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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather is one of Pratchett's Discworld novels, and my Christmas reading for the year.  If you haven't read one of the Discworld books yet, you must.  Pratchett has created an alternate universe loaded with parodies of fantasy conventions, satires of the modern world, and lots and lots of silliness.  This book is no different -- on Hogswatchnight, someone has hired the Assasin's Guild to take out the Hogfather, with major consequences to Discworld's faith/mythology/deity complex.  Death (arguably the best character Pratchett has created) steps in to contain the damage, donning a red suit and fake belly and trying his best to be jolly, while his exceedingly practical granddaughter tries to figure what happened, with the help of a new deity, the oh god of hangovers.

Not surprisingly, this book had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion (to the consternation of my fellow commuters).  But such broad comedy would be tiring to read after a while, if it weren't for the fact that Pratchett manages to work in profound insight into the human condition -- a testament to his intelligence and skill.  Underneath all the flying pigs, adorable tots, verruca gnomes, incompetent wizards, and mince pies and sherries, Hogfather is really about the power of mythology, and the necessity of faith.  I'm hard-pressed to come up with a more succinct description than this:
"You mean sort of fear and awe and not knowing whether to laugh or cry or wet their pants?"

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