AS Byatt’s review of Terry Pratchett’s Snuff is certainly interesting, with a great deal of detail included on several levels. However, there is always room for improvement, which is something she seems to forget along the way of writing her review.
Byatt begins with an introduction to the context behind the title of the book, “Snuff”, which draws the attention in a way not many reviewers think to do. I personally have never before read a review in which the title itself has been broken down, and so this makes a pleasant change. These small bits of detail are what make for a good review, and it’s refreshing to see other similar snippets, such as the referral to past works of Pratchett’s. Whilst having this included makes the read more understandable for those who were already familiar with Pratchett’s writing, it may cause new readers to turn off slightly, as it can be unclear as to which book Byatt is referring – a previous Discworld work, or Snuff? Quite often the lack of clarity results from the numerous characters mentioned within the review, without a clear outlining of where each of these characters have originated from in the series and who remain present in this new release.
Perhaps a hint of bias can be detected also, as not a single negative word seems to pass at Byatt’s fingertips. Whilst Pratchett’s success goes a long way to prove how popular his narrative is, surely the point of a reviewer is to pick out not only the little things they love, but those that didn’t quite work? I can only assume that Byatt has become so fond of the author here that she does not wish to criticise which is a shame, as the whole article seems to become an advert for Pratchett rather than a well balanced critique. Unless, of course, Mr Pratchett truly is an utterly flawless ‘master storyteller’. Which he very well may be.
However, credit must be given where it is due. It appears that Byatt herself may not be the master of humour, but she has skillfully overcome this matter in quite a clever way – instead of making her own jokes about the book, she instead directs us to the humour to be found within; “he has a natural tendency to imagine creatures intricately and charitably, so he gives us Mr Otto von Chriek, a photographer who has taken the “black ribbon” vow of teetotalism and has to be reconstituted with drops of blood every time he explodes himself with his camera flash.” By basically summarising this particular character, Byatt has given us a taste of Pratchett’s own hilarity, which is certainly appreciated as his wild imagination is probably what has anchored his success as an author.
You will find that Byatt may not be the best reviewer you will ever come across, but she has not failed to deliver an insightful detailed review, at least, even if a few tweaks would be more than beneficial, along with a reminder that it is okay to criticise your heroes every now and again.
Original review can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/21/snuff-terry-pratchett-review