Snuff, By Terry Pratchett
The Wandering Falcon, By Jamil Ahmad
Alan Turing: The Enigma, By Andrew Hodges
Thinking, Fast And Slow, By Daniel Kahneman
Jubilee, By Shelley Harris

Paperback reviews of the week

Snuff, By Terry Pratchett
Corgi £7.99
**

On the evidence of this novel, Terry Pratchett's Alzheimer's has not yet significantly eroded his creative capacities, for which we must be thankful. This exhibits all the humour and inventiveness of his previous 38 Discworld novels. However, I'm sorry to say that I've never been a fan, although I know he has plenty of admirers, AS Byatt among them. Snuff is the story of hardbitten but decent copper Sam Vines, who takes a holiday from Ankh-Morpork to play country squire, but finds himself involved in a case involving smuggling, murder and slave traffic in goblins. It's full of comic periphrasis and facetiously archaic words ("aforesaid", "endeavour"); characters have an annoying tendency to speechify and the running gags don't so much run as periodically wallop you over the head. The characters seem to be composites drawn from stock – Vines's butler Willikins has a distinct air of Campion's butler Lugg in Margery Allingham's detective stories, though at times his diction seems to owe something to Jeeves. There's also a sharp-eyed lady writer who is a Discworld version of Jane Austen, and a cameo from Wee Mad Arthur Nac Mac Feegle, the violent drunken six-inch Scottish gnome. It's not my cup of tea I'm afraid, but it's well-plotted, eminently readable and Pratchett's heart is clearly in the right place. Those who enjoy his work will most certainly enjoy this.

 

The Wandering Falcon, By Jamil Ahmad
Penguin £8.99
****

Jamil Ahmad's literary debut (published when he was 78) is a collection of linked short stories, set in the harsh, mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The eponymous wandering falcon (Tor Baz) is an infant in the first story, orphaned when both his parents are murdered in an honour killing in accordance with tribal law. Each story tells of a new stage in his life as he wanders through the region, meeting warlords, mullahs, and prostitutes. Ahmad's spare prose captures the stony beauty of the landscape – and the stony cruelty of the culture. Ahmad neither judges nor sentimentalises but simply shows this soon-to-disappear world, where tribe is more important than state and honour more important than life. The stories have the power and simplicity of fables.

 

Alan Turing: The Enigma, By Andrew Hodges
Vintage £10.99
****

First published in 1983, this biography was reprinted to mark the centenary of Turing's birth and, as Hodges's new preface makes clear, Turing's importance is now even more apparent. Turing is a superb subject for a biography: mathematician of genius who helped break the German codes during the Second World War and who, essentially, invented the computer, archetypal eccentric scientist (even at Bletchley Park he was nicknamed the Prof), and marathon runner (he could have made the British Olympic team in 1948, but an injury ruled him out). Prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, he killed himself in 1954 by eating an apple dipped in cyanide. Hodges's biography is sensitive, sympathetic and uncompromisingly intellectual. The maths is extremely hard work – but helps the lay reader to appreciate the scale of Turing's achievements.

 

Thinking, Fast And Slow, By Daniel Kahneman
Penguin £8.99
****

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman argues that each of us contains (at least) two characters: System 1, an unreasoning self that makes snap judgements, and System 2, a reflective self that makes slow, effortful calculations. Mostly we cruise along in System 1 mode, which gets us by, but for some decisions, like those connected with risk assessment, System 2 is a more accurate, if counter-intuitive guide. Kahneman wants us to employ System 2 more often; he'd like us to learn and use such terms as the Endowment Effect, Anchors, Framing, and Reversion to the Mean in watercooler conversations. It's clever, clear, and it convinced me. Next time I'm at a watercooler, this book will inform my conversation ("Of course Germany didn't play so well in the semi-final – it's reversion to the mean").

 

Jubilee, By Shelley Harris
Phoenix £7.99
****

Satish is a successful cardiologist who, 30 years earlier, was in a photograph that came to be seen as an icon of Britishness: a young Asian boy at a Silver Jubilee street party in 1977, surrounded by white kids and Union Jacks.

The photo has been endlessly reproduced and used in album covers, so that Satish has a kind of unwanted Seven Up fame. Now they want to re-take the photograph with all the original participants – but for Satish this prospect awakens memories too painful to confront. It's an extremely well-crafted story that works both as a study of Satish's struggle to conquer his demons, and of the growing pains of modern, multi-cultural Britain.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum