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COWER BRIEF MORTALS. HO HO HO.
on 23 September 2006
"Hogfather" is the twentieth book in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and was first published in 1996. He has gone on to win the Carnegie Medal for "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and was awarded the OBE in 1998.
"Hogfather" is sometimes known as the third book in "The Death Trilogy". Like the trilogy's first two instalments ("Mort" and "Reaper Man") it gives Death - tall guy, somewhat underfed, carries a scythe, big grin - more than just a brief cameo. Like "Reaper Man", it's the Auditors who are causing problems. The Auditors are in charge of the universe : they see that atoms spin, that gravity works and that things move in curves. However, they hate life - especially humans (too many irregularities). In "Reaper Man", they wanted to force Death into retirement. This time, they want the Hogfather - Discworld's version of Father Christmas - `removed' from office (or grotto, perhaps). To this end, they've hired the disturbed (and disturbing) Mister Teatime from the Guild of Assassins to make sure he stays `removed'. Luckily, Death has discovered what's going on : with Hogswatch Night looming, the Grim Reaper dons a false beard, strategically places a cushion and takes control of the sleigh.
Death shares the spotlight, though : his new duties cause some problems for his grand-daughter, Susan Sto-Helit. Susan is working as a governess in Ankh-Morpork and, as part of her job, she regularly beats up the bogeyman with her trusty poker. In her free time, she occasionally drops into Biers for a drink ("Sometimes you want to go...where nobody knows your name"). It's in the pub that She's warned about her grandfather's strange behaviour by the Death of Rats and his eyeball-obsessed sidekick, Quoth the Raven. Initially, she isn't at all pleased to see the pair, but she has no choice but to get involved. The last time Death neglected his Duty, Susan was expected to take over...
Despite his profession, Death is one of the funniest characters the Discworld has to offer, and Hogfather sees Pratchett on top form. Quoth and Death of Rats are a welcome addition - they're a great double act. It may be a slight advantage to have read at least one from "Mort", "Reaper Man" or "Soul Music" before this (all are very funny) - however, even if you haven't you'll still find "Hogfather" hilarious. Highly recommended.