Snuff: A Novel of Discworld
by Terry Pratchett
Cover Artist: Paul Kidby
Review by Paul Haggerty
Harper Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062011848
Date: 11 October 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Samuel Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, has a problem. He's been relieved of duty and sent into a form of exile by the Patrician of that illustrious city. Specifically, the form of exile is known as ... a vacation, and Sam can't think of a worse punishment. Sam's wife, Lady Sybil has been wanting to take their son and go visit the ancestral haunts of Ramkin Hall, and all the powers-that-be have all conspired against Sam to send him to the countryside. Where there are trees. Perhaps worse. But Samuel Vimes is a copper through and through. And where there are coppers, there are crimes, and the countryside is no exception. All Sam has to do is walk down the country lane and opportunities will present themselves.
The environs around Ramkin hall are the privileged stomping grounds of generations of nobility. These are people use to the law either working in their favor or, in fact, existing and not-existing merely at their whim. Bad things have happened here over the years. Everyone knows about it. Nobody wants to talk about it, or even admit that any such events took place. But they did, and the embarrassment of that knowledge still stains the locals. Having a copper like Vimes show up just make the guilt more obvious, and the insistence that what happened wasn't bad, become suddenly that much more insistent. But the problem with denying the bad things of the past is that it makes bad things of the present that much easier to ignore as well. And Sam Vines nearly tripping over the remains of a dead goblin on Hangman's Hill is going to be the trigger for a whole avalanche of history that nobody really wants to see unearthed. Except Sam Vimes isn't going to let his vacation time go to waste, not when there are crimes to be solved.
But Snuff isn't a simple book about cops and robbers. Pratchett's books never really are. The Discworld may seem like a nice simple fantasy setting to have adventures, but instead it tends to be a looking glass with a fantasy patina. Sure there are wizards and goblin and werewolves; thrilling action and adventure; assassins and wizards, and white-knuckled trips down the rapids. But when viewed through the lens of the Discworld, a goblin isn't just a monster to be slain for the two silver pieces it might be carrying. A goblin is the symptom of a society on the edge of change. A society that is still asking itself: What is a person? How can we tell? What do we do about the people that don't care? And who gets to stand up and even ask the questions? And what do you do, as a person of conscience, when the white elephant in the room, or in this case, the goblin, stands up and demands justice?
So, we have a fantasy, a social commentary, and a who-done-it. But wait, there's more. No Terry Pratchett book could ever be complete without a large dose of pointed barbs aimed at the English Language and English Literature as well. Within these pages you'll find brilliant word play and horrible puns. After all, Young Sam Vimes, age six, is currently engrossed in the epic volume: Geoffrey and the Land of Poo. And no, that is not a typo.
Highly recommended, as always.