Feb 12, 2013

[Books] Snuff

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are among the few titles around that I refuse to purchase as ebooks. They're a key part of my hard copy book collection and thus I do my best to remain patient until I can get a physical copy in order to read the book.

This is made somewhat trickier since the greater majority of my Discworld books are paperback editions, thus that means even more waiting. Thus the relative "delay" for this particular book, which is one of his latest offerings.

The book centers around City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes, who admittedly is a character that has grown on me over the years. In the first books that featured the watch, he seemed largely incompetent and perhaps a bit lucky. But his character has evolved and matured as the stories have continued on and now he's quite the respectable policeman with some very solid principles when it comes to the concept of justice and the nature of a policeman's role in society.

This book was yet another exploration of this aspect of the Discworld, and a bit more on the complications of being Sir Samuel Vimes.

Synopsis: Snuff is the 39th book in the Discworld series as written by Sir Terry Pratchett. Upon its initial release in the UK, the book became the third fastest selling novel having sold 55,000 copies in its first three days alone.

Commander Vimes has once again been outmaneuvered by his wife Lady Sybil. In this case, he is being forced to take a holiday from his work in the city through a visit to Lady Sybil's family estate. Together with his son and his "gentleman's gentleman" Wilikins, Vimes is clearly a fish out of water in the "simpler" life of the country. But one thing that Vimes does understand well is crime and despite all appears of things being peaceful, Vimes feels something is wrong.

But he's supposed to be on vacation and Sybil has been very specific about the need for him to avoid work of any kind. But Vimes is Vimes and there are few things to be done to knock the copper out of him. And in time he starts to scratch away at the peaceful surface of things and discovers something is quite amiss. Eventually there's a murder. There's also the famous children's book author Miss Felicty Beedle. And there's a young local policeman (of a sort) in the form of "Constable" Upshot.

Now the City Watch books and along the same lines those that involve Samuel Vimes tend to explore the various races of the Discworld in line with cultural bias in the city and general themes related to discrimination versus tolerance. And this book followed that pattern, the race in question now being goblins, who are largely treated as vermin within the confines of the Disc.

As is the nature of Discworld novels these days, this one was firmly rooted in the overall continuity of the larger universe. While it is not absolutely required for one to have read all the prior novels to understand what happens here, the experience is made all the richer if you have. In this case, we have a lot of strong connections to the events that were depicted in Thud! and the side bonus of connecting to any stories involving Vimes' son (including Where's My Cow?)

The book is, well, a masterpiece in itself. Once again Pratchett demonstrates just how skilled a wordsmith he is as the story operates on several levels in the same way that the title has multiple meanings. There are the direct events actually depicted on the page and yet there are also the messages and lessons to be learned that Pratchett sneaks into things. You don't immediately catch what he's hinting at but once you do it's too late - you've learned something new about our own crazy little world.

From a character perspective, it's hard to go wrong with Vimes. But it was also nice to see a lot more of Sybil as she was clearly in her element back in her home province (or whatever). And I also appreciated how Wilikins has become far more than just the butler in the background. His peculiar background and unique talents came in particularly helpful use over the course of the book.

Snuff is yet another witty, intelligent and brilliant book from Terry Pratchett. It has a lot for long-term Vimes fans and still even more for relatively newcomers to the overall series. This title rates 5 moments of Wilikins liberally exercising his duties as being Vimes' gentleman's gentleman out of a possible 5.

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