Unseen Academicals

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Unseen Academicals
Unseen Academicals (book) cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorTerry Pratchett
Cover artistPaul Kidby
Publication date
Preceded byMaking Money 
Followed byI Shall Wear Midnight 

Unseen Academicals is the 37th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. The novel satirises football,[1][2] and features Mustrum Ridcully setting up an Unseen University football team, with the Librarian in goal.[3] It includes new details about "below stairs" life at the university.[3] 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.[4] Bookshop chain Borders included a small set of exclusive Discworld football cards with each book.[5]

The title is a play on the names of rugby and football teams in the UK who have or have had a connection to educational institutions, examples being Hamilton Academical and Edinburgh Academicals.

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.


  • Glenda Sugarbean
  • Juliet Stollop
  • Trevor Likely
  • Mr Nutt
  • Lord Vetinari
  • Madame Sharn
  • Pepe
  • Andy Shank


  • Football (Soccer)
  • Athletic Teams
  • Sports Fandom
  • Fashion & Modeling
  • College Rivalry
  • University Traditions
  • Racial Insecurity
  • Self Worth
  • Crab mentality

Television adaptation[edit]

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.[6][7] 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.[8]

Audio dramatisation[edit]

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[9]


Reviewing the book for his site Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow praised Pratchett's ability to make him like this novel despite his lack of interest in football and rated it one of his top five Discworld novels, while cautioning that the book, unlike previous works, requires the reader to be familiar with the characters and setting.[10] The Guardian's Harry Ritchie also favourably reviewed the novel, highlighting the reliability of Pratchett's comedy, especially the metaphors he regularly used such as a kiss sounding like "a tennis ball being sucked through the strings of a racket" (which is, of course, not a metaphor but a simile).[11]

Peter Ingam, writing for The Telegraph, opined that the quality of Pratchett's writing and humour remained as high as ever.[12] Matt Barber, reviewing the book for Den of Geek, concluded that Unseen Academicals was "almost perfectly rounded social satire", adding that the only minor criticism he could offer was that the main characters were so interesting that side stories such as Glenda and Nutt's romance were eclipsed by wanting to see the main story progress; he also outlined that he read the book with Pratchett's Alzheimer diagnosis in mind but found his writing to actually have improved rather than suffered.[13]


  1. ^ Flood, Alison (14 July 2008). "On Embuggerance And Humour". The Bookseller. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
  2. ^ "John Connolly: Bestselling Author". www.johnconnollybooks.com. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Tough at the Top", SFX Collection Special Edition #34, Future Publishing, June 2008
  4. ^ "Transworld : Book Details for Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett". Booksattransworld.co.uk. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  5. ^ The Discworld Monthly issue 144
  6. ^ "Sky One to adapt Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals". The British Comedy Guide. 24 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". www.mobfilm.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Two More Years in Discworld – 2012-2014". Colin Smythe Limited. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Discworld Monthly - Unseen Academicals - An Audible Original Drama". 24 May 2018.
  10. ^ Doctorow, Cory (11 November 2009). "Pratchett's "Unseen Academicals" – a gift to Discworld lovers and an argument for the importance of sport". Boing Boing. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  11. ^ Ritchie, Harry (23 October 2009). "Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett | Book review". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  12. ^ Ingham, Peter (8 October 2009). "Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  13. ^ Barber, Matt (19 October 2009). "Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett book review". Den of Geek. Retrieved 12 April 2022.

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by 37th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
Preceded by 9th Individual Story
Published in 2009
Succeeded by
Novels by Terry Pratchett
Preceded by Succeeded by