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This is an ok book.
Not good, definitely not great. Just...ok.
It's sad, because Snuff makes it obvious how advanced Pratchett's Alzheimer's was. The writing style is difficult; it doesn't read like Pratchett at all. It's overblown and wordy. Characters don't talk like anyone in Discworld ever has; it reads as if a college creative-writing professor was going all-out for publication in literary journals named things like "Leaves" and "Sounds of Flying".
Terry's style is normally vigorous. Everything moves the story along or gives us needed details. He says what needs said & leaves asides to the hilarious footnotes. His characters sound like real people of all levels of society. They are us. But Snuff?
This is Snuff's Sybil:
ďOh dear me, I donít know where to put my face, so if you would be so kind as to let our child down carefully Iíll press said face mightily to yours!Ē
This is not the Sybil of Fifth Elephant; it's not even the Sybil of Thud. This might be Sybil as retold by the Ankh-Morpork Times' cartoonist, but that's not a good thing.
Snuff is tragic and heart-wrenching because you realize that, as of that writing, the Pratchett of "Good Omens" and Discworld was never coming back. Snuff reads like a ghostwriter who saw his/her big chance to break into writing. Glimmer's of Pratchett's usual wonderful self leak through — Young Sam's interest in poo, Miss Beadle's backstory, Vimes's dealing with the twirling maids & the daughters who lack dowries — but you have to slog through a lot of stilted, overblown writing to get at them.
If you're a huge Discworld & Pratchett fan, this book will break your heart. But, worse, it's only prep for the further downslide of Raising Steam.
"Snuff" is well below the usual quality of the series. The humor is seldom very good, the scenario is less than exciting (the events aboard the "Fanny" are the one exception) and, all in all, the story feels uninspired.
The first 100-120 pages are fairly boring. There's an unbelievable number of repetitive jokes about Vimes being henpecked by his wife, which can actually give the impression that their marriage is not truly happy (fortunately, the other two thirds of the book do a good job of reversing that impression).
Racism and xenophobia are an interesting theme, and books such as "Jingo" have done a very good job of dealing with it. But, unlike several books of the series (including some of the very best ones), "Snuff" doesn't really make the reader think. The goblins are little more than a plot device (rescuing them is what moves the story forward) : their introduction is rushed, their way of life is little described and while the Unggue is the focus of the first two pages, it often seems forgotten afterwards. The fact that the way goblin are viewed is changed because they happen to number a musical genius among them is rather cheap.
Vimes has become a rather static character. His inner darkness is an interesting element of his personality, but it's been broached much more subtly in previous books. The main problem with him in "Snuff", however, is that he simply never faces a serious challenge : he guesses the truth easily, convinces people to side with him easily, defeat obstacles easily... It's hard for a novel to be exciting when the protagonist manages so easily to always get his way.
Too much felt like it had been jammed in without a second lookover and gotten past an editor.
Trying to figure out if the back-to-back introduction of goblins and orcs is a build-up to a Tolkien Shout Out where it turns out they're the same species. Otherwise, it seems strange to have both races suddenly show up in the 'verse. (Which is not to say that the goblins aren't interestingly developed and well-done.)
I really hope he doesn't go too much further with Vimes and the Summoning Dark. I *like* Vimes when he's being a Badass Normal. The Summoning Dark looked like lazy storytelling and occasionally a Deus Ex Machina so Vimes would find out things he otherwise couldn't know. Shouldn't the Guarding Dark in Vimes's head be doing something about this?
Vetinari also seemed slightly off- his attention was on the wrong details. Part of me wonders if he's an Author Avatar in that regard, and Sir Terry's going to write his decline into Vetinari.
Snuff is brilliant. The wit continues, old friends are revisited but new ones are met along the way. The events are gripping and the characters are as fully interesting as when first introduced and they continue to make their way through their lives. Mister Vimes is getting older and age is beginning temper his temper but he still has to fight and use his * literal demons to wield the law and fight the darkness.
The only complaint would be Willikins who has grown comfortable in Sam's presence and now speaks and acts like the boy off the streets we're constantly reminded he is and has dropped a lot of the butlers formality. But once the change is accepted he goes on to be ever more interesting and gets his pay-off at the close.
What makes these books special is that every character plot and setting is seen as the full sum of the ideas and viewpoints that make it up and the book continues, as Pterry is want, to explore every aspect of everything so that it feels like we're reading something more fundamental than something designed to entertain and be forgotten. Here the setting is the cold watchful exclusiveness of the rural country side and the idea of bringing the law into the place where law is made by those who rule. And just to say, it's not anvilicious unless the wrongness of slavery and racism is taken as anything less than a fact. The book is assumes such and instead deals with a world that has need to rid it's prejudices.
How religion is portrayed is always interesting to me, and whilst it isn't a huge theme of the book at all it is shown slightly negatively. But I found that I didn't mind because with the pertinacity of so many atheists he's seen straight to the centre of relgion without actually crossing the threshold. The religion he hates is the relgion of 'whitewashed graves' that Jesus hated so much. He says 'Goodness is what you do, not who you pray to' and the Bible says 'But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.'
In the end it's only at the conclusion that our views part. We both see a world where right and wrong are innate and universal but whereas he trusts the arbitration of it to good men, I say that no man is good enough. If it was, I think Vimes should have spoiler * arrested himself at the end
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