Hogfather (Discworld Series #20)

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Overview

Who would want to harm Discworld's most beloved icon? Very few things are held sacred in this twisted, corrupt, heartless — and oddly familiar — universe, but the Hogfather is one of them. Yet here it is, Hogswatchnight, that most joyous and acquisitive of times, and the jolly old, red-suited gift-giver has vanished without a trace. And there's something shady going on involving an uncommonly psychotic member of the Assassins' Guild and certain representatives of Ankh-Morpork's rather extensive criminal element. ...

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Overview

Who would want to harm Discworld's most beloved icon? Very few things are held sacred in this twisted, corrupt, heartless — and oddly familiar — universe, but the Hogfather is one of them. Yet here it is, Hogswatchnight, that most joyous and acquisitive of times, and the jolly old, red-suited gift-giver has vanished without a trace. And there's something shady going on involving an uncommonly psychotic member of the Assassins' Guild and certain representatives of Ankh-Morpork's rather extensive criminal element. Suddenly Discworld's entire myth system is unraveling at an alarming rate. Drastic measures must be taken, which is why Death himself is taking up the reins of the fat man's vacated sleigh . . . which, in turn, has Death's level-headed granddaughter, Susan, racing to unravel the nasty, humbuggian mess before the holiday season goes straight to hell and takes everyone along with it.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.

Michael Dirda
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 fun—witty, frequently hilarious.
Piers Anthony
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!
New York Review of Science Fiction
The funniest parodist working in the field today, period.
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Isaac Asimov' Magazine
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Isaac Asimov
Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!
Science Fiction Magazine
New York Review of Science Fiction
The funniest parodist working in the field today, period.
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.

Library Journal
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061059056
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Series: Discworld Series , #20
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 155,881
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 4.18 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's novels have sold more than eighty-five million (give or take a few million) copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II made Pratchett a knight in recognition of his "services to literature." Sir Terry lives in England with his wife.

Biography

Welcome to a magical world populated by the usual fantasy fare: elves and ogres, wizards and witches, dwarves and trolls. But wait—is that witch wielding a frying pan rather than a broomstick? Has that wizard just clumsily tumbled off the edge of the world? And what is with the dwarf they call Carrot, who just so happens to stand six-foot six-inches tall? Why, this is not the usual fantasy fare at all—this is Terry Pratchett's delightfully twisted Discworld!

Beloved British writer Pratchett first jump-started his career while working as a journalist for Bucks Free Press during the '60s. As luck would have it, one of his assignments was an interview with Peter Bander van Duren, a representative of a small press called Colin Smythe Limited. Pratchett took advantage of his meeting with Bander van Duren to pitch a weird story about a battle set in the pile of a frayed carpet. Bander van Duren bit, and in 1971 Pratchett's very first novel, The Carpet People, was published, setting the tone for a career characterized by wacky flights of fancy and sly humor.

Pratchett's take on fantasy fiction is quite unlike that of anyone else working in the genre. The kinds of sword-and-dragon tales popularized by fellow Brits like J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis have traditionally been characterized by their extreme self-seriousness. However, Pratchett has retooled Middle Earth and Narnia with gleeful goofiness, using his Discworld as a means to poke fun at fantasy. As Pratchett explained to Locus Magazine, "Discworld started as an antidote to bad fantasy, because there was a big explosion of fantasy in the late '70s, an awful lot of it was highly derivative, and people weren't bringing new things to it."

In 1983, Pratchett unveiled Discworld with The Color of Magic. Since then, he has added installments to the absurdly hilarious saga at the average rate of one book per year. Influenced by moderately current affairs, he has often used the series to subtly satirize aspects of the real world; the results have inspired critics to rapturous praise. ("The most breathtaking display of comic invention since PG Wodehouse," raved The Times of London.) He occasionally ventures outside the series with standalone novels like the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, a sci fi adventure sequence for young readers, or Good Omens, his bestselling collaboration with graphic novelist Neil Gaiman.

Sadly, in 2008 fans received the devastating news that Pratchett had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. He has described his own reaction as "fairly philosophical" and says he plans to continue writing so long as he is able.

Good To Know

Pratchett's bestselling young adult novel Only You Can Save Mankind was adapted for the British stage as a critically acclaimed musical in 2004.

Discworld is not just the subject of a bestselling series of novels. It has also inspired a series of computer games in which players play the role of the hapless wizard Rincewind.

A few fun outtakes from our interview with Pratchett:

"I became a journalist at 17. A few hours later I saw my first dead body, which was somewhat…colourful. That's when I learned you can go on throwing up after you run out of things to throw up."

"The only superstition I have is that I must start a new book on the same day that I finish the last one, even if it's just a few notes in a file. I dread not having work in progress.

"I grow as many of our vegetables as I can, because my granddad was a professional gardener and it's in the blood. Grew really good chilies this year.

"I'm not really good at fun-to-know, human interest stuff. We're not ‘celebrities', whose life itself is a performance. Good or bad or ugly, we are our words. They're what people meet.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Terence David John Pratchett
    2. Hometown:
      Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 28, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
    1. Education:
      Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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 —

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays


Before the live bn.com chat, Terry Pratchett agreed to answer some of our questions:

Q:  Your work is praised for its outlandish humor and sharp-witted satire. What are some of the things that influence your outlook? What do you think makes effective satire?

