Tuesday 25 October 2011
Terry Pratchett, Snuff
I know I've been tormenting you with only positive reviews recently. I promise to supply an exception to this trend soon, as the book I'm reading at the moment is already showing some signs of bad literaturiosis, but first I have some catching up to do.
Today's review will be full of worshipful admiration. No, don't run yet, Snuff really deserves it.
I'd better say it sooner rather than later - I believe Terry Pratchett is the most talented writer of our times (and possibly ever, goddamnit!). I know his Discworld novels almost by heart, I fall asleep to the sound of his audiobooks pretty much every night and I still haven't had enough. Language is Sir Terry's obedient doggie - it does tricks for him, runs errands and does anything the Big Man wants of it. Unbelievable. I can read his books again and again and every time I find something new - a new joke, new double-meaning or comic reference. It's like mining for gold, which can last for years without bringing the mine any nearer to exhaustion.
Pratchett is the only author in the whole wide world whose books I'm collecting. Usually I'm a big fan of libraries and similar institutions - I see no point in spending substantial (for my means) amount of money for a book that will be read once and then collect dust on the shelf for years to come. Most books fall into this category - they can be unbelievably enjoyable to read, but once you're through, you don't want to read them until you totally forget the storyline. Terry Pratchett's prose is different. It's a bit like puzzle solving - decoding yet another reference brings me as much joy as cracking a difficult crossword, only it's far funnier. I could go on (and probably will, at some other time), but since it's a review of Snuff, not Pratchett's profile, it's high time to focus on the book itself.
If you know the Discworld, please skip the following paragraph - it's meant for the uninitiated and you'll be bored to tears.
Imagine a flat disc, situated on top of four elephants, which, in turn, rest on top of a giant turtle travelling through space. A world like that simply must be suffused with magic and peopled not only by humans, but other intelligent races as well - dwarfs, trolls, vampires, werewolves, elves, pixies (or, in this particular case, pictsies), bogeymen, golems, orcs, medusas and many more. Snuff is about goblins. Well, mostly goblins. It is also about Commander Vimes, a lifelong copper, going on holidays. Now, what happens if a policeman takes some time off? According to the ancient Murphy's Law, crime happens (although this particular copper is more relieved than vexed by this occurrence). What follows is a criminal story worth of Agatha Christie, set in a magical environment and full of intelligent, semi-cynical sense of humour. I'm not sure if it's a good book to start a Pratchett adventure with - after all it's number 39th on the list and Discworld books are chronologically organised, but if you were to read just one (which is highly unlikely), Snuff is as good as any other. And since you'll be wanting to read it again and again, you can just as well buy it...
Now back to serious Pratchett fans. First, let me share my joy and excitement - UAAAUAUAUAUAUA, SNUFF IS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally!!! I've been counting the days down for months (but, ironically, forgot all about it just before release day and run to the bookshop two weeks later). I got it, I've read it, I love it.
Snuff is a Vimes novel (note how I'm NOT saying 'city watch novel' - there's very little of other watchmen and virtually no city). Some years have passed since events described in Thud. Commander Vimes has become a worldwide symbol of justice and good coppering. Sybil, with only a hint of suggestion from Lord Vetinari, decides it's high time for Young Sam (aged six) to learn that food doesn't grow in shops and declares family holidays in the countryside.
Obviously, Vimes is not too comfortable with such a turn of events. What, no cobbled streets under his feet? Nobody shouting 'It's one o'clock and all is well'? And, above all, no crime???
Here, at least,the Commander may soon breathe a sigh of relief. Crime happens and happens big time (and I'm hereby done with plot spoilers).
You also get closer look at goblins, Quirm, and Young Sam's fascination with poo.
What you don't get - and it is a big surprise, since this character had until now appeared in pretty much every Discworld novel (I need to double check if I can delete 'pretty much' bit) - is Death.
As classically Pratchett-y as it gets.