Feb. 10th, 2010

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It's lovely to be able to open the curtains in the morning and see the sun, and even better to leave the office in the evening and still have a bit of light to see me across the car park. Ok, so it's still chilly out there (five minutes of scraping to defrost the car this morning) but I can cope with that.

In a shock development, I ran out of podcasts this morning after listening to this week's Guardian Tech Weekly, and I haven't queued up a new audiobook yet, so I resorted to listening to music instead. My default playlist is my 'Not Heard Lately' list which is a smart selection of random tracks that I haven't heard lately (the clue is kind of in the name). Some real classics in there too - Dick Dale and the Del Tones, Monkey Swallows the Universe, The Wynona Ryders and John Coltrane popped up this morning. Aces.
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Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37) Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Life is not easy for the ordinary people of Ankh Morpork - the kitchen maids and candle dribblers who work below stairs at the Unseen University. As long as you have a steady job and a roof over your head, it is foolish to dream of anything better. If you should happen to get ideas above your station, then you can be sure that somebody will drag you back down into the crab bucket.

Things are different in the Shove. A half day off, standing shoulder to shoulder in the rain with the promise of a hot pie if you are feeling flush (best not to ask what is in it) and if you are lucky you might even get a glimpse of the football.

Ah yes, the beautiful game, where a friendly match is one that doesn't involve edged weapons. Just make sure that you know who you are shouting for - the Dimmers of Dimwell Street or the Dollies of Dolly Sisters, bitter rivals for longer than anyone can remember. Not surprisingly this may prove a problem for Juliet the kitchen maid and Trevor the candle boy who happens to be from the wrong side of the street, even helped by the eminently sensible Glenda, who produces perfect ploughman's pies in the night kitchen. There is also the small matter of Mr Nutt, unfailing polite and well educated, and also the first goblin in Ankh Morpork - and everyone knows that the goblins are nothing more than common chicken thieves, don't they?

This is a very different sort of book from the early Discworld novels. Oh, there are occasional puns and sly allusions to footballing clich├ęs (yes, we do get to find out who ate all the pies), but they are only a backdrop to a richer story. There is a lot of ground covered here - issues of class and community, prejudice against outsiders and the self imposed limits of the ordinary people who know their place and forsake the chance to dream. There are no world threatening villains or meddling deities, and even the political machinations of the Patrician Lord Vetinari go no further than taking football off the back streets and into the stadium. At the end of the day, it all comes down to a game of two halves, with the stakes being love and honour and decency and a sense of self worth.

One of the better Discworld novels of recent years, and I can recommend the unabridged audiobook version available from Audible.com, particularly for his interpretation of Pepe the dwarf - Discworld's answer to Gok Wan ... :-)



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