Monday, March 19, 2012

Snuff it!

What a romp! Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Night Watch is the hero of Snuff, Terry Pratchett’s 39th book in the Discworld series. Yes, on one level this is a rather silly fantastical world, with vampires, Igor and Igorinas, golems, trolls, dwarfs, et cetera. And Pratchett’s sense of the absurd is evident in every sentence. But the essential plot isn’t silly (well, maybe a teeny bit), and it definitely stands alone.

Commander Vimes has been forced to go on vacation, rather against his will. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so horrible, except it’s at his wife Sybil's countryside estate, and Vimes is a city man, through and through. He’s very uncomfortable because no one seems to be trying to mug, kill, or rob each other, and the birds’ incessant singing is really getting on his nerves. But young Sam, his son, is in poo heaven, (he’s intensely interested in feces of all kinds, which he enjoys dissecting and collecting,) and his wife feels that Vimes must learn to act a county gentleman.

Fortunately, something’s rotten in the countyside, and soon Vimes is off on an investigation of vast import with the help of his manservant Willikens and the local constable and pig-keeper, young Feeney. The disappearance of a blacksmith and the appearance of a large pool of blood containing a goblin claw lead to a strange discovery: a population of goblins living in the caves outside the village, seeking justice for a murder victim. The humans in the village and surrounding estates have always considered the goblins to be vermin, and Vimes and crew learn that they’ve used that to justify slavery and worse. Fortunately for Vimes, there’s a bad guy at the heart of it, and Feeney, Vimes, and Willikens are soon on his tail.

This is a world-changing case for Discworld, and an eye-opening one for Vimes, who will never think of the countryside in quite the same way. Well-balanced humorous writing, excellent character and world-development, lots of action, and wonderful interpersonal relationships make for a very worthwhile and amusing read. Snuff is also excellent on audio through Library2Go.

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