't as interesting as I
thought it should have been.
incentive to read a Terry Pratchett book is its humor, which is very
subtle and not usually laugh-out-loud. The funny parts are usually due
to the run-on sentences, and the thoughts that the characters have,
which are often ones that everyday people would have, except they don't
usually surface in a book, nor in polite conversation. The narration
often goes into asides only tangentially related to what is happening,
or sometimes not at all. When pronouncing names and often sentences, it
is distinctly British.
This is the first Discworld novel I've
read that doesn't contain Granny Weatherwax, though her hometown is
mentioned at one point. This novel belongs to the Unseen University, and
an experiment by the tyrant Lord Vetinari in several things, most
notably introducing the old rules of soccer to Ankh-Morpork (as opposed
to the anarchic ones currently used), and introducing a goblin with a
deep secret into society at the University.
The main character is really Glenda,
the chief cook in the night kitchen at the University. She is full of
opinions and thinks a lot, which is a lot more than most residents do.
She takes care of beautiful Juliet, who is chosen to model some new
dwarven chain-micro-mail, and becomes a sensation. She watches as Trev
Likely falls in love with Juliet and changes from an urchin of the
University basement to a thinking man who gains some self-respect. She
watches as Vetinari changes the game of football into something she
doesn't recognize, and knows what he is doing, trying to create
something he can control, rather than outlawing it in the streets.
And she realizes that Nutt, the goblin
who dribbles excellent candles, knows a lot more than he ever lets on,
and what he does show is very impressive.
Juliet's fashion show is almost
unrelated to the story, except that it creates an opening for Pepe the
dwarf from the underworld (read: crime) to showcase the micromail that
is supposed to save Trev's life in the soccer match at the end of the
book. Except that it's pretty much a letdown in how that happens.
Regardless, we see Juliet turn from a complete airhead into somebody who
can cook pies and actually form opinions on soccer and relationships.
Trev starts the book as somebody who
can do marvels with a tin can kicked by his foot, and who lets Nutt do
all his work for him, since he does it better than Trev would, anyway.
He has contacts on the street, but is smart enough, especially when Nutt
urges him to think, to get away from Andy and stay away, whenever
possible. He is friendly to the kitchen staff so that he can mooch pies
and try to press his body against Glenda, until he sees Juliet. The
combination of Juliet and Nutt changes Trev completely, releasing all
the potential he has inside him. He knows that if he gets onto the
soccer field, he'll be a prime target for Andy and his thugs, so he
refuses to play, except that due to various injuries he is forced into
the game. With Glenda's quick thinking by switching the soccer ball for
Trev's can, he scores the winning goal, and survives, partially thanks
to the micro-mail.
Football has the longest progression in
the book, from the rough-and-tumble in the streets at the beginning,
through the development of the various rules by Ridcully (who is never
bound by reality, as long as it sounds good), Rincewind, Ponder Stibbons
(who is so rooted in the real world that it's hilarious to see everybody
around him), the orangutan librarian, and others devise according to an
ancient cup unearthed recently. They replace the wood-wrapped-in-a-sack
with something that bounces and doesn't hurt the foot when kicked! It's
actually mildly funny to see them try and teach the rules to the
professors, whose grasp of rules is less than stellar (even their own
classes are hardly ever attended -by themselves). The climax of the book
is the big soccer game, which is cleverly devised, but not very
interesting, for such a monumental event. It ends up in a tie, because
Archchancellor Ridcully gives one of the university's goals to the
opposition. But the game is so rough (even the librarian is lost from
the game), that when Nutt (as replacement in nets can't win the game for
them) and Trev (who can't kick anything but his tin can into the net)
become replacement players, the tackles are so hard that the referee
calls the game on the tie-breaking goal.
I'm not sure if this is a victory for
the tyrant or not.
The experiment with Mr. Nutt the goblin
is by far the most dangerous. It turns out he is an orc, a race bred for
use in wars. Everybody shivers at the term orc, and remembers them only
in old tales as savage beasts who tore people to shreds. The histories
never mentioned that it was people who directed them to do so. Everyone
thinks they were wiped out, but the survivors actually live far away.
Nutt was chained to an anvil for years as he unlearned how to be an orc.
While he is at the university, he is only ever pleasant and a gentleman.
When he is killed at the football game on the streets, he comes back to
life (and eats a kitchen full of pies afterwards!). He seems to have
read every book in existence, and knows all sorts of obscure social
references (most of which are turned slightly askew from our world,
making them amusing). He can also deduce the accurate rules of football,
which he teaches to the academicals.
Just before the game, Nutt goes into a
trance and unlocks a secret door in his mind, in which it is revealed
that he is an orc. He tries to run away, but Glenda and his friends
follow him, catching up to him in a crossroads town (Juliet gets them
there fast by promising a kiss to the driver- that's how fair she is).
Nutt is overwhelmed by the love his friends give him, and is able to put
his identity behind him, hoping the people of Ankh-Morpork can do the
same. At the soccer game, they do, as he helps win the game.
There is a lot of good stuff in this
book, and it's fun in a way to sift through the asides and interludes
and amusing histories to get to it. But I never quite got engrossed in
the story, nor the humor, which I used to enjoy more.