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Snuff: A Novel of Discworld Kindle Edition
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|Book 38 of 40 in Discworld|
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Author One-to-One: Neil Gaiman Interviews Terry Pratchett
Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novels include Neverwhere, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett). He is the creator of the Sandman series of graphic novels and author of the short-fiction collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things.
Neil Gaiman: Where did the idea for Snuff originate?
Terry Pratchett: I haven’t a clue, but I think I started out by considering the character of Sir Samuel Vimes, as he now is, and since I find his inner monologue interesting I decided to use the old and well-tried plot device of sending a policeman on holiday somewhere he can relax, because we all know the way this one is supposed to go. And then I realised that moving Vimes out of his city element and away from his comfort zone was going to be a sheer treat to write.
Gaiman: The Watch fascinate me. You get to do hardboiled police procedurals while still writing funny smart books set in a fantastic world.
Pratchett: On a point of order, Mister Gaiman, the world in which Sam Vimes finds himself is hardly fantastic. Okay, there are goblins, but the overall ambience is that of the shires of Middle England. It’s all about the commonality of humankind. Shove Sam Vimes into a situation that has gone toxic and away he goes, as realistic as any other policeman and thinking in the very same ways and being Sam Vimes, questioning his motives and procedures all the way through.
Gaiman: Did you really say in a previous interview that you’d like to be like Sam Vines? Why?
Pratchett: I don’t think I actually said that, but you know how it is and ‘how it is’ changes as you get older. The author can always delve into his own personality and find aspects of himself with which he can dress his characters. If you pushed me I would say that ever since I stood up and talked about my Alzheimer’s I have been a public figure; I visited Downing Street twice, wrote angry letters to the Times, got into debates in the House of Commons, and generally became a geezer to the extent that I sit here sometimes bewildered and think to myself, “Actually, your job is to sit here writing another book. Changing the world is for other people...” and then I come back to myself with, “No it isn’t!” And so, bearing in mind that these days, people call a kid from the council houses “Sir” allows me to create a mindset for Vimes.
Gaiman: On a piece about writing in the New York Times, Carl Hiaasen (a writer you started me reading on the Good Omens tour), wrote, “Every writer scrounges for inspiration in different places, and there's no shame in raiding the headlines. It's necessary, in fact, when attempting contemporary satire. Sharp-edged humor relies on topical reference points... Unfortunately for novelists, real life is getting way too funny and far-fetched.” Does the Discworld as a setting allow you to escape from that? Or is it a tool that lets you raid the headlines in ways people might not expect?
Pratchett: I think that’s the commonality of humankind again. I hope that everyone in Discworld is a recognisable and understandable character and so sometimes I can present them with modern and contemporary problems, such as Mustrum Ridcully getting his head around homosexuality.
In truth, I never have to go looking for this stuff; I turn to find it smacking me in the face. I was very pleased when Making Money came out just before the banking crisis and everyone said I had predicted it. It was hardly difficult.
Gaiman: How has the Discworld changed over the years?
Pratchett: I suppose the simple answer is that there is still humour, but the gags are no longer set up; they are derived from characters’ personalities and situations. These days the humour seems to arrive of its own accord.
Gaiman: How has writing the Discworld novels changed how you see the world?
Pratchett: I think it more true that getting older changes how you see the world. There is stuff in Snuff, for example, that I couldn’t have written at 25. Although I had written things before Discworld, I really leaned writing, on the job as it were, on Discworld. I think that the books are, if not serious, dealing with more serious subjects. These days it’s not just for laughs. My world view had changed; sometimes I feel that the world is made up of sensible people who know that plot and bloody idiots who don’t. Of course, all Discworld fans know the plot by heart!
Gaiman: How has writing the Discworld novels changed how the world sees you?
Pratchett: Has it? My agent pointed out one day that I had been quoted by a columnist in some American newspaper, and he noted with some glee that they simply identified me by name without reminding people who I was, apparently in the clear expectation that their readers would know who I am. I have quite a large number of honorary doctorates; I am a professor of English at Trinity College Dublin and a fellow of King’s College London, on top of all the other stuff, including the knighthood. However, when it gets to the sub-editors I am always going to be that writer of wacky fantasy, though I have to say that dismissiveness is getting rarer and rarer.
Gaiman: Are you respectable?
Pratchett: Is this a trick question? If so, then I shall say yes. Generally speaking I try to obey the law, pay my taxes (of which there are an enormous lot), give to charity, and write letters to the Times that they print.
It’s a weird term, respectable; isn’t ‘respek’ what every street kid wants and might possibly expect at the point of a knife? I certainly get involved with things and shortly after finishing this interview will be annoying my local MP. It’s fun. Discworld and the Alzheimer’s together have given me a platform.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Back Cover
For nearly three decades, Terry Pratchett has enthralled millions of fans worldwide with his irreverent, wonderfully funny satires set in the fabulously imaginative Discworld, a universe remarkably similar to our own. From sports to religion, politics to education, science to capitalism, and everything in between, Pratchett has skewered sacred cows with both laughter and wisdom, and exposed our warts, foibles, and eccentricities in a unique, entertaining, and ultimately serious way.
At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.
Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.
Hailed as the “purely funniest English writer since Wodehouse” (Washington Post Book World), with a “satirist’s instinct for the absurd and a cartoonist’s eye for the telling detail” (Daily Telegraph, London), Terry Pratchett offers a novel of crime, class, prejudice, and punishment that shows this master at his dazzling best.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- Publication Date : October 11, 2011
- File Size : 1688 KB
- Publisher : Harper; Reprint edition (October 11, 2011)
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #54,608 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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NOT SPOILERS, BUT HINTS FOLLOW. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK]
Without getting too far into it, I'll just say that some of the monologues were unusually long for Vimes, and there were times when, especially Sybil, Willikins, and Fred Colon make me say, "Huh?" Hearing Lady Sybil bluntly repeat the same curse word within a couple sentences was awkward, out of character, and forced. Yes, we get it, Willikins is a bad ass. And poor Fred, while known for not being the biggest fan of some species (see Men At Arms), has been lazily upgraded to token "racist" to help the moral of the story along.
