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Hogfather for the Holidays

HogfatherAn Extended Review of Hogfather, the Book:

The midwinter holiday on Discworld is Hogswatch rather than Christmas, and the Hogfather is the Discworld’s counterpart of Santa Claus. He climbs down chimneys, gives presents, says, “HO-HO-HO,” and drives a sleigh pulled by four flying pigs. Many children of the Disc believe in him, which is why he exists. (This is a fundamental characteristic of the magical system in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.) Belief causes the thing believed in to exist, and when belief stops, that existence stops. Teatime, an assassin retained to do away with the Hogfather, plans to exploit this metaphysical law to accomplish his assigned task, but first he must break into the Tooth Fairy’s castle and get control of the teeth stored there. With them, he can influence the belief of their former owners through sympathetic magic. (That’s something of a spoiler, but if you haven’t read this yet, you may be thankful for it.)

Hogfather was the first Discworld book I ever read. This was back in 1999, I think. It could have been 2000. I’m not sure. I didn’t buy it. The book was given to me, not so much as a gift, but as a case of, “Here, I’m not going to read this again, but you might like it since I know you like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

A few months later, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t know what to make of the book at first. It wasn’t like anything I had ever read before. I recall thinking when I was about halfway in that I wasn’t sure I liked it. It was obviously fantasy, but it wasn’t like the epic fantasy stepchildren of Lord of the Rings or the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, which dominated the fantasy genre at the time. Those stories seemed to make a concerted effort to portray their fantasy settings as ‘real’ places, and they were chocked full of dragons, evil warlords and their minions, and powerful magic. Their plots often boiled down to simple, and often bloody, contests between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. The reader didn’t have to think much for most of these. They offered an entertaining escape from reality, but not much else. The plots were often a bit like sporting events in which one side is ‘good’ primarily because it’s from your hometown (although there’s a good chance none of the players are). In some, the biggest difference between the protagonist and antagonist was the point of view that dominated the story.

In any case, that was the kind of fantasy novel I was used to. Hogfather is none of the above. It’s not even like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, but the person who gave me the book was right in one regard. If you like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, there is a good chance you will like Discworld. Both are satirical, funny, incredibly clever, and mind-bending.

But, back to what I was saying. Halfway through my first reading of Hogfather, I was confused. This book was far more complex than the fantasy stories with which I was familiar. The setting was comprehensible but bizarre. I mean—really—a flat world carried on the back of four elephants standing on a turtle? Come on! The plot confused me, and there were subplots and multiple points of view presented by an omniscient narrator. There were even footnotes! This wasn’t like watching a sporting event or a cartoon. I had to pay attention. This book was trying to make me (*gasp*) think! To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge.

Then, about halfway through, I got it. I can’t recall exactly what scene or phrase caused my epiphany, but I finally caught a glimpse of what this story was doing, and it floored me. The author wasn’t trying to draw me into the story to the point of total immersion. The setting was absurd because I wasn’t supposed to believe it was possible. The story was fiction, and I wasn’t being encouraged to suspend disbelief to the point where I felt for a moment that it wasn’t. There’s a kind of honesty to that that I still find refreshing. Yes, the story is set on a fantasy world starring a counterpart of Santa Claus and an anthropomorphic personification of Death, complete with black cloak and scythe, but it’s not ABOUT them. It’s about us!

But at the same time, this ridiculous setting was rich and textured. It was unbelievably believable. And the characters, although they seemed exaggerated caricatures at first, had surprising depth and personality. I recall thinking that this Terry Pratchett fellow must be some kind of genius.

I’ve read all forty or so Discworld books since, all them at least three times, and I still think this is true.

Hogfather, like many of the Discworld books, is far more than it appears at first glance. Here are a few things I noticed:
• It is, of course, a parody of the Santa legend.
• It’s a cultural satire about our traditions and philosophies.
• It’s a not-so-thinly veiled criticism of holiday commercialism.
• It’s a morality tale about duty and the importance of family ties.
• It’s a philosophical statement on the nature of humanity.
• It contrasts rational and irrational ways of thinking.
• It provides a brief comment on emergent artificial intelligence.
• It’s a fantasy story that pokes fun at fantasy, while, at the same time, explaining why fantasy is both meaningful and necessary.
• Oh yeah, and it’s funny.

If you have not read any Discworld books yet, you should. Actually, my advice is to read them all and then to reread them. (I find that Discworld stories are often even more enjoyable the second time.) Before sitting down to write this post, I reread Hogfather for what was at least the sixth time. The Discworld books are incomparable. My only problem with them is that after reading the Discworld stories, all other fantasy stories tend to pale by comparison.

