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Hogfather
Terry Pratchett
HarperPrism, 292 pages


Art: Rodger De Muth
Hogfather
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

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A review by Todd Richmond

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Hogfather is the latest Terry Pratchett book to arrive on U.S. shores. I say it this way because it's been available to British fans since 1996. The subject of Hogfather is that most sacred of commercial holidays, Christmas. Except on Discworld, it's called Hogswatch, the jolly old fat man is the Hogfather, and he rides around in a sleigh pulled by four large boars named Gouger, Rooter, Tusker and Snouter. Like Santa Claus, the Hogfather goes about climbing down chimneys and leaving presents for children. But this year, things are a little different. The Hogfather seems to have gone on a diet because he's nothing but skin and bones -- well, actually, just bones. It seems the Hogfather has died and Death has stepped in to take over.

The Death of Rats is busy warning Susan Sto-Helit what Death is up to when he drops down her chimney. Susan is a governess with a few special talents. You see, Susan is Death's granddaughter. The daughter of Death's adopted daughter and her husband, Death's former apprentice, Susan can see things that most people can't, can walk through walls, has a strangely commanding voice, and packs a mean poker for thumping monsters. Susan demands an explanation and Death reveals that the Hogfather is dead. When Susan demands to know why he is doing this, he refuses to answer and tells her it's not her business.

"She'll try to find out what this is all about, you know," said Albert.
OH DEAR.
"Especially after you told her not to."
YOU THINK SO?
"Yeah," said Albert.
DEAR ME. I STILL HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT HUMANS, DON'T I?
"Oh...I dunno..." said Albert.
OBVIOUSLY IT WOULD BE QUITE WRONG TO INVOLVE A HUMAN IN ALL THIS. THAT IS WHY, YOU WILL RECALL, I CLEARLY FORBADE HER TO TAKE AN INTEREST.
"Yeah...you did..."
(Death always speaks in capitals, and Albert, of course, is Death's trusty assistant.)

So Susan begins her investigation. She's joined by the Death of Rats, an annoying talking raven, and the God of Hangovers. Also on the case (though they don't know it), are the intellectual elite of Unseen University. The wizards, led by Archchancellor Ridcully, are working on the problem of mysteriously appearing gods. Gods are popping out of thin air -- the God of Indigestion, the Eater of Socks, the Cheerful Fairy and the Wisdom Tooth Goblin, to name just a few.

Like most of Pratchett's books, Hogfather has its share of social commentary. The subject, of course, is Christmas and all that is associated with the holiday. As Death plays the role of the Hogfather he questions many of the traditions of Hogswatch. Death's naiveté about the mundane world brings plenty of opportunity to comment on life's many contradictions and absurdities.

Hogfather is yet another novel of Discworld. THIS IS A GOOD THING. I loved the book, as I've loved all of the Discworld novels. Pratchett shows no sign of running out of steam with the Discworld novels. Perhaps that's because he has so many interesting characters to chose from and focuses on different sets of them in each book. My only piece of advice is that it's helpful to have read the other Discworld novels, especially the ones involving Death, to fully enjoy Hogfather. But you should have done that anyway! Collect them all so you can read them over and over. Happy Hogswatch!

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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