Friday 11 November 2011

Review: - Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff is, unbelievably, the thirty ninth book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. If you haven’t heard about Terry Pratchett, the Discworld, or at the very least seen one of the BBC adaptations of either The Colour of Magic, Hogfather, or Going Postal, then I really want to know how you’ve managed it. Sir Terry also manages to cunningly release a new book pretty much every October/November time, just in time for Christmas, and it has become a tradition for me to buy the hardback for my dad as his Christmas present, and surreptitiously read it before wrapping it and giving it to him, along with my opinion of it. It’s a win – win situation.
On best form, Pratchett is amazingly fluid, engrossing and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Snuff, in my opinion, wasn’t his best form. However, it was still incredibly good.
Blurb-y bit from Goodreads:
As with all of Terry Pratchett’s books, Snuff had a considerable amount of hype surrounding it, and I read somewhere during my pre-publication perusal of Snuff related stuff, that Terry Pratchett’s books are social satires (which I had, not being completely dense, managed to realise), but I never really thought about how they often relate to topical issues. Really, the book is about goblins and their second class status within Discworld society.
According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.
And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.
He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.
They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.
But not quite all...
Readers of the Discworld series will know that within the series, there are several mini series focusing on different (and often overlapping) sets of characters, among which are the witches, the Watch, the Nac mac Feegle, and the wizards of the Unseen University. Sam Vimes has featured in several previous novels featuring the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, including Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, and Thud!, many of which are among my personal favourites. The storyline of Snuff was very well thought out and included the requisite amount of sneaking, fighting with improvised weapons, vaguely inappropriate, toilet-related jokes, making-it-up-as-you-go-along and accidental bravery, and it made me laugh out loud in public places on several occasions. It also dragged me away back into the world of the Disc and its inhabitants which I appreciated, as lately the whole separating myself from reality thing isn’t happening as much as it used to with reading. The Night Circus (no, I will never stop going on about it) was the last book to do that successfully and left me worried that nothing else ever would, so well done Mr. Pratchett!
Snuff is also slightly reminiscent of earlier books in as much as Commander Vimes manages to find himself a well meaning but undertrained, slightly bumbling country policeman to train up and mentor, thus turning his ‘holiday’ into work while still preserving the illusion that he has merely been dragged into someone else’s problem as is helping them out as nothing more than his duty as a landlord.
As ever, I loved the characters, from old favourite like Fred Colon and Captain Carrot to new ones such as a harp – playing Goblin called Tears of the Mushroom. Also hilarious was Commander Vimes’ son Sam’s obsession with and collection of different types of animal poo. I find Terry Pratchett very often gets the tone of small children exactly right, hence why many of his books are so popular with them. He also gets the tone of the long suffering parent, answering what feels like the hundredth question of the day about poo spot on.
What starts off as an investigation into a missing blacksmith and a dead Goblin turns into something much larger, and as the quest for answers progresses, Vimes and local policeman Feeney Upshot, assisted as ever by Willikins, Commander Vimes’ loyal gentlemen’s gentlemen, find themselves embroiled in something much larger than simple murder....
Also I’d just like to add that Sir Terry Pratchett has lately garnered a lot of attention here in the UK for his views on euthanasia. As people may know, Mr Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in 2007, and may I just say that anybody worrying about his memory may stop doing so right now. The amount of details from previous books that raise their heads in Snuff is quite frankly incredible. To be honest, I don’t think I, an Alzheimer free person, would be able to keep anywhere near that level of detail straight, so I’m amazed and impressed that he can.
If you generally enjoy Mr. Pratchett, or if you just want something funny and engrossing to read, then I would suggest that Snuff is a good option. I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish and I hope that there will be many more Discworld books to come.


  1. I think the Vimes books are my favourites. I mean, I love the witches and Death as well (and feel vaguely guilty now like they might feel slighted) but Vimes is just so snide and contemptuous.

    I'm glad details from the other books raise their heads too - I think it's great when any book series is so involved that it can do that.

    I hadn't realised Terry Pratchett had gotten involved with the euthanasia movement, but I'm going to run off and look that up in a minute.

    I'm glad this book's worth reading. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing, really, but I'm looking forward to reading it anyway :)

  2. Technically it's not euthanasia, which is something done to you, it's "assisted death" which is something you choose.