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Snuff: A Novel of Discworld    by Terry Pratchett order for
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

There's nothing like a new Discworld novel to make spirits bright, and this latest, Snuff, is a delight! Center stage is Ankh-Morpork City Watch Commander/Duke of Ankh Sam Vimes, one of my favorites (the other being the irrepressible Moist von Lipwig) of Terry Pratchett's many remarkable - and eccentric - characters. Sharing the limelight with Vimes are his small son Sam (of Where's My Cow? fame), his formidable aristocratic wife, Lady Sybil, his ex-street gang butler Willikins, and Nac Mac Feegle policeman Wee Mad Arthur.

Lady Sybil has decided that her husband, who stopped a cataclysmic inter-racial war in Thud!, is in need of a holiday. But did the idea really originate with Sybil, or is Macchiavellian Lord Vetinari (who has developed an interest in goblins) pulling strings? They head off to their country estate, Ramkin Hall, all the while the Duke is hoping for a reprieve via a crime that would demand his return. Overnight Sam misses the sounds of the city, that is until 'at five o'clock Mother Nature pressed a button and the world went mad'. Young Sam makes his own entertainment, mainly focused on research into 'different kinds of poo'.

It doesn't take long for Sam Vimes to smell something rotten in his bucolic surroundings. After he arranges to meet an aggressive blacksmith (who obviously knows something) that young man disappears. Sam mentors local copper Feeney Upshot. They investigate together, Vimes aided by the Summoning Dark. When goblins chant 'Ice! Ice! We want just ice!', they learn of the enslavement and murder of members of a race generally considered vermin. After hearing young goblin Tears of the Mushroom play 'ethereal music' on the harp, Sybil encourages her husband to do his part, saying 'the worst thing you can do is nothing.'

Stalwart Sam Vimes does 'Everything!' It takes him on a thrill ride down a raging river (aptly named Old Treachery) on a flotilla of barges, with a vicious killer on board, and a 'damn slam' tsunami in pursuit. And Lady Sybil does her part to have goblins viewed as humans. When 'just ordinary people' ask what they could have done to prevent the goblin holocaust, Sam tells us all: 'You could have done something. You could have done anything. You could have done everything.' And he finally gets to finish his well-deserved holiday, Young Sam in tow.

In addition to his usual spectacularly ironic and witty fantasy, Terry Pratchett gives his legion of fans an excellent police procedural in Snuff, as well as social commentary on the question of what ordinary people should and can do when they see the marginalized mistreated in front of their noses - 'Everything!'

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