Terry Pratchett’s Snuff

Regular readers of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasies will need no encouragement to buy this quirky whodunit.

For them it will be familiar territory and they will already be fans of Pratchett’s wonderful sense of humour and wacky thinking which make him such a masterful story-teller.

Snuff is that addictive (because of the nicotine) tobacco substance often sniffed by old ladies. It makes them sneeze. It also means “to extinguish” as in to snuff out a candle. In this extinguishing context it has the sinister overtones of death. To “snuff it” means “to die”, often before one would do so if it were left entirely to natural causes, as in “snuff movies”.

The book involves a tobacco plantation in Howondaland where Lord Rust has been forcing goblins to manufacture cheap cigars. Vimes who is on holiday with his son, Young Sam, at the family mansion of his wife, Lady Sybil, teams up with a constable, Upshot, and they arrest the criminals and, through the philanthropic work of Lady Sybil, the goblins get granted proper rights as citizens by all major nations.

The parallels with South African society are all too obvious to those of us who wish to see them. The long arm of the law for the most part is corrupt. Look out for the abuses of the privileges that go with powerful positions, the misappropriation of monies entrusted to people who should be using them for the good of all, the turning of a blind eye to the mistreatment of others on the grounds that they are not human. Yes, the goblins smell and are dim and steal. South Africans have lived with these prejudices before. We have pledged that we never will again. But some things are part of humanity’s base desires wherever they find themselves. We as a society need people like Vimes.

Pratchett, in an interview, once said that he never goes looking for plots, they smack him in the face. We need not go looking for parallels; they smack us in the fact.

Perhaps this book should be a textbook at the South African Police Academy for there are many practical lessons for good police work. It certainly makes a very nice departure point for people looking at ethical questions relating to the treatment of others. The bottom line, however, is that this is a rip-roaring fun novel which will definitely appeal to almost everyone who enjoys a somewhat bizarre take on their fantasy reading.

Title: Snuff
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publishers: Transworld Publishers (Doubleday)
Distributors: Random House Struik
Year: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-61926-4

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