Anyway! Snuff! When I reviewed Dodger, I said I liked the book but I was disappointed that it wasn't about a young Sam Vimes in Discworld. And then I read Snuff and I admit that I am disappointed that this book isn't about a young Sam Vimes in Discworld, too.
Instead, it's about Sam Vimes as Commander of the City Watch, Duke of Ankh, devoted husband and doting father. He takes a family vacation to the country and, of course, stumbles upon some trouble. A goblin girl has been murdered, and when Vimes starts investigating, he comes upon the appalling realization that people believe goblins are vermin and they treat them (or mistreat them) as such. Thus, Vimes, with the help of his glorious wife Sybil and his very capable valet Wilikins, set out to make all right with the world again.
I love Discworld, but I've missed the City Watch a lot in the past several outings. I was excited to get back to the characters I love in this book. But, and I can't quite believe I'm saying this, I almost wish this book wasn't centered on Commander Vimes.
The thing is, Sam Vimes' story is no longer the most interesting one in Ankh-Morpork, or even in the City Watch. There are so many fantastic, fascinating characters in the City Watch with such untapped potential that Viimes could still make Death-like cameos and save the day without needing to be the centerpoint of the story, because there's not that much more of his story to tell. I wish we got more of Carrot and Angua and Cheery instead, as they must be chock-full of stories.
But at least with Vimes, we get Sybil, and she is really awesome. I have said it in pretty much every Pratchett book I've ever reviewed, but Pratchett is such a feminist and writes such satisfyingly intelligent women, that I want to give a copy of his Tiffany Aching series to every single epic fantasy writer out there.
This book, though, is not about Sybil. It's about oppression and institutional racism and the horrible, numbing effects it can have on both the perpetrators and the victims. There are some truly ugly things that happen in this novel, and Pratchett doesn't shy away from sharing the details or the consequences of those actions. But as always, these are balanced by humor and trust and friendship.
I don't think Snuff is the strongest book in the City Watch series - so many of the books in this series confront racism in some form that it's hard to keep the stories fresh and different - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth reading. It confronts a lot of hard topics that are ripe for discussion and that should be acknowledged. But I think many of those topics were dealt with better in previous books centered on the Watch, and I would recommend those before this one, particularly as this one draws so heavily from the happenings in Thud!, a book that I wish I remembered better than I do.
Note: I listened to this book on audio. I am not sure if that was a good decision. On the one hand, the narrator was brilliant - he did so many different voices and accents that I really got a sense of the huge diversity of characters. On the other hand - he did so many different voices and accents that I got very absorbed in trying to figure out if that accent matched up with the accent I expected for that particular character and they didn't always match up. So... you decide what's best for you!
Note 2: There is no Death cameo in this book, and there was just such a PERFECT scene for him to come, I was so sad not to see him arrive in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.