Saturday, 19 December 2009

Book Review: Hogfather

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Category: Fiction

Challenge: 2010 Terry Pratchett Challenge and 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge

Synopsis: From the back of the book “It’s the night before Hogswatch and it’s too quiet.

Where is the jolly fat man? Why is Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho? The darkest night of the year is getting a lot darker…

Susan the gothic governess has got to sort it out by morning, otherwise there won’t be a morning. Ever again…

The 20th Discworld novel is a festive feast of darkness and Death (but with jolly robins and tinsel too).

As they say: You’d better watch out…”

My Thoughts:
I have a great fondness for the Discworld novels in general and for novels about Death in particular. This novel was a re-read for me but it has been many years. It didn’t disappoint this second time around either.

Pratchett manages to paint a picture of a world that is profoundly different from the one we in habit but at the same time the world is exactly the same. He pokes fun at those traditions that everyone in the western world will recognize even if they themselves do not take part in them. Take for example this quote:
“Death looked at the sacks.
It was a strange but demonstrable fact that the sacks of toys carried by the Hogfather, no matter what they really contained, always appeared to have sticking out of the top a teddy bear, a toy soldier in the kind of colourful uniform that would stand out in a disco, a drum and a red-and-white candy cane. The actual contents always turned out to be something a bit garish and costing $5.99”  (pg84)
I guess that I am not the only person who looks at the pictures of Santa with a certain amount of scepticism.

Not to mention the fact that as the daughter and sister of computer nerds I loved all the sections with Hex (the machine the student wizards at the UU are building). I especially liked this exchange:
“I don’t actually think’, he said gloomily, ‘that I want to tell the Archchancellor that this machine stops working if we take its fluffy teddy bear away. I just don’t think I want to live in that kind of world.’
‘Er,’ said Mad Drongo, ‘you could always, you know, sort of say it needs to work with the FTB enabled…?’
‘You think that’s better?’ said Ponder, reluctantly. It wasn’t as if it was even a very realistic interpretation of a bear.
‘You mean, better than “fluffy teddy bear”?’
Ponder nodded. ‘It’s better,’ he said” (pg441)
He makes astute observations on what it means to be human and what we humans expect out of life.

The book contains all the usual suspects, including the senior wizards at the Unseen University, who, as per usual, manage to make the situation worse while thinking that they are making it better.

Apart from Death the main character of this book is his granddaughter Susan. Susan tries very hard to be a perfectly normal human, thankyouverymuch, but this is somewhat hard when your hair’s default position is a prim bun, you see imaginary monsters and you can do the voice. Susan ends up being the heroine of this book after her grandfather expressly tells her to not get involved.

As with most of Pratchett’s books you don’t really have to have read any of them before to understand what is going on, but it certainly helps.

I find it very difficult to review Pratchett’s books because his writing is so fantastic in its wit and irony. I sometimes wonder if you have to be a certain personality type to enjoy them. My best friend and I discovered them in high school and we are both cynical and ironic (as only two 17 year olds can be). Our favourite teacher was our very acerbic history teacher who definitely did not have rose coloured glasses on. In addition to this she taught us to observe humans and human behaviour so Pratchett’s books which are very much about the human condition fit very well into what we were already learning. I am naturally an observer of people and cultures and I find his observations to be spot on.

The Miniseries

There is also an excellent miniseries that I haven’t seen in a while but I highly recommend!

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1 comment:

Aarti said...

I love this book! I love all books featuring Death (in Discworld, that is). I hope to re-read Mort one of these days.