I am one of Terry Pratchett’s biggest fans – well, maybe not technically his biggest fan since I’m only 5 feet tall but I’m definitely a fan in the truest meaning of the term. Any author who has sold over 45 million books and received countless awards has a lot more fans than just me, and very rightfully so. I have read every Terry Pratchett book published in the U.S., and always await the next one with great anticipation.
Snuff is Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel, the 39th Discworld novel to be more exact. Not to worry though. They can be read individually as well as in a series. Discworld is a very interesting flat world (like a disc – doh) and resides on the backs of 4 elephants, which stand together (very important) on the back of an enormous sea turtle, which swims throughout the universe. Works for me! It’s filled with every creature known to and suspected by mankind to hide in the bushes, all of which seem to have delightfully snarky senses of humor, or not, depending on which side of the proverbial bed they arose from on any particular day.
Snuff is the first novel I’ve read since the unsettling news that Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He has said it may be his last novel. Selfishly, I hope not but only he can make that decision. I’ve linked to an excerpt from an interview with him at the end of this review. But for now, let’s talk about Snuff. It isn’t as rowdy as some of the Discworld novels (no suitcase with many feet, and the Unseen University librarian does not appear) but, like all of Pratchett’s novels, it is excellent satire.
Lady Sybil, wife to Chief Commander Sir Sam Vimes, has decided that he needs a vacation from crime fighting in Ankh-Morpork so she drags him kicking and screaming (in a quiet, muttering under-the-breath sort of way) to their manor in the countryside. She used Young Sam, their highly inquisitive young son, as the guilt lure to finally break the commander’s resolve enough to get him in the carriage and under way and then, Bob’s your uncle, off they go and with no bacon sandwiches to make the transition easier.
“Sergeant Littlebottom looked concerned. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I think Captain Carrot will relieve you of your badge at noon.’ Vimes thumped his desk and exploded. ‘I don’t deserve this treatment after a lifetime of dedication to the city!’”
Of course, Sam being Sam, he can’t just relax and lounge about. That would make him absolutely nuts, so he decides to wander about and see the village and all the lands that make up the manor’s holdings. Apart from household maids who swivel to face the wall every time he walks past, his first clue that things are a bit different in the countryside is when he wanders into the local pub. There proudly displayed above the bar are several trophies, but it isn’t a horned stag or even a unicorn that’s catches his eye – it’s a goblin’s head.
“Vimes leaned on the bar, inexplicably at peace. The wall over the bar was hung with the heads of dead animals, particularly those possessed of antlers and fangs, but it came as a shock to spot, in the grubby light, a goblin’s head. I’m on holiday, he thought, and that probably happened a long time ago, ancient history, and he left it at that.”
Even though Sam has risen to the highest of the high in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, he grew up on the mean streets and he worked very hard to bring diversity to the City Watch. He may not have a goblin on the Watch but he’s got trolls and werewolves and vampires and dwarves and everything else. A goblin head mounted on the wall is not right in his book but it doesn’t bother him until clues start to appear and then they get his copper’s instincts aquiver. Something is not right in the bucolic countryside and Sam Vimes will get to the heart of it.
What he finds is murder, mayhem, powerful locals run amuck, slavery, lynch mobs, ignorance, beauty in unexpected places, and an unexpected link to Ankh-Morpork. Luckily he’s brought Willikins, his butler-cum-assassin with him and luckily Willikins has brought a few un-policeman-like toys with him, including his steel hair comb. *shiver* Together they will see justice done and ensure the law prevails.
In the meantime though, they might appear to be slightly more effective than chickens running around with their heads cut off, which is a great strategy when you want the criminals to think you don’t have a clue, right? You see, the lads in the country see a citified posh gent and don’t realize Sam Vimes grew up in the down-and-dirty poor streets of the city. He has seen it all, and done quite a bit of it, and he definitely does not fight by the Marquis of anybody’s rules.
On the surface of all of Terry Pratchett’s novels is a lot of humor and then you start to peel the layers back to the heart, which always contains important issues. You have a choice, you can only look at the surface or you can peek underneath – how far underneath you look is up to you. It’s one of the things that makes his novels so brilliant, in the U.S. and the UK sense of the word. Most people begin reading them for one reason and then continue for another. For whatever reason you read Snuff, I guarantee it will only whet your appetite for more Discworld novels. You will love this series without a doubt, unless you’re a total grump, in which case you’re beyond hope anyway. And once you finish with the Discworld series, you can jump to Pratchett’s YA novels, which are every bit as good!
Snuff is being released on October 11, 2011 in the U.S. and on October 13, 2011 in the UK, so check it out at your favorite bookseller below.
Here’s part of an interview with Terry Pratchett about his diagnosis but also much more.
Some of you may see this as very controversial, so be forewarned. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
Terry Pratchett’s Book Tour:
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
TOWN HALL SEATTLE/Co-sponsored by University Books
Town Hall Seattle 1119 Eighth AVE Seattle, WA 98101
Thursday, October 13, 2011
BARNES & NOBLE/Tribeca
97 Warren ST New York, NY 10007
Friday, October 14, 2011
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB/Grand Ballroom
National Press Club 529 14th ST NW Washington, DC 20045
I’d love to get your comments on Snuff, Terry Pratchett, any of his books, and this review!
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