The Barnes & Noble Review
A New Discworld
Humorous fantasist Terry Pratchett returns to his beloved and bestselling Discworld, a flat land of untamed imagination where all manner of oddities and absurdities take place. Jingo, the previous novel in the series, Pratchett made full use of his dry wit to take a ludicrous look at the topic of war. Now, in his own inimitable fashion, the author turns his mighty talents to satirizing the Santa Claus myth in Hogfather, where he shows us the ridiculous extent that some will go to in order to destroy, and preserve, the season of giving.
When a bizarre race known only as the Auditors (of reality) decide they want the Hogfather -- Discworld's version of Santa Claus -- rubbed out, they approach the Assassin's Guild, who soon put one of their strangest agents on the task of killing what has always been believed to be a myth. Mr. Teatime is extremely adept at his profession, and the fact that he's completely out of his mind seems only to enhance his already formidable capabilities. Although we soon learn that the Hogfather is only an "anthropomorphic personality," he, like the Tooth Fairy and Death itself, is indeed quite real.
Death, who's still highly intrigued with humanity, decides to replace the Hogfather, doing his best to spread a little cheer. With a fake beard on his fleshless skull, he takes to the sleigh and the four giant hogs on Hogwatch night to hand out toys to all the good Discworld boys and girls. Soon his granddaughter, Susan Sto-Helit, becomes enmeshed in Death's attempt to take over this job, so different from the one he's used todoing. As a governess who's tried her very best to turn her back on the exploits of her grandpa Death, she's constantly at war with the bogeymen that creep into the children's dreams, and eventually she realizes that only she can help put the Hogfather back in his rightful position.
Hogfather, is quite possibly Pratchett's strongest Discworld novel to date, a witty and powerful blending of humor, satire, and often genuinely innovative fantasy. Death has developed over the course of the series to be one of the most whimsical of all characters, as we watch his often fumbling attempts to deal with humanity on a more personal level. Several of these scenes are both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, with Death trying to connect to children but not fully realizing that when a little girl wishes for a sword, he shouldn't hand her a four-foot-long scimitar. Ably assisted by his sidekick, Albert the pixie, Death becomes a kind of everyman hero trying to keep the spirit of the holiday season alive.
Also put to excellent use are the author's trademark footnotes, which lend a distinctive quality to the novel that's not unlike having a close friend muttering quips beneath his breath throughout the narrative. For Pratchett fans, it's never too soon for another delightful Discworld novel, and for those readers who haven't yet encountered his droll jesting and banter, you'll also have a terrific time with the diverting and scintillating Hogfather. One can take Pratchett's work as being either a pointed social satire or simply a madcap romp full of some of the most entertaining characters you're likely to stumble upon. Either way, the reader is in for a wonderfully gratifying treat.
Tom Piccirilli, barnesandnoble.com
Tom Piccirilli,is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentacle, as well as the dark suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including Hot Blood: Fear the Fever.
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Science Fiction Magazine
New York Review of Science Fiction
The funniest parodist working in the field today, period.
For lighthearted escape, with a thoughtful center, you can't do better than...almost any Discworld novel.
Washington Post Book World
San Francisco Chronicle
Unadulterated funwitty, frequently hilarious.
Terry Pratchett is fast, funny and going places. Try him.
A. S. Byatt
Discworld is more complicated and satisfactory than Oz. Truly original. Pratchett creates a brilliant excess of delectable detail!
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Isaac Asimov' Magazine
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The master of humorous fantasy delivers one of his strongest, most conventional books yet. Discworld's equivalent of Santa Claus, the Hogfather (who flies in a sleigh drawn by four gigantic pigs), has been spirited away by a repulsive assassin, Mr. Teatime, acting on behalf of the Auditors who rule the universe and who would prefer that it exhibited no life. Since faith is essential to life, destroying belief in the Hogfather would be a major blow to humanity. It falls to a marvelously depicted Death and his granddaughter Susan to solve the mystery of the disappeared Hogfather, and meanwhile to fill in for him. On the way to the pair's victory, readers encounter children both naughty and nice; gourmet banquets made of old boots and mud; lesser and greater criminals; an overworked and undertrained tooth fairy named Violet; and Bilious, the god of hangovers, among other imaginative concepts. The tone of much of the book is darker than usual for Pratchett--for whom "humorous" has never been synonymous with "silly"--and his satire, too, is more edged than usual. (One scene deftly skewers the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas.") Pratchett has now moved beyond the limits of humorous fantasy, and should be recognized as one of the more significant contemporary English-language satirists. U.K. rights: Victor Gollanz, The Cassell Group; trans., first serial, dramatic, audio rights: Ralph Vicinanza. (Nov.)
