Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Review | Snuff - Terry Pratchett

I'd like to see the SFF fan who can resist a new Pratchett title. (When I meet him/her/it, I will then proceed to force an entire readthrough of Jingo, and then dare them to say that they... Ahem.)

Anyway, needless to say, I couldn't - and so, when I received a copy as a gift, I got straight onto the readthrough. Snuff is the latest in the Night Watch 'subset' of the Discworld series, and naturally stars Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, out of his depth, investigating a crime, and of course, a suitably madcap chase...

Snuff is also a book about goblins: a race largely regarded as, well, animalistic. After all, goblins spend a large portion of their lives storing their own bodily excretions in carefully crafted unggue pots. And when Vimes is forced to hand in his badge for a holiday, he quickly runs into a body. Or rather, a lack of a body - and an excess of blood.

Filled not just with Pratchett's signature humour, but also with genuinely touching moments - Vimes' confrontations - Snuff takes Vimes into a new setting: the... countryside. Vimes has no jurisdiction, and is forced to resort to what he hates: aristocratic privilege. Needless to say, it's a winning combination. The new characters also bring a freshness to the subseries, in which an introduction of anyone else to the Watch cast would present severe difficulties in giving the cast a line of dialogue each. The grown (now six) Young Sam, now conducting a scientific investigation into, well, excretion is one such. Other additions include a new scion of the Rust family (Gravid), a Jane Austen (Discworld style), and a lot of aristocrats.

Of course, there are also similarities. If Unseen Academicals was the 'orc' book, then Snuff is the 'goblin' novel: and it performs the same purpose as several of his previous. By which I mean, of course, taking a new and apparently 'barbarious', discriminated against, or hated species - and then getting Vimes, or the Watch as a whole, to find out that this isn't true. And then take action. Perhaps because of this, Snuff doesn't have the 'freshness' of, say, Unseen Academicals: we can sense a formula at work, and even if it's one we know and love, there's still that feeling to it. Furthermore, the introduction of the goblins suffer from not being made more than a book in advance. Had we heard of goblins before UA? I don't believe so. (Though I may be incorrect)

Even if not quite up to Watch's Jingo standard, Snuff is a high-octane-powered Vimes in the countryside, using his aristocratic privileges - and if you've read any of Vimes' previous novels, you'll know how hilarious that can be. Pratchett's humour is, as usual, on top form: not parody (though there is, say, the occasional pastiche) but satire and silliness. And when it's mixed with a more serious message? So much the better.
I'd recommend this for fans of the City Watch and Vimes in particular, though for a first introduction to the Discworld, Snuff isn't that suitable. Past events and character developments aren't really covered for the beginning reader, and much of the humour is character-based.

If you're an existing Pratchett fan, however, this is a must-read - and if not a masterpiece, then certainly the promise that we might get another such in the Discworld.


Have you read this book - or plan to (you know you want to...)? Comment and tell me below!


  1. I LOVE VIMES! (I need to buy this book.)

    Thanks for the review! I get what you mean about sensing a formula - 'Thud' was a little like that, in my opinion, though it's been a while since I read it... 'Night Watch', though... now *that* was something really special. And I'm totally with you re. 'Jingo' - it's fabulous!

  2. AGREED! (Though the Librarian gets my vote, I'm sorry)

    Yes, 'Night Watch' broke the mold - while 'Snuff' is still great fun, the serious aspects are slightly negated by the fact he's trying to do what he did for orcs, vampires, trolls, etc, to a species only introduced a book ago. Jingo: Vimes and the Patrician each have a tremendous number of great moments in that one.

    I'm glad I didn't get Snuff on Kindle, though - apparently there are a... number... of errors. Understating.

  3. Re. 'Jingo' - YES, I love Vetinari too! (to be honest, I could probably just list all of the Discworld characters under the 'I love' label...)

    Argh, errors... Oh dear. What a shame :/ I definitely won't be getting the Kindle edition then!

  4. True, true - although my favourie Discworld novel, without question, has to go to 'Going Posal' - a forcibly reformed con man as posmaster is an inventive setup, and the 'angel' scene (and jokes thereof) are fantastic.

    Hehe, nope - well, it seems that certain words mess up the formatting completely on Kindle. Which is abit awkward when they're common words. :P