When reading Hogfather, one key point to remember is that time is not necessarily linear where Death (the Discworld character) is concerned. It can be frozen, and causality can work in reverse. The future can change events in the past or cause them not to happen at all.

Hogfather, however, is not the Discworld book I would recommend to newcomers to the Disc. Yes, it was my first, and each book can stand on its own, but Hogfather is a tough go without the background provided by some of the others. I hesitate to recommend any particular Discworld book to start with. I’ve seen some forums in which people can become quite heated about this, believe it or not. I highly recommend all of them, but I will say again that Hogfather probably shouldn’t be your first.

If you’re familiar with Discworld, but have not yet read Hogfather, I suggest doing so now. It’s a great book for the holidays. If you have read Hogfather before, it’s a great one to reread for the Holidays. You’ll be glad you did.

HAPPY HOGSWATCH, EVERYONE! HO-HO-HO!

~*~

P.S. Hogfather became a made-for-TV movie in 2006, and is now available on DVD. I have a copy, and I’ll be rewatching it sometime soon.

~*~

Related Links:
Some wonderful quotes from Hogfather: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/583655-hogfather
My Problem with Terry Pratchett: https://dlmorrese.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/my-problem-with-terry-pratchett/

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A Trailer for Hogfather, the movie… 🙂

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 1 to 5 January 2014

DF Cover13-10Amazon will be running a free promotion for Defying Fate starting New Years Day. This exclusive Kindle edition includes the award-winning novel The Warden Threat and the sequel, The Warden War. They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of a young, naive prince and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of a mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance).

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

This e-book is available in Kindle format (translated from the original Westgrovian into American English) in the following countries. Click the one that suits you best and enjoy the journey.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 2 to 3 November 2013

DF Cover13-10Amazon will be running a free promotion for Defying Fate, this weekend (2 & 3 November 2013). This exclusive Kindle edition includes the award-winning novel The Warden Threat and the sequel, The Warden War. They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of a young, naive prince and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of a mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance).

This combined Kindle edition is currently rated five stars on Amazon.

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

This e-book is available in Kindle format (translated from the original Westgrovian into American English) in the following countries. Click the one that suits you best and enjoy the journey.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 30 April to 4 May 2013

DF Cover5To celebrate the release of my fourth book (Disturbing Clockwork), I’m giving away digital copies of my first two books (but only for five days and only for Kindle).

Defying Fate includes the novels, The Warden Threat and The Warden War.  They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of young, naive Prince Donald and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of the threat posed by the mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance). This a character driven science fiction tale in a fantasy-like setting — a parody of epic fantasy with a bit of cultural satire and a lot of fun for readers of all genres who may be looking for something fresh and different.

This combined Kindle edition is currently rated five stars on Amazon.

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

Announcing the Paperback Release of The Warden War

The Warden War

The Second Volume of Defying Fate

by
DL Morrese

 

His nation is headed for war, his father thinks he’s imagining things, and his mother still regards him as a child. How can Prince Donald convince the king that the real threat to his kingdom comes from his most trusted adviser? The young prince has only his wits, his courage, and his friends, including two ancient androids, one of which has four legs and barks.

~*~

Book Details:
Word Count: 85,500

Page Count: 335
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Paperback available from Amazon.com
E-book available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, & Smashwords

 The Warden War continues the quest begun by Prince Donald in The Warden Threat. His father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these.

He is not without some resources, though. Although he does not realize it, two of his friends, well, one of his friends and the dog that recently seems to have adopted him as its new master, are androids. They were left behind by an ancient commercial enterprise established on the planet centuries before and have now decided to assist humanity, starting with the prince. The best way to help, they believe, is to reactivate the almost omnipotent artificial intelligence that once ran the now defunct alien business project. This could be risky. One of the reasons it was shutdown two-thousand years ago was that it was quite insane, dangerously so.

~*~

Technically science fiction, the first two Warden novels are almost anti-fantasies, which poke a fair, or perhaps an unfair amount of good-natured fun at the serious tone and dependence on magic common to many epic fantasy adventure genre novels. Because they are loosely based on the U.S. buildup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, they include elements of political and cultural satire as well. With their charming and truly likeable characters, witty, intelligent humor, and prose style blending humorous science fiction and epic fantasy elements, they are a fun read. I believe they will appeal to readers of these genres who may be looking for something fresh and different.

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