Thursday, October 8, 2009

I am the ball

Instead of the thoughtful, considered, and probably somewhat scatological piece I was going to write today, I'm writing shameless fangirly squeeing. This is because Unseen Academicals, PTerry's latest novel, was in my mailbox today. Dragon's Ring was there too, but... Sorry Dave. One book a night is the limit if I want to be able to function the next day, and PTerry won. I'll have to do the fangirl squee over Dragon's Ring later.

As usual, I emerge from a Pratchett book caught between awe and despair. Awe should be self-evident. Despair because I will never, ever be able to write a measurable fraction of that well. In what appears on the surface to be a book about the wizards of the Unseen University having to play a game of football (soccer to those of us who think of football as involving an elliptical ball and a lot of legitimate physical contact) there's a tour through a human nature and how effectively and securely we make our own hells - as well as how every single one of us can escape them.

There's a lot more than that, of course. This is PTerry.

The title? That's a direct quote from the book - and it sums up something we tend to forget. In a game of football (any sort of football) the ball is the most important part, and it becomes in a sense the spirit of the game. That spirit becomes part of our culture and our souls, whether the ball is a ball or something else, and whether the game is football, soccer, cricket, baseball, basketball... Keep your eye on the ball. Out of left field. Outfielders. Goals. Sports are, as Pratchett says, about everything except the sport.

I'm going to leave off with two things, a quote from the book, and a question.

"Forgiveness is the name of Pastor Oats's double-headed battle-axe."

What else - books, movies, whatever - absolutely nails some part of human nature without preaching a sermon? My first (non-PTerry) vote goes to Dave's Rats Bats & Vats and the sequels for reasons that ought to be obvious.


Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I have to read it. It's in pile.

Anonymous said...

Lois McMaster Bujold. I think every single one of them pops me with something new about human nature.

And, as an example of e-publishing's biggest obstical, how to _Make_ a potential reader aware of the existence of a book . . . WHAT! WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THERE"S A NEW PTERRY!!!!!

Gonna have to advertise where idiots who get distracted and head down in work and play will still find out about it.


Dave Freer said...

If you'd read Dragon's Ring before Pterry, I'd have had to have you committed to psychiatric care in one of those nice jackets, if not just shot.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kate, I must tell my son. he has every Pratchett book so far.

Not that I don't love Pratchett but he is obsessed.

Anonymous said...

Eric Frank Russell is another author who could serve up a big tasty slice of human nature, and you'd gobble it down without even knowing it was good for you. Prime examples of this are (IMO): "Allamagoosa," "And Then There Were None," and "I Am Nothing."

And the rest of you folks here at the Mad Genius Club definitely need to cram up on your Eric Frank Russell so poor Dave and I don't have to bear the lonely burden of being the only two EFR fans left on the planet :-D

You'll thank us for it later. Trust me.

Kate said...


Yes, you do.

Kate said...


I check Amazon's PTerry listing about every 6 months. That and rumor usually works for me.

And you're right, getting word out to potential readers that there's something great somewhere isn't easy.

Kate said...


Dragon's Ring is now winking seductively on my desk and wiggling its pages at me. I must resist - I had enough trouble staying awake today without another late night before a work day! I'm telling it tomorrow. I can read it tomorrow and sleep late Saturday.

Kate said...


So do I! I found Color of Magic in the Queensland University bookstore in 1985, giggled my way through the first 1/3 of it or so, bought it, tried desperately to restrain myself from reading it during afternoon classes, and I've bought every Pratchett I can get my grubby paws on since.

Kate said...


Clearly this is someone I need to find and read. In my copious spare time... Er... was that lightning?

Anonymous said...

Now Kate, one does not find spare time to read EFR, one makes spare time to read EFR ;-)

Like I said: you'll thank us for this. The only down-side is that you'll kick yourself for not discovering him sooner :-D

Kate said...


You are talking to the narcoleptic woman who works a full-time job, writes in the corners, and uses the rest for hobbies.

Making time does not happen, even for Pratchett. If I'm not horizontal and more or less sleeping for at least 9 hours every night, I suffer for it.

Anonymous said...


If it's critical enough that you even have to put Sir PTerry on the back-burner, there's no way I'm going to argue with that! We likes our Kates functional, we does.

Kate said...


Kates like being functional, too.

Dave Freer said...

Bob's dead on the money on this one. EFR's NEXT OF KIN is my recommendation. The Lathians have the willies!

Anonymous said...

My main problem is I can't fit pterry's books on my shelves if I don't buy them in mm form, so it will be at least six months before I get a copy. Whaaaa!

Anonymous said...

No problem, tintinaus! Buy it, read it and then send it to me. I'll send you the MMPB in six months. :)

See! Helpful, I am.