I started reading this book because I thought it was going to be a great book to read in the lead up to the festive season, however the only problem was that my timing was completely off – I finished it five days into the new year, which sort of defeats the purpose of reading a book for the festive season. I guess the next time I decide to read such a book, such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I should time it so that I finish the book, and thus write the review, before I get to Christmas Day. Mind you, considering my personality, reading a Terry Pratchett book is probably more my style for the festive season than a Charles Dickens book.
Anyway, as you can probably guess from the above paragraph, this is a book about Christmas – sort of. The thing is that this isn't Earth, this is the Discworld, which means that Pratchett has actually created a completely different, yet similar, tradition. On Discworld we have Hogswatch Night, and instead of a jolly round man dressed in red (with white fur) riding a sled being pulled by reindeer, we have a jolly round man riding a sled being pulled by pigs. Such is the nature of Discworld.
Well, as it turns out, the Hogfather disappears, which means that all of the kids aren't going to get their Hogswatch presents, so Death, of all people, decides to take the job instead. The problem is that Death isn't the Hogfather, and despite the fact that he is probably one of the most feared men on Discworld, he actually has a heart of gold. This means that when he rocks up at a house to give a child a gift he actually gives the child what he wants. This, as you can imagine, ends up causing some problems, because the whole idea of the Hogfather giving gifts actually isn't to give the child what he wants, but what the economic situation stipulates. Unfortunately, by giving a poor child an incredibly expensive gift upsets the balance somewhat.
While at first it seems that all the Hogfather's role happens to be is to give children presents (befitting of their economic situation of course) there is mush more to it. By the end of the book it becomes quite evident that the role of the Hogfather is to make the sun come up in the morning. The reason for this is that Hogswatch night (as is the case with Christmas in our world) falls upon midwinter's night. The thing with winter, as we are probably aware, to the pre-industrial world is that it was the harshest time of the year, and midwinter was the harshest day. Thus it is not surprising that people held a celebration on midwinter to encourage each other that the worst had past, and that everybody has spring, and then summer, to look forward to.
It is a shame that Christians have suddenly started to claim that Christ was actually born on December 25th in an attempt to add legitimacy to their claim over the midwinter festival. However I am going to say that I reject that allegation. I am not going to go into details, but I still hold the modern belief that the Christians moved Christmas to 25th of December to hijack the original midwinter's festival. To me it makes sense, because to Christians Christ was born during what they believed as humanity's darkest day, and what his birth signified was that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that they could look forward to a time when things would be restored. However, this is looking back and if we consider the context in which he was born, I would have to say that it was hardly Judaism's darkest day – that was to come seventy years later when the Romans stormed Jerusalem, and levelled the city and the temple to the ground. Even though I am a Christian, it really annoys me when people try to rewrite history to add credence to their arguments.
Another interesting thing about this book is that it is all about belief. The idea is that a god only exists as long as somebody believes in the god. The Hogfather ceased to exist namely because an assassin, Teatime, managed to create an immense amount of disbelief. However we also encounter a number of other gods, such as the oh-god of Hangovers, who came into existence because people began to believe in him. The ironic thing is that this is actually quite a modern phenomena. The ancients (as far as I am aware) did not have this idea of a god existing based on people's beliefs. My first encounter with this idea was through a trilogy of Dungeons and Dragons novels. In reality, the ancients believed in their gods, and it didn't matter whether people believed in them or not, they existed, and simply by not believing in them didn't make them any less real.
The final thing I wish to touch upon is this machine called Hex. He has appeared in other novels, and is becoming more and more prevalent. Hex is basically a computer that was created by the wizards of the Unseen University. This is an artist's impression:
The reason I mention Hex is because I watched a video on Youtube once (I can't remember the details so I can't link it) about some guy (Charles Babbage) in the early part of the 19th Century developing a computer using gears. To me computers are all about integrated circuits and electricity, but apparently they can exist without them, such as this one (which is a replication because Charles Babbage never actually built it):
In fact, some have suggested that the Antikythera Mechanism is also a type of computer that was built by none other than Archemides himself.
(This is a replica by the way, the one that was pulled up from the ocean floor looks nothing like that one).