4 stars, no paws, bedtime reading.
We have been worried about Sir Terry. He revealed a while ago that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (P0sterior Cortical Atrophy), and since then he has appeared on our television screens several times to explore the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and the touchy issue of assisted suicide when his future becomes unbearable. While he has asserted that he will keep writing for as long as he can, I have caught myself watching out for changes in his novels that tell us that it’s time to say Goodbye to one of the UK’s most unusual and prolific authors.
The good news is that the time hasn’t come – Snuff is inventive, well-written and further develops the Sam Vimes/City Watch arc of stories by taking the Commander out of the City and sending him on “holiday” to his wife’s privileged country seat. The story then becomes an almost traditional cop story, involving lots of sleuthing and dangerous investigations. It also further develops the integration of the whole cast of Discworld species, including Vampires, Werewolves, Dwarfs, Trolls and now Goblins into society, with all the prejudices and resistance these developments can entail. There is a welcome outing for Vimes’s servant Willikins, who can fashion a weapon out of anything, and the challenges of family life are explored by contrasting Sam Jr.’s needs and demands with Sam Sr.’s adventures and past events which haunt him, tied together by his wife Sybil’s gentle and understanding nagging and the social demands on his time arising from her status.
I know these novels are considered part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, but in many ways they are a distorted and at times satirical version of our own world, sharply observed and, often poignantly, capturing the foibles and prejudices of people anywhere, even on a world held up by elephants and travelling through space on a giant turtle. If you haven’t read a Discworld novel before, I would not start with this one, because, while being broadly self-contained, it refers back to earlier books and understanding the references makes this much more enjoyable, but if you have, all is still well and hopefully it will continue a while longer.