Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review - Terry Partchett's Snuff

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: October 11th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Samuel Vimes has finally been made to go on vacation. Sybil insists, as does Lord Ventinari. They have this lovely estate they never go to and young Sam needs country air, and apparently lots of poo to look at. The country is good for poo... but then again, so are the streets of Ankh Morpork... it's just different. Of course, you can take the copper away from the watch house, but Sam will always be a copper. Always asking the uncomfortable question, pushing on people and never willing to let things be. His fellow noblemen, how Sam hates being in the same titled category as the likes of Rust, soon realize that Sam is going to be a problem. A problem that they will solve.

After the local blacksmith disappears after a confrontation with Sam and copious amounts of blood are found on his estate, Sam is "arrested" by the local copper Feeney. It only takes a few minutes to get Feeney over to his side and then the hunt is on for the body that used to contain all that blood. The body is that of a young Goblin girl. Goblins are a tricky subject. They are technically classified as vermin, not creatures capable of love and feeling like Dwarves, Trolls and the like. Sam doesn't care though. I body is a body and if the law has to catch up to him, then so be it. Soon Sam has a plethora of suspects, but they are all lower level henchmen. Sam wants to know all the secrets in this sleepy shire and wants to get all the skeletons out of the closets. He wants who is behind the Goblin problem, and if he has to turn to his darker half, if he has to take on Old Treachery, the dangerous river known for damn slams, then he will. Sam Vimes is a copper to the core!

I felt that this started out so strongly. Snuff was like Terry Pratchett doing a little cosy country mystery with balls and tea promised but with coppers, a la Hot Fuzz. The Pride and Prejudice spoof was one of the best written parodies in all Austen parodies, yes I'm looking at you vampires and zombies. Why didn't I ever think how funny the juxtaposition of a lumberjack would be against Mrs. Bennet? But did we get one ball, one gala? NO! Instead we got a treatise on Goblin rights. About how to categorize sentience from plain vermin. Sam Vimes would not approve of a bait and switch! Unless of course it was to catch a criminal, but he'd have a lot of inner monologues, and I am no criminal.

Snuff is well plotted, which is a rarity in Discworld, where there's usually lots of threads running every which way and then somehow tangling all together at the end, in some sort of knot, if I'm to stick with the thread analogy. Yet, it just didn't work. Maybe Sam Vimes needs his watchmen by his side to maintain the humor. Because Sam has successfully functioned outside Ankh Morpork before, yet not here. If the plot had stuck with the country house and the ingrained superiority of the landed gentry versus the peasants and not brought in the Goblin slaves, then this could have been the best book yet. Instead he retreads familiar ground and eventually ends up making this some sort of sea faring tale with a battle against Old Treachery. Sigh... what could have been... Hot Fuzz meets Jane Austen.

Another disappointment was that I've been reading the Discworld books in order so that I don't miss out on something. They can stand alone, but their cumulative history is so wonderful, knowing the first time Wee Mad Arthur appeared, or getting a joke that would only be gotten had you read the first Witches book. But here I skipped ahead because of my excitement hearing passages at the North American Discworld Convention, I shouldn't have done that... what really happened in Koom Valley!?! I think Thud! has to be required reading to get half of what's going on with Sam's internal monologues. So maybe after I finally get to Thud! (I'm still like nine books behind) and then get back up to Snuff (five books later), I might appreciate this book for what it is and not bemoan what it isn't.


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