VOYA - Tom Pearson
It is Hogswatchnight again, that jolly time of year when the Hogfather brings Discworld girls and boys presents in his sleigh pulled by four pink hogs. But this Hogswatchnight is a little different from previous ones-a stranger is filling in for the mysteriously absent Hogfather. The stranger is an odd character, indeed: a skeleton who carries a scythe as well as a bag of toys.
Why is Death filling in for the Hogfather? It appears that some mysterious beings known as Auditors have decided that the universe would be much more tidy if the people all disappeared from it. To accomplish their objective, the Auditors hire a creepy assassin named Teatime to kill the Hogfather. While Death tries to fill the Hogfather's shoes, his granddaughter Susan, a monster-bashing governess, tries to thwart the evil machinations of the Auditors, Teatime, and Teatime's helpers Banjo, Chickenwire, and Medium Dave. While Susan and her grandfather try to save Discworld, the wizards of Unseen University try to cope with a sudden infestation of supernatural beings like the Hair Loss Fairy, the Eater of Socks, and even the oh god of hangovers. Doing so means making use of Hex, a Discworld computer that consists of some glass tubing, an old ear trumpet, a waterwheel, some sheep skulls, and millions of ants.
Pratchett has once again brought Discworld to life in all its off-kilter glory. I laughed out loud during the scene where Death fills in for the Hogfather as a department store Santa, and is perhaps a tad too literal-minded in his fulfillment of the children's wishes. Death's long-suffering helper, Albert, is a hoot. Hogfather is highly recommended, especially where Pratchett has proven popular in the past.
VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being better written, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults). 1998 (orig.
Pratchett's best-known creation is "Discworld," in particular the fantastic medieval urban city-state Ankh-Morporkh, populated by humans, dwarves, and trolls aligned in a firm social pecking order. A keen observer of human behavior, Pratchett portrays nearly every conceivable type of Earthly people, and they work through social issues as the "Discworld" stories unfold. Jingo takes on discrimination and xenophobia as the crusty Sam Vimes, leader of the city's policing Watch, heads off war with the neighboring land of Klatch. Hogfather is a bit less accessible, possibly because most characters are so abstract. Discworld's equivalent of Santa Claus, the Hogfather has a price on his head. Death plays a large part, and his diminutive rodent counterpart, the Death of Rats, also appears. Death's granddaughter Susan is the worldly heroine who saves the day in this adventure involving the city's Magicians. Similar to the "Discworld" novel Reaper Man, Hogfather is an optional purchase. Jingo is highly recommended, especially if your patrons appreciate British humor. Nigel Planer is a stunning narrator in these stories, delivering a wide range of voices and styles while remaining wonderfully energetic and consistent.--Douglas C. Lord, Hartford P.L., CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Pratchett's 21st Discworld novel to be published in the U.S. examines the nature of belief and reality-and why rich kids get the best toys. The Hogfather, Discworld's jolly, red-suited, gift-giving, anthropomorphic personification of the winter season, is missing, and Death has taken his place. Death's granddaughter, Susan, determined to discover what's behind this, uncovers a plot to assassinate the Hogfather. It's a diabolically clever plan concocted by an assassin who's a few eggs short of a dozen even by Discworld standards. The story is best appreciated in the context of previous novels featuring Death, such as Mort (Bantam, 1989), Reaper Man (Dutton, 1992), and Soul Music (Bantam, 1995).
From the Publisher
"Has the energy of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the inventiveness of Alice in Wonderland...It has also an intelligent wit and a truly original grim and comic grasp of the nature of things."
