Unseen Academicals and the darkness of the soul

Unseen Academicals

Last weekend I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals” – his latest Diskworld novel. Pratchett sets a high bar for himself, each time he finishes a new book there is the slight risk that the new tome will not match the brilliance of his earlier work. Luckily, Unseen Academicals is well up to standard. I found myself waking up at four o’clock on Sunday morning just to finish the book.

Sadly, the U.S. covers of his book suck (no offence to the artist). The way Pratchett’s work is marketing in the U.S. is misguided. I wish the U.S. publisher would stick with the British design. I end up ordering my copies from Amazon.co.uk to avoid the mediocre U.S. design.

I was going to blog about the book earlier in the week – there was a passage that caught my eye, and I had to read it three times in quick succession. It was just that powerful. The strange thing was that I did not have my copy of the book with me, so I turned to Google and Amazon’s search-inside-this-book so see if I could grab the relevant text. Many others had quoted the exact segment, but they left out what I thought was integral to the quote. I have emphasized what was missing below:

The Patrician took a sip of his beer. ‘I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior’

The two wizards exchanged a glance. Vetinari was staring into the depths of his beer mug and they were glad that they did not know what he saw in there.

The quote appears on page 229 of the U.K. edition.