Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett

Commander Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in “Snuff” ($25.99, Harper), Terry Pratchett’s latest novel of the Discworld. It’s not that he wanted to go on holiday. As far as he’s concerned a copper is never on holiday. But his wife, Lady Sybil, has coerced him into visiting her estates in the country. Of course, being Sam Vimes, it’s not long before he finds some trouble.

It starts with an altercation with a local blacksmith who has a problem with the upper class – an uncomfortable position Vimes finds himself in thanks to his marriage to Sybil. When a late night meeting is arranged between Vimes and the blacksmith, the commander and his butler – a slightly reformed street tough named Willikins – arrive at the meeting spot to find no blacksmith and a lot of blood. But Vimes’ would-be framer was a little too messy, leaving behind evidence that the blood belongs not to the blacksmith but to a goblin.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, since goblins are considered vermin by most people and have no rights. But Vimes’ investigation into the matter reveals some facts that, with a little help, may drastically change the way society thinks about the creatures.

“Snuff” covers a topic that Pratchett has approached many times through the course of the Discworld novels. You have a race of creatures that are feared and reviled being melded and accepted into society. He’s done it with the likes of trolls, vampires, zombies and other “monsters.” Despite that, the story here remains fresh and engaging. It kind of picks up on Pratchett’s last book, the uneven “Unseen Academicals,” which featured prominently a goblin character attempting to find worth in Ankh-Morpork. On the whole, “Snuff” is a more entertaining take on the goblin plight.

A little bit of the police procedural creeps in around the edges of “Snuff,” and it does ask some serious questions, including one that’s been asked numerous times throughout the course of history – what do you do when a crime against a people has been committed, but there’s no clear law regarding that crime? Even so, it retains the humor that Pratchett is known for, with both slapstick-ish scenes and the more subtle stuff.

Though, as fans, we have to acknowledge with some sadness that we’re likely reaching the end of our wild Discworld ride, here’s hoping that Pterry can leave us with a few more good ones like this.

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