A:  Well, I don't think my humor is outlandish. I'd say it's quite logical; it just applies logic in places where we've hitherto not employed it! Just about everything influences me, but I suppose the basic driving force is a desire to slap the world on the face and say, "Will you just shut up and be sensible for five minutes?"

I think satire succeeds best when it slides in quietly, like some magician who can remove your underwear without your knowing. I'm not certain that hatred drives good satire, despite what is often said.

Q:  If you were given a round-trip plane ticket to any destination, where would you go, and why?

A:  Oh, Australia. Probably to Alice Springs, so that I could hire a 4x4 and drive to Ayers Rock again. I don't know why, but the Red Centre always seems like home to me -- I go there a lot.

Q:  Please recommend three of your favorite books.

A:  The Specialist by Charles "Chic" Sale. It's the musings of an old-time privy builder, and for quiet, memorable humor, it can't be beaten. I think it was originally published in the U.S.

Then there's The Evolution Man by the late Roy Lewis (it's been published all over the place under various titles, like Once Upon an Ice Age and What We Did to Father -- I don't know if it is currently in print). It is probably the best, and certainly the funniest, SF book ever written. It makes you think, too.

I'll cheat with the last one and pick the entire Flashman series, by George MacDonald Fraser. They're funny, thrilling, and well researched too.

Q:  Which book would you give as a gift this year?

A:  Although it's not a recent publication, I'm planning to give a copy of Carl Sagan's Contact to someone whose interest was triggered by the movie.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    Awsome

    Cool

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    It was a great book, and Terry Pratchett has made a perfect satire of Christas --- Hogswatch.

    In Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, he has the Hog father missing: And Death taking his place. Death has an assistant, Albert, and despite Albert's help, Death can't quite get it right, from giving all the presents out for free to sending a king and queen out of their own palace.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If we could just get the Christmas message across as clearly

    What can I say about Terry Pratchett except he has made Death my favorite character. Should I modify character with the adjective "fictional," or just accept reality? I watched the (made for television?) movie before reading the book "Hogfather," but it doesn't matter. You can enjoy them both -- but probably not simultaneously. Susan is back, as well as her grandfather Death, and these are mighty characters. Sometimes writers create strong characters, wishing they were more like their characters. Probably not the case with Death and author Terry Pratchett, but all of us could use more of Terry's Death's straight forward honesty, as well as helpfulness.
    I won't steal Terry Pratchett's thunder by stating the message of "Hogfather." The book is well worth reading even if he'd omitted the message, and he doesn't lay the message on too thick. It's just that the message helps me understand our part in our world a little better.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Always fun and original: Terry Pratchett

    Now I haven't yet read every Discworld book. But I do intend to and I do have about 20 out of the way. Every book I have read in the Discworld series is a surprisingly, uniquely hilarious, page turner.
    Hogfather itself is centralized around the now grown-up Susan, the always dryly comedic Death, and the very interesting Mr. Teatime of the Assassin's Guild. Page after page, Terry Pratchett offers twists and turns in the plot and paints a picture in your head as surely as if you were there.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    Pratchett has done it again.

    This addition to the Discworld series is very entertaining and in true Pratchett style. The book is a great read and humorous at every turn. If you are a Discworld fan this book will add to the others and if you are new to Discworld this book is a great place to start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2008

    An incredible read!

    A play off of our very own Santa claus, the Hogfather has gone missing, and on the very night of Hogswatch! So what's Death to do but take up the reins and try to make people believe, fake pillow and all. Soon though this story will draw in many other characters as Susan (Deaths granddaughter), an entourage of household gods and faries, some rather unpleasant evil do'ers, and of course the wizards of unseen university join in. joyous! I don't know what your doing with your time if you haven't read this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2003

    Hilarious!!

    This book is the funniest, most enjoyable book I have ever read! I laughed the whole way through! I highly recommend it to those in need of some humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2002

    Amazing

    Within the first page of this book, I was already smiling way too big. I laughed until my side ached. I love Pratchett. His wit, footnotes and charm keep the imagination going. You must read this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2001

    Funniest read in a long time!

    This is the funniest book by Terry Pratchet I've read yet. Hogfather had me laughing so hard my sides were aching, and is what I think of as the ultimate Discworld novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2000

    I loved it

    I thought it was a great spin on St Nic. If u like take offs this the the book for you. I especially like Death adn he and his granddaughter feature promently in this book. It has a exclent ending

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2000

    Read this book!

    This is the funniest wierdest book I've read for a long time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2000

    Holiday Treat!!!

    Terry has created what is sure to become a yearly Holiday treat to any and all fans of his Discworld novels. Death as the Hogfather is perfect (as if anyone else could have done such a great job as a replacement), and all the Wizards of Unseen University give new meaning to the word 'Hysterical'. READ THIS BOOK NOW!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2000

    i love this book

    this book was wonderfully delightful in all its randomness. Humor came before plot but in a way that was incredibly funny and entertaning. I'm a disc world fan forever after reading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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    Posted January 25, 2010

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    Posted December 20, 2009

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    Posted May 20, 2011

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    Posted November 17, 2012

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    Posted September 5, 2011

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