Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff: A Novel of Discworld (Discworld Novels)

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels for a long time, and as with any series, it has its ups and downs.  Much has been made in recent years of Pratchett’s illness (early onset Alzheimer’s) and whether or not it’s affecting the quality of his writing.  With novels like Snuff, I have to wonder if there’s any truth to these assertions.

(Description nicked from B&

“At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.

Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.”

Let me say off the bat that this isn’t really a bad novel.  Those of us who have years invested in this world and these characters will find much to like in revisiting them.  We haven’t seen Vimes and crew since Thud! a few years back.  And now we have the addition of Vimes’s son Young Sam, who is old enough to begin emerging as a character in his own right.

However, by taking Vimes out of Ankh-Morpork, he’s separated from a lot of what makes up his personality—namely, the way he plays off the other Watch members and off of the city itself.  I realize that the whole point of the novel was to remove Vimes from his normal settings, but it’s an experiment that didn’t quite work.  There are small sections with the characters left in the city, but they’re brief and don’t do much to really get them into the story.

In the main, the book feels kind of clunky.  It’s an amalgam of the issues just mentioned, with the additional problem of the story being drawn out a little more than was absolutely necessary.  Normally, I enjoy reading Pratchett’s commentary on society and its eccentricities, but this novel’s overarching message got somewhat buried.

I’m used to Pratchett’s novels taking social commentary to a level that gives me chills, but this book didn’t achieve that.  I’m glad that I read it, just to see where Vimes’s story is going, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  Snuff is an average entry in an otherwise stellar series.

Also by this author: I Shall Wear Midnight, The Long Earth, Making Money, Monstrous Regiment, Thief of Time, Unseen Academicals, Wintersmith

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on November 12, 2011.

Series: Discworld
ISBN: 9780062011848
Publisher: Harpercollins
Page Count: 398
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Acquired: Borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis branch
Author Website
Read an excerpt