DISCWORLD DISCUSSIONS: Snuff (2011)

A look at the last Sam Vimes story in Discworld.

As I come to the end of ‘Snuff’, it suddenly hits me that I only have two books left on this re-read, now that I’ve finished this one. I think the reason it really struck me is because this is, essentially, the last Sam Vimes story.

He is going to appear briefly, if I remember, in the next one, ‘Raising Steam’, but this is his last big hurrah. He’s the first major character to come to the end of his story, if you don’t count Rincewind, and I want to briefly explore his character arc with that in mind. Some readers and fans are not particularly nice about these last few books (for more on this, see my previous ‘I Shall Wear Midnight‘ article), and I know that ‘Snuff’ in particular is one of the books that they pinpoint as a weak spot.

I am inclined to say that whilst I agree it is not the strongest Watch novel, as a finale to their story, it is a very good one. Sir Terry did not know that this was going to be the last Watch novel of course; I seem to remember several sources at the time of his death talking about how the one after ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ was going to be a Watch story, and as he did not know, most of the characters aside from Sam are probably neglected a little bit. Detritus and Angua, for example, have very little to do here, which is a shame for his last appearance. The focus is on Sam, for the most part, because he has been forced out of town on a holiday. Of course, the odds of Samuel Vimes actually enjoying a holiday are slim to none, as he becomes caught up in a murder mystery.

‘Snuff’ does such a great job of finishing off Sam Vimes’ story because it is the perfect example of character growth and change. When we first met him back in ‘Guards! Guards”’, he was a drunken police captain who was in charge of a force of three people, including himself. He was reluctant to even take on a dwarf, let alone a troll. Now he is a duke, a happily married father, in charge of a metropolitan Watch; dwarves, trolls, gargoyles, vampires, werewolves, golems and a Feegle rub shoulders with humans, and everyone is much happier for it.

‘Snuff’ revolves around the issue of goblin rights, pretty much the last race on the Disc who is treated as vermin. When someone murders a goblin, they really haven’t murdered anyone at all. Except when Sam comes along, he doesn’t even blink anymore; a goblin has as much right to life as anyone else and damn anyone who disagrees. He puts as much effort into solving this murder as he does any other, and he genuinely feels it too. His rage when the murderer, Stanford, stamps on the goblin Stinky is palpable. I for one am glad that his last real adventure was so ardently defending a race of people that he once would have dismissed.

This is the only story where we get to spend much time with Young Sam, who has reached the grand old age of six in this novel. Young Sam is exactly the kind of child you would expect to be raised by Lady Sybil, Sam Vimes and the slightly insane affections of the rest of the Watch. He is happy, sure of himself, fiercely intelligent and on track to becoming the world expert in poo. He has even less inhibitions than his parents when it comes to other races; his only concern when he meets the goblins are whether they will share their biscuits with him. I’ve talked a bit about how Vetinari, Vimes and Sybil, Archchancellor Ridcully, William de Worde and Moist Von Lipwig are changing the face of Ankh-Morpork, and it is encouraging to think that the future of the city, and indeed the Disc, lies firmly in the hands of youngsters like Young Sam and Tiffany Aching.

Coming to the end of the Discworld story, one can only hope that Sir Terry would have been happy too with the outcomes of his precious world.

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