Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snuff - Book Review

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.
He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.
They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.
But not quite all...
Everybody knows that Terry Pratchett writes funny books - that's just part of modern English folklore. But it needs to be pointed out that they also contain real and deep profundities that ought to move you.

Get past the fact that his characters are frequently not as highly-dimensioned as your average human being - but no less-dimensioned than your average cartoon character. Get past the fact that the plots and morals are painted in the broadest brush-strokes and the simplest colours. Get past the fact that the tropes being used border on the clicheed. These are just the templates that Terry Pratchett uses in order to semaphore his message. And it needs to be said that his novels are not-so-heavily-disguised morality plays.

It has often been said that the purpose of fiction is not to preach a message, but to entertain. However, it may be suggested that TP is allowed to do both. The morals are obvious, the characters are transparent and the plot is to a certain extent predictable. What is far from predictable is the path he uses to get there, or the scenery (physical and moral) that you see on the way.

Without giving any more away than has already been divulged, the book reads as a metaphor for the socio-political climate of Britain in the early nineteenth century. As such, the "morphic resonances" are closer to the surface than they are in many of his other novels, and the usual jokes and parodies abound as usual. However, you have to wait till the last page to find out why the family of five eligible spinsters with no penny to their name have the surname "Gordon" (and probably have to know British English to get the joke). Subtler is the discussion (in an apple orchard) of the philosopher from a couple of centuries earlier, who is referred to as "Woolsthorpe". Even more subtle is the fact that the name of the tobacconist who acts as the key into the tobacco smuggling racket has the first name "Wilberforce".

Many of the usual Watch characters have bit parts, but this is mainly Sam, Sibyl, Young Sam and, sharing the stage with Sam on more-or-less equal billing, the delightful Willikins. All of this comes together to create a real gem and a great addition to discworld series. A right rollicking 5 stars from me for this brilliant book.

Available from:
Terry Pratchett
Hardback • ISBN 9780385619264

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails