By Terry Pratchett
Published by Harper Audio
Read by Stephen Briggs
It’s been a while since I reviewed one of the Discworld books and I don’t think I’ve done this one before, but if I have, I suppose we shall find out how consistent I am.
The Discworld, for those who have never read any of the books of this series is truly a disk and that sits on the back of four impossibly large elephants who, in turn, stand atop the shell of an even larger space-going turtle. This is because in a universe of probability something has to exist at the far end of the probability bell curve… maybe. Naturally such a construct could not exist without magic and the Discworld is definitely magical. Strangely, the shape of the world is only occasionally important to the stories that take place on it. Oh, it comes up, for example, when the Wizzard (sic) Rincewind falls off the edge, but in this story it is mere window dressing.
The Discworld stories can be grouped into a number of subseries of their own and this is one of the stories which centers on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, especially on its commander, Samuel Vimes. Vimes may be one of Pratchett’s more interesting characters; certainly, he is different from most. When we first met the man, (I think that was in Guards! Guards!) the man seemed a hopeless alcoholic, but some small dregs of pride manage to turn him around bit by bit and over the course of the series he proves to be one of the strangest and most respected characters on Discworld.
Now Vimes’ wife, the Duchess of Ankh-Morpork, has decided to drag him and their son, Young Sam, off to the country on vacation because that is what you do. Well it is what you do when you are of the aristocracy. Vimes, on the other hand is a semi-reformed gutter rat and, in spite of his previous adventures, not really comfortable when away from the pestilent, cobbled streets of his city. Of course, even when Vimes in on vacation, he is always a cop and there is always a crime to be solved.
On the Discworld, there are many intelligent species living… well, not always in peace, but generally agreeing to stay at arms’ length from each other. In previous volumes, in fact, Vimes was instrumental in brokering a peace accord between the traditional enemy realms of the Dwarves and Trolls. On his own police force he has employed sentients of all species; trolls, dwarves, vampires, feegles and so forth, but there is one species considered vermin by most others, the goblins. The goblins and small and smelly and because of their religious beliefs have the unsavory habit of saving of their bodily secretions is pots to be buried with them after death. Not all humans see them as vermin, however and when Vimes witnesses a goblin girl playing a harp with angelic beauty he suddenly realizes that goblins are not just under-people but people as fully deserving of the rights that all others enjoy, including that of justice, which is where he comes in especially when his investigating involves, at first, the murder of a goblin and then the wholesale abduction of goblins for reasons unknown. Something smells out there in the country and it is not just the goblins and the poo that Young Sam is so intent on studying.
This is another great story that is a part of an all-around great series. The Discworld stories can be mistaken for mere parodies of fantasy tropes and, indeed, that is how they started out, but they stand on their own and are frequently good serious stories, wearing only a mask of satire.
Snuff is a good solid story with some good solid social messages but delivered in a clever and entertaining manner. It is also an excellent example of how to mix a police procedural story with fantasy. Best of all, I think it makes sense even if you have not read all the stories that precede it which is hard to accomplish in such a long-running series.
As usual, I very much enjoyed Stephen Briggs’ reading. He does occasionally resort to funny voices for some of the characters, but in most cases I think they are well chosen, especially for non-human characters, although I was slightly annoyed by the pubescent, breaking voice of the young “Chief Constable” out in the country. The character was much younger than Vimes, but I did not think he was that much younger. However, that was my only real criticism so all in all, he did well. Briggs has read many of the Discworld novels so it was very much a matter of coming back to a familiar friend.
So, to sum it all up, great story with both poignant and funny moments and well-read and definitely well-worth listening to.