-A.S. Byatt, Sunday Times
Read an Excerpt
Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.
But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplow driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, raveling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began ...
Something began when the Guild of Assassins enrolled Mister Teatime, who saw things differently from other people, and one of the ways that he saw things differently from other people was in seeing other people as things (later, Lord Downey of the Guild said, "We took pity on him because he'd lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that").
But it was much earlier even than that when most people forgot that the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. Later on they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it's being shed by the deserving*), and then wondered where the stories went.
And earlier still when something in the darkness of the deepest caves and gloomiest forests thought: what are they, these creatures? I will observe them ...
* That is to say, those who deserve to shed blood. Or possibly not. You never quite know with some kids.
And much, much earlierthan that, when the Discworld was formed, drifting onward through space atop four elephants on the shell of the giant turtle, Great A'Tuin.
Possibly, as it moves, it gets tangled like a blind man in a cobwebbed house in those highly specialized little space-time strands that try to breed in every history they encounter, stretching them and breaking them and tugging them into new shapes.
Or possibly not, of course. The philosopher Didactylos has summed up an alternative hypothesis as "Things just happen. What the hell."
The senior wizards of Unseen University stood and looked at the door.
There was no doubt that whoever had shut it wanted it to stay shut. Dozens of nails secured it to the door frame. Planks had been nailed right across. And finally it had, up until this morning, been hidden by a bookcase that had been put in front of it.
"And there's the sign, Ridcully," said the Dean. "You have read it, I assume. You know? The sign which says 'Do not, under any circumstances, open this door'?"
"Of course I've read it," said Ridcully. "Why d'yer think I want it opened?"
"Er ... why?" said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
"To see why they wanted it shut, of course."*
* This exchange contains almost all you need to know about human civilization. At least, those bits of it that are now under the sea, fenced off or still smoking.
He gestured to Modo, the University's gardener and odd-job dwarf, who was standing by with a crowbar.
"Go to it, lad."
The gardener saluted. "Right you are, sir."
Against a background of splintering timber, Ridcully went on: "It says on the plans that this was a bathroom. There's nothing frightening about a bathroom, for gods' sake. I want a bathroom. I'm fed up with sluicing down with you fellows. It's unhygienic. You can catch stuff. My father told me that. Where you get lots of people bathing together, the Verruca Gnome is running around with his little sack."
"Is that like the Tooth Fairy?" said the Dean sarcastically.
"I'm in charge here and I want a bathroom of my own," said Ridcully firmly. "And that's all there is to it, all right? I want a bathroom in time for Hogswatchnight, understand?"
And that's a problem with beginnings, of course. Sometimes, when you're dealing with occult realms that have quite a different attitude to time, you get the effect a little way before the cause.
From somewhere on the edge of hearing came a glingleglingleglingle noise, like little silver bells.
At about the same time as the Archchancellor was laying down the law, Susan Sto-Helit was sitting up in bed, reading by candlelight.
Frost patterns curled across the windows.
She enjoyed these early evenings. Once she had put the children to bed she was more or less left to herself. Mrs. Gaiter was pathetically scared of giving her any instructions even though she paid Susan's wages.
Not that the wages were important, of course. What was important was that she was being her Own Person and holding down a Real Job. And being a governess was a real job. The only tricky bit had been the embarrassment when her employer found out that she was a duchess, because in Mrs. Gaiter's book, which was a rather short book with big handwriting, the upper crust wasn't supposed to work. It was supposed to loaf around. It was all Susan could do to stop her curtseying when they met.
A flicker made her turn her head.
The candle flame was streaming out horizontally, as though in a howling wind.
She looked up. The curtains billowed away from the window, which flung itself open with a clatter.
But there was no wind.
At least, no wind in this world.
Images formed in her mind. A red ball ... The sharp smell of snow ... And then they were gone, and instead there were ...
"Teeth?" said Susan, aloud. "Teeth, again?"
She blinked. When she opened her eyes the window was, as she knew it would be, firmly shut. The curtain hung demurely. The candle flame was innocently upright. Oh, no, not again. Not after all this time. Everything had been going so well