Everything Starts Somewhere, Although Many Physicists Disagree

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Reading Challenge: A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy

Also, everything ends somewhere, and this is where my reading challenge, and most likely the blog, hits that point. Back in January I decided to complete this reading challenge. I also decided to try an experiment, something to keep me sane through the last months of graduate school. It was a long year with ups and downs and a whole month where I just felt like I couldn’t finish a book. But I managed to complete the challenge, just clocking in under the wire with a final completed book on December 30th.

So that’s what there is to say about the reading challenge. Now on to the book, which is one of my very favorites. Terry Pratchett (Sir Terry to you) was a great writer, and Hogfather, his take on Christmas, is one of his very best. The plot is relatively simple: an Assassin is hired to dispose of the Hogfather (Discworld’s version of Santa Claus), and Death and Death’s granddaughter try to stop him.

However, there’s so much more going on, it’s impossible to actually list it all. There’s humor, much of it contained in footnotes, and puns. There’s action and excitement, there’s an orangutan playing the organ, there’s a computer of sorts, there are wizards, there are children and some true observations about childhood, and loads of holiday spirit. There’s a lot of fairly deep stuff about the importance of stories and fantasy and how myths and legends evolve. There’s also a skeleton in a Santa Claus outfit, who somehow manages to be completely different from the one in The Nightmare Before Christmas except perhaps with a shared difficulty in delivering a convincing “ho ho ho.”

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There’s also, for you fans of strong female characters, a very interesting lead in Susan Sto Helit, Death’s granddaughter. Susan is currently a governess trying to be more or less normal. She is self-possessed, educated, clever, and not a natural at this whole “normal” thing. She’s the closest thing to a grown-up in most scenes: as is noted at one point, if other characters are listening to their inner child, she is the inner babysitter. She also shares certain talents with her grandfather.

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She shares some moments with her grandfather, as well. In one of my favorite scenes in all of books, Susan learns the real importance of Christmas (okay, Hogswatch):

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE, AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

Listen. It’s just – it’s good. It’s really good. You should read Terry Pratchett. And you should definitely read this one.

Recommended pairing: Sherry appears to be the beverage of choice. Or a nice mug of cocoa would be appropriate.

Well, that’s been my year, thanks for playing. For the curious, I’m listing below the entire reading challenge with links to the appropriate review. It was fun, but I’m not doing it next year. Next year my goal is to read a lot of new books, because I don’t usually read a lot of new books.

  1. A book based on a fairy tale
  2. A National Book Award winner
  3. A YA bestseller
  4. A book you haven’t read since high school
  5. A book set in your home state
  6. A book translated to English
  7. A romance set in the future
  8. A book set in Europe
  9. A book that’s under 150 pages
  10. A New York Times bestseller
  11. A book that’s becoming a movie this year
  12. A book recommended by someone you just met
  13. A self-improvement book
  14. A book you can finish in a day
  15. A book written by a celebrity
  16. A political memoir
  17. A book at least 100 years older than you
  18. A book that’s more than 600 pages
  19. A book from Oprah’s Book Club
  20. A science-fiction novel
  21. A book recommended by a family member
  22. A graphic novel
  23. A book that is published in 2016
  24. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
  25. A book that takes place during summer
  26. A book and its prequel
  27. A murder mystery
  28. A book written by a comedian
  29. A dystopian novel
  30. A book with a blue cover
  31. A book of poetry
  32. The first book you see in a bookstore
  33. A classic from the 20th century
  34. A book from the library
  35. An autobiography
  36. A book about a road trip
  37. A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
  38. A satirical book
  39. A book that takes place on an island
  40. A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy – The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

 

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