Again, I like the story and it's made my bedtime audiobook list like so many other Discworld books. Apart from a few odd or cringey parts, it's great. So far I much prefer it to Raising Steam which I am having a heckuva time getting into and enjoying, despite being a fan of Moist. Going Postal was great. Making Money was less so based partially on the bold injection of his particular (and rudimentary) economic philosophy. Still, it's clearly Pratchett doing the writing and that means it's well written. Raising Steam? Meh...I'm hoping it grows on me. But I digress.... 🤣
Top reviews from other countries
The plot: Sam Vimes goes down to his wife's country estate, finds out some goblins have been abducted, solves the case. Token appearances by characters from previous books. Vimes obsesses about social class, his ghastly son obsesses about faeces. Everyone - especially Vimes - talks in weirdly Dickensian circumlocutions; and there must be a prize for the number of times the word 'copper' is used.
I've read and loved the whole Discworld canon, but this entry was turgid, repetitive, clumsy and hopelessly over-written. Poor Terry must have been very ill by this stage, but why on earth didn't the publishers edit it? How could they let it go out in this state? How could they let lovely Sam Vimes turn into a sanctimonious bore? The bones of a good story can be seen through the flab, and a bit of sharp editing could have made a half decent book of it.
If you have never read a Discworld book, please don't start with this one. The wit, grace, humour, observation, humanity, sharp satire and sheer linguistic genius we associate with Pratchett are absent from this leaden travesty.
But there is, very definitely, a falling off of style. Pratchett was always a very sharp, clear, & purposeful writer. Here, plot, prose, and humour are all laboured & ponderous, and the themes? Well, sometimes he made some very pointed observations about our own world in the guise of the Disc, but they never got in the way of the story. In Snuff he is clumsy & moralistic; overt instead of subtle. He went from being an authorial assassin with a dancing pen, to a troll hitting you over the head with a club.
There's little point in me saying anything about the plot; the blurb & other reviews will say more than enough. Instead here's some examples of how the plot has been lost. Vetinari, in earlier novels, was a man of significant expressions & few words. He appears in the first few pages, taking 3 & 4 dozen words to say what formerly would have been expressed in 6 spoken words & A Look. Like much of the book, the passages are laboured, over-written & over-explained. Vimes reaches his country estate & goes for a walk with Willikins & Young Sam. Not only does it take pages over a passage that formerly would have been only paras & is only weakly humorous at best, the joke, such as it is, is undermined within two pages. You have the laboured & over-done 'Vimes is a city copper who knows nothing of the countryside', including a meadow "full of what he chose to label as cows". Two pages later, we're told Vimes recognises heifers & bullocks because he's walked round the slaughterhouse district so many times.
Had Pratchett already forgotten what he'd earlier written, did the assistant not point this out to him, or did he declare that that was just fine? And immediately following that is another over-written attempt at humour where he feels the need to use the word 'copper' 8 times in half a para. This isn't an aberration. Much of the weak humour in the book relies on bad puns & lame word play. Bhangbhangduc cookery features again & again, with dishes given stupid (not funny, unless you've a very juvenile sense of humour) names such as Hang Suck Butt Dog. The 'copper' thing turns up again & again. "I didn't go to see in case I saw, sir, see" with another several 'see / seen / saw sirs' to follow in the next couple of sentences. "Tom spat on his hand, Dick spat on his hand, then they shook hands, money changed hands, and Harry hoped it washed its hands after." Then you've got the almost endless sentences, running on for half & three-quarters of a page (sentence often equalling paragraph) stitched together with "ands" & the sentences that start with "And" even when a full-stop has been used!
The truth is that if somebody handed you this book in plain covers with all the names changed to protect the innocent (well, the Discworld setting, at least!), you might think this is a poor quality attempt at Discworld style humour. You certainly wouldn't recognise it as Sir Terry's writing. Indeed, by the time you're 3/4 of the way through the feeling will grow to a near certainty - this may be Discworld & it may be his ideas. But this isn't his writing. The most telling point is that characters, especially familiar & much-loved ones such as Vimes & Vetinari, don't talk as they used to; if it weren't that they have the name, you simply would not recognise them. This is almost painful to read at times; Pratchett never wrote that poorly even 5 years earlier, nor did he clumsily whack you over the head with points, prose, or humour.
Officially, Amazon's 2* rating is "I don't like it". I do still like Snuff, of course. It's the Discworld; there's still enough good storytelling, good writing & humour in it to not be a bad book. But it's a 4/10 effort that sadly suffers by comparison with the earlier Discworld canon. I'll go further. I was in on Discworld almost from the very beginning, reading Colour of Magic & Light Fantastic in sequence before Equal Rites came out. More than one reviewer here declares this the best Discworld novel ever; far from it. If someone ran a poll for the Worst Ever, I suspect one of the early works; Equal Rites perhaps, or Sourcerer; might "win". But me? My vote would go to Snuff. It's still worth reading, but don't expect too much of it; Pratchett would never have let this off his computer in the Noughties!
Tackling complex issues with humour, empathy and Sam Vimes
Sam Vimes goes on holiday to Ramkin Hall in the countryside. Vimes is out of his element, but the law is the law, and the nudge, nudge, wink, wink attitude of the landed gentry is about to meet the upholder of the law; his grace Samuel Vimes, or should that be Commander Vimes.