Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I've never been a big fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. I read the second and third books in the series when they first came out and thought they were funny. But it's the later books in the series that everyone raves about, and the few of those that I've read didn't appeal to me much. People keep raving about Pratchett, though, so when I saw a couple of people single out Hogfather as particularly good, I decided to check it out of the library and read it.

If you've been reading this blog for a long time, you can probably guess where this is going. To be sure, Hogfather starts out with a bang, as the head of the Assassin's Guild accepts a commission to kill Santa Claus (named "Hogfather," but basically Santa). And there are a lot of funny bits, mainly arising from Death's decision to take Santa's place on Christmas Eve -- er, Hogfather's place on Hogswatchnight. But in the end, it all collapses into didacticism, and shopworn didacticism at that. We need myths in order to be fully human: heavy, man, heavy. For children, the world is actually a scary place: who'd'a thunk it?

And another thing: I keep hearing about what a rich world Pratchett has created. Well, it's easy to "create" a rich world if you fill it up with details from the real world. For instance, Discworld has not only its own Santa Claus, but department stores and department-store Santas. And Hogswatch in Ankh-Morpork is apparently celebrated in just the same way the Christmas is celebrated in present-day England. When you just look at what Pratchett has himself created, Discworld in Hogfather isn't particularly rich: no more so than you'd expect from a fantasy series that has been going on for as long as Discworld has. (And I realize that Hogfather is just one book, but if Discworld as a whole is so rich, then some of that richness ought to be evident even in a single book.)

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