Rating 4.5* (out of five)
Synopsis: Sam Vimes, the head of the police force of Ankh Morpork, goes to the country for a holiday where he discovers marital law and the oppression of goblins and the redeeming characteristics of goblins.
Comments: I have to start this by admitting Pratchett can do no wrong in my eyes. Snuff is, after all, the 39th book in his series set in Discworld, and he has written others not in the series. What writer wouldn’t fall down on the floor, stricken with awe and humility, over such a career? The man entertains, but does so much more than that. As usual, he had addressed one (or ten) aspects of society that need addressing.
In Snuff, it’s prejudice. This feels like an old-fashion word, but the true meaning holds. How do preconceived images of a group of creatures get overturned? Human nature seems to follow a pattern, and one that’s fractal, as we repeat this pattern from the a small group of friends to the level of entire nations. What am I talking about? Cliques. In-groups. Marginalized populations. The enemy. I think it’s all the same phenomena. People want to be with people they have something in common with, and manufacture rules about who is ‘like us’ and who isn’t. Then after a period of bad behaviour, realize that the group we thought was different, and therefore lesser than us, somehow, isn’t.
Pratchett captures this phenomena brilliantly amid the backdrop of a story about a man who loves his wife and son and who also loves justice and his job of enforcing justice. The backdrop also includes the familiar and delightfully dysfunctional Discworld, with members of the Ankh Morpork police force that we know and love, who make cameo appearances. The narrative paints a vivid picture of a class system, similar to many that were in our real world, with equal reflection from all levels of the hierarchy.
The story of Snuff has plenty of action, from pub brawls, crawling through caves and battles with the forces of nature. Pratchett’s prose is also something I admire, with brilliant bits such as ‘a brace of oxen could not draw it out of him’ and ‘turning himself into something as much like nothing as anything’. And then there are scintillating zings, like the riot of noise that is the peace of the countryside.
One structural observation that I have of this novel is that it deviates from previous books of his in that it is quite long and there are huge chunks of paragraphs. But all quite readable. Although it was striking when I looked a page, I managed to read it without noticing a particular difference.
To me, Pratchett is comfort reading, the stuff I curl up with at night. Snuff is the perfect example.