Cannonball Read IV: Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett’s “Snuff” is his 39th Discworld novel. You’d expect that he would have run out of ideas by now. He hasn’t. Despite the fact that he has Alzheimer’s, he’s still going strong.
I’ve been a faithful reader of Pratchett’s since the late ’90s, when I first discovered his books. The quality that I found most attractive about them to begin with was not how good his writing is. It is good, but it’s not great. In fact, he manages to lose me at least once with every book, when I’m reading a paragraph and suddenly haven’t got the slightest idea what he’s on about. No; what I found so attractive were his sense of humour and his unparalleled ability to discuss difficult subjects in a humorous way. While using nerd words like “troll” and “vampire” and “magic”.
In his latest book, the difficult subject he tackles is racism. There’s been a murder, and commander Vimes will try to figure out whodunit. Only, is it a murder when you don’t regard the creature in question (in this case, a goblin) as, well, a person?
Pratchett deftly creates a world that is permeated with the old values. Aristocracy and working class live side by side, and everyone knows their place. It’s the countryside, where things have been like this for centuries, and crimes have been committed in the quiet without anyone raising an eyebrow, because no one thinks it’s a crime if it’s vermin you’re disposing of. Until now; Vimes is forced by his wife, Sybil, to take a vacation in her aristocratic family’s home, and, like the true policeman he is, he can sniff out a crime if there is one.
What follows is a murder mystery that would fit right in as a Midsomer Murders episode. It has all the necessary ingredients: the murder, the pub, the local troublemakers, and snobs with money. Pratchett manages to combine all that with social commentary on racial issues, slavery and changing the world one person at a time. The conclusion being that not all Nobs are snobs, and not all yobs are knobs.
Pratchett kept me turning the pages up until the last third of the book. As soon as the murderer was introduced, he lost me; the murderer being quite a bland character and revealed way too early. The chase to catch him took up too much space in the book, that I believe could otherwise been dedicated to learning more about goblin society and their plight, to make them more sympathetic to the reader. A side story about another policeman’s illness was a distraction. The fact that he seems to imply that taking justice into your own hands is ok when the law fails didn’t win him any points in my book either. His humour is becoming predicable for someone who has read all 39 Discworld novels.
Still, despite these relatively minor flaws, Pratchett manages to end the book on a high note: a hope for the future, that the world can become a better place. It just takes time. And, despite these flaws, it was a good book, albeit not a great book.
For more of Shaman’s reviews, check out his blog, Running for Life.
This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.
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