Snuff, by Terry Pratchett

April 18, 2012 at 18:30 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Comedy, Fantasy, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , )


Sam Vimes is one of Pratchett’s best and most enduring characters, starring in more Discworld books than even Rincewind. He tends to embody Pratchett’s view of an ideal hero (particularly in his constant struggles against his own darkness, and his rigid adherance to the rule of law), and if ever he falls, it is not very far and not for very long. It must be acknowledged that Sam Vimes is easily Pratchett’s most likeable character. Combined, these traits make this book instantly readable, but also rather predictable. It is hardly likely that Terry Pratchett will choose to have his pristine hero watch his wife or son die, or lose his fortune or his reputation, any more than Ankh Morpork will be destroyed or Vetinari will be permanently unseated. Such are the hazards of writing a forty-book series. Eventually, suspense wanes.

There is a fair amount of dallying back-and-forth that goes on in Snuff, which might lead some to suspect that the story has been needlessly padded out. Vimes spends an unwarranted amount of time bouncing between his manorial estate, the local tavern, the goblin den and the local gaol. In any other mystery story (most of the Watch stories boil down to mysteries sooner or later) this would be time well spent in digging through the surprising secrets and scandalous miscellania of the extended cast, as well as building up the main characters. This doesn’t really happen.

“He would want Vimes to know who was killing him. Vimes, Vimes realised, knew killers too well for his own peace of mind.”


Vimes has been well-explored in several other books, and it would be unfair to say that his character is neglected in Snuff. But after reading this book, Discworld aficionados will not have glimpsed much more about Sybil, or Young Sam, or Vetinari, or even Lord Rust or Willikins. Instead of meaningful exposition, Pratchett serves up occasional cameo glimpses of a handful of characters who serve little purpose other than as placation for fans. These diversions are seldom necessary and always distracting, and break up the pace of this book terribly. The entire subplot in Ankh Morpork is entirely unnecessary, and is the worst example of this habit. Snuff is spread too thinly and insubstantially across too wide an area, and while it is a charming adventure story for Sam Vimes, it does not contain anywhere near the depth, the attention to detail, or the sophistication of Pratchett’s best works.

The writing is generally good, but the hazards of writing interior monologues for characters written in the third person catches up with Pratchett from time to time, resulting in some peculiar sentence structures and clumsy descriptions. It is sad to say, but an enduring epitaph to the Discworld series might be that it all began to sound the same. There is the distinct feeling of a slightly frustrated author who is not quite sure how to clearly communicate what he wants to say. Fans of Terry Pratchett will forgive this instantly, but for newer readers the verdict will be the same as it has been for the last half-dozen novels: don’t start with this one. He writes much better than this.



  1. thomaswrites said,

    Good review. Love Pratchett and his Sam Vines

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