Snuff 'n' Stuff

I've been reading the latest Terry Pratchett - a police procedural titled 'Snuff'. Which means I've had the curious sensation of a book which irritates the hell out of me, but which I still enjoy reading.

I stopped being a fan of 'PTerry' more than a dozen books ago, when he started to believe the reviewers who insisted he wasn't 'only' a humorist - he was a Serious Writer dealing with Weighty Issues. So now we get a lot fewer jokes, a lot more characterisation...and Issues.

The Issue here seems to be class war - or rather the fantasy that there are three kind of people in the world: Poor idiots, rich idiots, and implacable heroes who are somehow outside matters of rich and poor, looking in, understanding everything, being cynical about it but fixing the problems caused by everyone else being an idiot. Using methods that are of course justified because it's the hereos using them.

The heroes are: The coppers. Police - incorruptible, unstoppable, serving only justice. 'Snuff' is a fantasy in more than one sense.

Pratchett is actually a very good writer - in the sense that his mastery of sentence and paragraph structure, pacing and plot, metaphor and expression are highly impressive.

It's just the Message behind the story, which is anviliciously and repeatedly hammered home. The notion that society needs lone heroes accountable only to their own (miraculously blemishless) conscience. The message is both pernicious and nonsensical - and I rather get the impression that the author is slipping into writing books to get messages across, rather than to tell a story.

Pratchett recently presented a very good, serious documentary on assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Obviously there are no coherent arguments against euthanasia, and he wasted little time demolishing the pretend ones. But he made some excellent points - especially that in the case of degenerative brain disease, a person who has the intellectual capacity to chose instant painless death to escape a lingering painful by definition not yet at the point where their life isn't worth living. If you want to chop off the pointless part of your life, you also have to chop of some of the good part.

Exactly why a multi-millionaire comic fantasy writer should be the one to tell us what any intelligent thirteen year old could work out in the programme's running time, I'm not sure. Maybe Dame Stephen Fry wasn't available.

But it's never good when we rely on professional light entertainers to do our thinking for us. And it's never good when they start to enjoy the role.

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