Following on from A Christmas Carol I decided to keep with the Christmas time and try Terry Pratchett’s cult classic Hogfather to continue the Christmas spirit. This is the first of Terry Pratchett’s books I’d read, though I read his joint venture with Neil Gaiman Good Omens, earlier in the year, so was somewhat familiar with his style.
Hogfather is basically a parody of a Christmas story. The Hogfather (Santa Claus) has disappeared on Hogswatchnight (Christmas). He has been eliminated (basically killed) by the Auditors who keep the universe in check consider such superstitions as messy and illogical. It is up to Death and his granddaughter Susan to restore the Hogfather.
Hogfather is number 20 in the Discworld series and while a certain knowledge of the preceding books is probably beneficial its not essential to enjoy and follow the story (I checked this with Pratchett fans before I started).
Overall I enjoyed the story, though I didn’t love it. It was enjoyable but never fully captured my imagination. It does however raise a number of interesting questions about belief and the meaning of Christmas, including the role of these beliefs and how they came to be. My favourite quote demonstrating this in the book is part of a conversation between Death and Susan near the end of the book:
Death:…YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
Death is the main medium for questioning these matters. He is an interesting character. He is not human and has difficulty understanding humans and their world. Doors and locks pose a particular problem. Death sees the world with the black and white view of a child. He struggles to understand concepts surrounding poverty, wealth and charity viewing them only as fair or unfair. He cannot understand the attempts at rationisliation presented to justify why things are the way they are. In many respects his comments therefore are entirely accurate. In some respects it is reminiscent of what Dickens was trying to convey with A Christmas Carol.
I feel this is a book I will need to re-read at some point. Its something I noticed with Good Omens. You read Pratchett’s books once for the story. You then need to re-read it to fully pick up on things like his social commentary, as well as all the little in-jokes and clues to what is going on.
I’ve struggled with what rating to give. Would I recommend it? Yes. Would I read it again? Yes. Will I read more of Pratchett? More then likely. However as I never fully fell in love with the story I’m only giving it a 3/5. I suspect though that on re-read that rating might change in a positive direction.