Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Snuff Review

This is (obviously) my first post on this blog, so I should probably announce my intentions, as it were. I am writing this blog mainly as an aide memoire. I read a lot, but I tend to read very fast and forget what I have read, so I have decided to start reviewing everything. This will hopefully include both fiction and non-fiction, which should be an interesting mix as I have been an archaeologist and I am now a school library-assistant working my way to full librarian-ness.
I'm going to start by reviewing the latest Terry Pratchett: Snuff. I am a huge fan of Sir Terry, in fact I got my copy of Snuff when I went to see him speak at the Theatre Royal last month. I have taken my time in reading it, nibbling away, enjoying a few pages at a time. It is another brilliant book, I don't think it will make my list of favourite Discworld novels, but I liked it immensely.
The latest book featuring the Guards characters has Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, dragged away on holiday by his loving-but-firm wife Sybil. They go to stay at Sybil's country estate in a seemingly peaceful part of the countryside. Young Sam, their son who is now 6, has a brilliant time investigating the excrement of the local fauna whilst Sybil catches up with the neighbours. Vimes himself, being Vimes, inevitably gets tangled up in the investigation of a murder which leads to the uncovering of a much wider conspiracy...
Sir Terry himself has said that Vimes is his favourite character to write, so much so he has to stop himself from writing about him, and that enjoyment comes across in the book; particularly in the dialogue between Vimes and Willikins. As usual beneath the witty comic fantasy there are some darker themes: specifically racism; the unthinking oppression of the goblins through sheer ignorance - something that all the characters, even the noble Captain Carrot and Vimes himself, are guilty of. Sir Terry always address the theme of power - who has it, why they have it and how they use it - and the character of Vimes provides an interesting perspective through which to do this as he is a working-class copper elevated to the nobility.
I was a bit perturbed by the numerous scatalogical moments throughout the book, brought about by young Sam's fascination with poo. I think this had a wider point though. The misunderstood goblins had some religious rites whereby they stored various different types of their bodily excreta in little pots, called ungue pots. The general disgust for this process is at the centre of the prejudice against the goblins, and so by including so much excreta in the story Pratchett forces us to confront our own aversion to such things and enables us to empathise with the prejudices of his characters, whilst at the same time knowing that they are completely wrong. Or perhaps he just has an excellent understanding of how the average six year-old boy operates. Either way, the poo jokes were not my favourite parts.
Willikins, the streetwise butler, was further developed in this book which I enjoyed very much. I would like to see another story where Carrot and Angua take a more central role; although I accept they probably have reached the end of their narrative lives. I thought the villain of the piece was also quite two-dimensional, although as Vimes, Willikins et al. are so well drawn as characters it wasn't quite so noticeable.
Overall I liked this book a lot, it is no-where near the best Pratchett book (my favourites are Hogfather, Masquerade and Thief of Time), but it did provide several laugh-out-loud moments and proves that Sir Terry is still the king of comic fantasy.

Book: Snuff
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Doubleday
Mark: 8/10

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