Book review

Not-so-grumpy book review: Snuff, by Terry Pratchett

Snfuf
My wife and I finished reading the Spanish translation of this book last night. I was intrigued as to why the Spanish title was the same as in English, until I discovered that the Spanish word for snuff (used throughout the translation) is rapé. Can you imagine that in all caps on a book cover?

Snuff is a good story. Commander Vimes goes on vacation to his wife’s country estate, where he fights the local blacksmith, gets arrested for murder by 19-year-old Constable Feeney Upshot, investigates the bloody death of a goblin, uncovers a tobacco and drug smuggling ring involving the local magistrates, discovers that goblins have been kidnapped and shipped overseas for slave labor, and helps pilot a riverboat down a raging flooded river in pursuit of a psychopathic killer. His valet, Willikins, plays a key role in dealing with the psychopath. Sergeant Colon is transformed by touching a goblin-made container attached to a cigar. Corporal Nobby Nobbs finds love. Vimes’ wife, Lady Sybil, strikes a major blow for species equality by organizing a concert featuring a goblin harpist. Sam Vimes Junior begins a promising career as an animal poo specialist.

We had only two gripes with the book:

1) During a raid to arrest one of the villains, Vimes disappears into the cellar and returns with detailed knowledge about the perpetrator’s activities, the result of consulting with a spirit associated with the darkness of dwarf mines. This is cheap writing; it’s too easy, for one thing, and goes far beyond the type of assistance the spirit usually gives him.

2) There is far too much preaching. Besides Vimes’ constant internal musing, his lectures to the psychopath and to constable Feeney take up entire pages. Lord Vetinari and Willikins are also guilty of long-winded monologues. I get the feeling that Pratchett was very aware of his own mortality at the time he wrote the book, and was eager to leave a legacy of his convictions.

However, if any author deserves a modest amount of self-indulgence, it is Terry Pratchett.

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13 thoughts on “Not-so-grumpy book review: Snuff, by Terry Pratchett

  1. I’m going far too slow dag nabit with the 20,000 leagues under the sea readings to hope this month to touch pratchet, but I know how to read by myself I suppose and you help me want to.

    • I’ve got just about every book Pratchett has written, and in addition about 15-20 titles in Spanish. My wife loves them, which shows his writing transcends cultures. The humor translates fairly well. This book didn’t have very much humor compared to earlier books, no doubt because of Pratchett’s ill health (he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago).

      I haven’t read 20,000 Leagues since my childhood. My first introduction to it was in the Golden Illustrated Classics comic books, of which a kind Peace Corps volunteer gave us a stack nearly 50 years ago.

      • I needed a book and that one by verne floated up! 😀 as to pratchett, I was vonnegut all the way and the more erudite helped me into pratchett just before the movies so I could be in that place called books are still the magic colour octarine… I did like jorges borges book of sand… pwerful scene painter he. and yes, I get the haha that what better place for the blind but being librarian 😉 odd how life an work out.

        • Except for a few poems my wife read to me, I have had no dealings with Borges since college. But he’s an amazing writer. Vonnegut was all the rage when I was in college but I’ve never read anything by him except one short story.

          Pratchett inherited P.G. Wodehouse’s ability to turn a phrase on its head. I envy that. One of my daughters is able to do it, too.

          • it”s something to do with saying something way too literally with that impish spark in your eye … I think 😀 I never noticed the similarity tween wodehouse and pratchett and funny I proactically read them together! but now that you mention it 😉

    • The vast majority of Pratchett’s books are about Discworld, and the best of those are about the Night Watch. Start with Guards! Guards! If you like it, Men at Arms comes next, and then you should be able to find your way sequentially.

      The earliest books are about a magician named Rincewind. They’re amusing but not as good as the Night Watch ones. The books about witches are captivating, in particular the ones about Tiffany Aching (A Hat Full of Sky, I Shall Wear Midnight, Wintersmith, The Wee Free Men).

  2. ordinarybutloud says:

    See, when I see the word “Snuff,” I think of “snuff films,” which is at least as bad as putting the Spanish word all over the cover. Such a strange choice. But cool…book review. 🙂

    • A number of goblins get snuffed, so the double-meaning is surely intended. Tobacco figures heavily in the plot, and Vimes has taken up snuff as a healthier alternative to cigars which were a healthy alternative to incessant drinking. (He was an alcoholic in the first book of the series.)

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