I think I might just be in love with Sam Vimes, Blackboard Monitor and all. Usually the main characters in the Discworld are nice, funny and quite clever in their own ways. But I tend not to find them lovely. Commander Vimes is. Very.
Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel Snuff, is actually a crime novel. This surprised me so much that I began thinking back to a few older Discwold novels to see if they were all about crime, and I just hadn’t noticed. But I think what happens is that each book is about a person, and the ‘genre’ is determined by what they like doing, or do best.
And Sam Vimes is a policeman and he goes looking for crime. He might officially be on holiday, but a man needs something to do. Stumbling on kidnappings and murder seems very appropriate. Except for the victims.
I tend to think of there being two kinds of main characters in Terry’s books. One is where we are introduced to a brand new person, and the other is where we return to someone we have met before. There is something very reassuring about meeting up with old friends. And Sam has been mentioned once or twice in the past…
This is a moral story about equality for all, and about how some people use their wealth and position to abuse others, and how you can grow with your task, and about seeing in the dark. It is also, as Terry told me a year ago, about poo. And snot. And that’s not as childish as it sounds, although Young Sam is extremely fascinated by poo.
Goblins are people, just like a troll or a dwarf or everyone else. Even the Nac Mac Feegle are people, albeit tiny ones. Sam Vimes does a lot of thinking on the subject, and he realises he needs to make sure goblins are no longer seen as vermin.
It feels to me as though there is less of the laugh-out-loud humour in Snuff, and more of the warm, quiet kind of humour that I associate with Terry himself, and the novel is all the better for it. Terry Pratchett might actually be Sam Vimes. And I couldn’t help noticing that the book is dedicated to Rob. I wonder if he really is Willikins, the lovely Commander’s gentleman’s gentleman? I want a Willikins. He strikes me as a most useful kind of person to have around. Just in case.