Search This Blog

06 November 2011

'Snuff' by Terry Pratchett

Years and years ago, a friend gave me 'Small Gods'. She told me she couldn't read more than one Discworld novel a year because Pratchett warped the way she saw the world. She said "you'll like him".  I tried reading it, but could not finish it. I didn't get the joke.  I thought small mindedness, religious intolerance and violence were all too real. I read him as a sad and accurate reflection of our world.  A year or two later I picked up the book again. I had gained a family and was making serious choices of my own, for good or bad. The book was hilarious. Pratchett is about choices, responsibility, accountability and knowing yourself. His story telling, though, make these topics palatable. I had to make decisions in society about myself and my family to see the fun, freedom and yes, fear in taking those grown up steps . Humor is so often associated with laughing at what frightens you. I buy every Pratchett book I can find in different cities and countries.  I even have 'The Unadulterated Cat' in my bathroom.

Now back to 'Snuff'.

As usual, Pratchett brings back characters. My favorite part is to discover how his characters have developed and learned from past mistakes or adventures. Other series make money by giving readers more of the same. To an intelligent reader, book 3 often feels like book 1 in a different setting. Pratchett, on the other hand, lets his characters grow, sometimes in surprising ways. Moreover, he manages to stay true to a characters' fundamental traits. So Rincewind remains a coward no matter how many times he survives. Commander Vimes, the protagonist of 'Snuff', remains a good man in desperate need of a drink.  He seems to live in a world surrounded by bad men, probably on account of being a policeman.  Commander Vimes usually focuses (obsesses) on crime and justice (which is different from punishment).  He treats murder as murder; there are no political euphemisms depending on the victim or status of the suspect.  A goblin girl is as important as an ambassador.  But, and yes we need a 'but' or there wouldn't be a book, what if your own society did not view this murder as a murder, anymore than people view euthanizing a stray dog as murder?  What if dogs found you and demanded justice?

This is where Pratchett excels.  He gives the little ones in society a voice and a champion.  But, he makes us laugh in the process of finding justice.  This laughter is important because most of us fall in the category of those who look away, stay quiet, or comment that talking dogs are still dogs, not humans.  He wants us to look at ourselves and our motives, but not all at once, just in case we shut the book in fear.  Laughter helps.  Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut wrote satire which is filed under fiction; just because Pratchett uses trolls, dwarfs and goblins instead of blacks, the poor and women, his work is labeled fantasy at your local book store.  Our society has become expert at looking away and escaping into fantasy of many sorts.  Pratchett is a genius; he writes satire and lets us label it fantasy so we'll read it and look in the mirror.  With any luck we get the joke.

Terry Pratchett 
ISBN: 9780385619264


  1. Edgar10:57

    His children's books are great.

  2. Wow !!
    where do u suggest I start?