06 June 2015

Books: Hogsfather -Terry Pratchett (1997)

I was starting Thief of Time when I realized that the next book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series that featured Death was Hogswatch. So I put down that book and picked up…well…Hogswatch, the 20th Discworld novel and the fourth to feature, as noted a few lines ago, Death. Like most of Pratchett's books, there's always bitd of social commentary about our own lives running through his allegories, so why not take on the grandaddy of all holidays but Christmas. Of course, here it's called Hogsfather, with a jolly old fat man who rides around in a sleigh pulled by four large boars named Gouger, Rooter, Tusker, and Snouter. And like good old Santa Claus, the Hogfather flies around Discworld dispensing gifts, via the chimney (all while soaking up the sherry). But the Auditors, who have no particular like for Death (whom seems to be getting more "human" everyday) throw a wrench into the universe wheel works and hire an assassin to "kill" Hogsfather -well as much as you can kill a God. But Death will not have any of this and decides to step in and take over the duties of being Hogsfather.
Meanwhile, Susan Sto-Helit, the granddaughter of Death, has landed a governess job to two lovable children. Trying, it seems, to be normal Susan still finds herself embroiled in her grandfather's odd choices. When she learns what Death is up to, she confronts him. She wants to know why the Hogfather is dead and why he is taking over for him. Of course he refuses to answer her and tells her it's none of her business. But Susan being Susan decides to find out oh her own and she is joined by the Death of Rats, a smart talking raven and the God of Hangovers that will lead her to the Tooth Fairy and the answer to what happens with all the teeth that are collected. 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.
Belief and superstition is at the heart of this book. And because humans need these two traits, or as Death points out "HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN" (he always speaks in capital letters). But The Auditors, who like an orderly universe, just think that anyone who would accept such a strange being as the Hogfather being real is clogging up their view of an orderly universe, so they go to extraordinary means at which to change this (without, of course, becoming totally "involved"). As always, the best part of these books is Death's inability and innate naivete on how human beings work -our many contradictions and other social absurdities confuse him. But Death has grown a bit since Mort, and as he interacts more with Susan (and his servant Albert) he is beginning to see the humans that live on Discworld are more interesting than he first thought. 

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