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Retro Review: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett sadly died earlier this year, leaving us with a mere 40 brilliant and hilarious books set on The Discworld. The Discworld is a flat, disc-shaped planet sitting on the back of four massive elephants, who stand on the back of a giant turtle.

As the Great A’Tuin swims through the universe, we are inching ever closer to Hogswatch Night. December 32nd. A magical night of the year in which the yearly pig slaughter ensures the sun will continue to rise.

Um, I mean, a magical night of the year in which the a fat pig-man travels to world in his sleigh pulled by four massive boars, delivering presents to all the good children and bloody bones socks to all the naughty ones. Good children leave him offerings of pork pies. Nothing says “thank you” like an invitation to cannibalism.

Unfortunately the Hogfather is….unavailable… this year, leaving DEATH to do his best to fill in.

Death’s mostly human granddaughter, Susan, is killing time as a governess when this all goes down, and realizes she needs to do something before it all goes very very wrong….

What follows is a hilarious satirical romp through all the craziness of the winter holidays. Terry Pratchett excels are highlighting the absurd, and no holiday craziness is left unscathed. Whether you plan to spend December 32nd focused on faith, family, ritual, or an orgy of capitalist excess, you will find something to laugh at in this spectacular ride as Susan delves into the mystery of the missing Hogfather, and poor naive DEATH applies logic to Hogswatch.

“I want you to go up there,” he said, “and arrest him!”

“Arrest who, sir?” said Corporal Nobbs.

“The Hogfather!”

“What for, sir?”

“Because he’s sitting up there as bold as brass in his Grotto, giving away presents!”

Corporal Nobbs thought about this. “You haven’t been having a festive drink, have you, sir?” he said hopefully.

“I do not drink!”

“Very wise, sir,” said Constable Visit. “Alcohol is the tarnish of the soul. Ossory, Book Two, Verse Twenty-four.”

“Not quite up to speed here, sir,” said Corporal Nobbs, looking perplexed. “I thought the Hogfather is s’posed to give away stuff, isn’t he?”

This time Mr. Crumley had to stop and think. Up until now he hadn’t quite sorted things out in his head, other than recognizing their essential wrongness.

“This one is an Impostor!” he declared. “Yes, that’s right! He smashed his way into here!”

“Y’know, I always thought that,” said Nobby. “I thought, every year, the Hogfather spends a fortnight sitting in a wooden grotto in a shop in Ankh-Morpork? At his busy time, too? Hah! Not likely! Probably just some old man in a beard, I thought.”

“I meant…he’s not the Hogfather we usually have,” said Crumley, struggling for firmer ground. “He just barged in here!”

“Oh, a different impostor? Not the real impostor at all?”

“Well…yes…no…”

“And started giving stuff away?” said Corporal Nobbs.

“That’s what I said! That’s got to be a Crime, hasn’t it?”

Corporal Nobbs rubbed his nose.

“Well, nearly,” he conceded, not wishing to totally relinquish the chance of any festive remuneration. Realization dawned. “He’s giving away your stuff, sir?”

“No! No, he brought it in with him!”

“Ah? Giving away your stuff, now, if he was doing that, yes, I could see the problem. That’s a sure sign of crime, stuff going missing. Stuff turning up, weerlll, that’s a tricky one. Unless it’s stuff like arms and legs, o’ course. We’d be on safer ground if he was nicking stuff, sir, to tell you the truth.”

I’ve been reading and re-reading Hogfather every December for the last 15 years – and pushing it on anyone foolish enough to ask me for a book for Christmas for at least 10.

Why haven’t you read it already?

I give Hogfather an A+!*

*The two-part movie adaptation is middling at best. Susan and Mister Teatime were horribly miscast. Don’t bother.

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