Vimes thought for a moment and said, ‘Well, dear, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man with a lot of wood must be in want of a wife who can handle a great big–
I can’t believe we’re already half a year into this blog, and this is the first time I talk about a Terry Pratchett novel!
For those of you who are unaware (there are not too many of you left!), Terry Pratchett was a fantasy novelist with possibly the longest series ever. His Discworld series spans 50 novels, all loosely connected stand alone stories, with varying protagonists and settings. (You can read this series in any order!) Pratchett’s style is humourous high fantasy, filled to the brim with political and philosophical satire. However, as with any series, not all his novels are as great (or even good) as some others. I for instance loved The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (including the movie!), but could not bring myself to finish Moving Pictures – and I’m not sure where my copy of Raising Steam has gone.
Yes, I will have to agree with any and all critics of this series in that a series this long will inevitably have some bad installments in it. It totally does. However, there are also some true shining diamonds here, and one of them I will discuss here today.
Snuff is my first City Watch novel (which means that it is mainly about characters involved with the Ankhmopork City Watch), and it’s amazing.
The story is about the Commander of the Watch, Lord Vimes, whose wife dragged him away to her country estate for a forced holiday. He’s a Bruce Willis-esque hard ass, who seems unable to escape trouble – and who dearly loves his wife. Vimes feels intensely uncomfortable without the hustle and bustle – and smell – of the city. But when a goblin girl gets brutally murdered and he gets the blame, he falls into his zone trying to uncover the deep, dark conspiracy lurking in the sleepy countryside.
This novel does several clever things with its form (yes I know it was the author that did the clever things, but I’ll just personify the novel instead). Because of the setting it’s a historical drama, with balls, lords, ladies and dowries. Because of its story, it’s a detective. Because of the tone, it’s a satirical comedy.
This novel is the prime example to demonstrate that such an odd mixture of tones and forms is not only possible, but can elevate a story way beyond its constraints.
It also doesn’t explain every aspect of the world it is set in to you, just the bare basics you’ll need to know to understand what’s going on. This makes you feel more immersed quicker than you would if there were just chunks of exposition littered throughout the long text. This is indeed quite the long read for a Discworld novel, but it is still too short. It is exactly the right length to make you fall hard and fast for Commander Vimes, his family, and the world they live in.
A large portion of the novel deals with the struggle for goblin equality. In a world where trolls, dwarves, vampires and werewolves are all accepted members of society, only the goblins are still considered so far removed from humans as to be considered vermin. Commander Vimes is one of the few people who considers this wrong, and part of his journey in this story is to convince others of the goblins’ humanity.
Personally, I cannot help but read this as a race allegory. It’s quite moving in that way, and it does show how ingrained inequality is in society, how hard and long the struggle for equality is, and how people can have dangerous mindsets without realising it. Hats off to you, Mr. Pratchett!
This novel is truly amazing, a must read for fans of fantasy, crime novels, or period dramas. It will make you laugh, love and cry, and I think that’s pretty neat.
As for the tea to go with it, after some deliberation I’ve decided it would have to be a Russian Caravan, based on the character of Vimes himself. On the one hand he’s a hardened cop, marked by the dark and disturbing things he’s seen, feeling the pull of the dark side even within himself – something which calls for a smokey, robust flavour. On the other hand he’s a loving husband and father, reading with his son and going on expeditions, and doing anything his wife asks of him – even giving up bacon. Also he loves pillows, which is cute. These traits demand a lighter, more delicate note.
In comes Russian Caravan, a black tea blend which attempts to recreate the flavour of Chinese black teas as drunk by campfires whilst being transported to Russia. I think this is a great fit, as it captures all the aspects of Vimes’ personality – and would be something his wife would actually allow him to drink!
So drop yourself in a sea of pillows, leaving you only enough light to read this wonderful book and drink your warming and complex Russian Caravan, and prepare yourself to get lost for hours.