by Terry Pratchett. I  read a few hours yesterday and then completed it today. I’d forgotten how fast you go through books like these, compared to textbooks; I got so curious after a bit of reading that I decided to time myself, and my best estimate – based on 5 hours of reading – is that on average I read about 60 pages an hour, or one page/minute. So the fact that it will take you ‘a long time’ to read this book is no excuse for not reading it, because it simply won’t (but don’t start out with this one if you’ve never read Pratchett before).

Some quotes from the book:

“The senior wizards of Unseen University stood and looked at the door.
There was no doubt that whoever had shut it wanted it to stay shut. Dozens of nails secured it to the door frame. Planks had been nailed right across. And finally it had, up until this morning, been hidden by a bookcase that had been put in front of it.
‘And there’s the sign, Ridcully,’ said the Dean. ‘You have read it, I assume. You know? The sign which says “Do not, under any circumstances, open this door”?’
‘Of course I’ve read it,’ said Ridcully. ‘Why d’yer think I want it opened?’
‘Er … why?’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
‘To see why they wanted it shut, of course.’*
[*This exchange contains almost all you need to know about human civilization. At least, those bits of it that are now under the sea, fenced off or still smoking.]”

“Lord Downey was an assassin. Or, rather, an Assassin. The capital letter was important. […] The members of the Guild of Assassins considered themselves cultured men who enjoyed good music and food and literature. And they knew the value of human life. To a penny, in many cases. […] Anyone could buy the services of the Guild. Several zombies had, in the past, employed the Guild to settle scores with their murderers. In fact the Guild, he liked to think, practised the ultimate democracy. You didn’t need intelligence, social position, beauty or charm to hire it. You just needed money which, unlike the other stuff, was available to everyone. Except for the poor, of course, but there was no helping some people.”

“There were lessons later on. These were going a lot better now she’d got rid of the reading books about bouncy balls and dogs called Spot. She’d got Gawain on to the military campaigns of General Tacticus, which were suitably bloodthirsty but, more importantly, considered too difficult for a child. As a result his vocabulary was doubling every week and he could already use words like ‘disembowelled’ in everyday conversation. After all, what was the point of teaching children to be children? They were naturally good at it.”

“‘There used to be warning signs up,’ said the neat voice from behind. ‘Yeah, well, warning signs in Ankh-Morpork might as well have “Good Firewood” written on them'”.

“Susan didn’t like Biers but she went there anyway, when the pressure of being normal got too much. Biers, despite the smell and the drink and the company, had one important virtue. In Biers nobody took any notice. Of anything. Hogswatch was traditionally supposed to be a time for families but the people who drank in Biers probably didn’t have families; some of them looked as though they might have had litters, or clutches. Some of them looked as though they’d probably eaten their relatives, or at least someone‘s relatives.
Biers was where the undead drank. And when Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn’t mix a metaphor.”

[when reading this, think of the Hogfather as Discworld’s Santa Claus…]
“‘This is a shop,’ said Mr Crumley, finally getting to the root of the problem. ‘We do not give Merchandise away. How can we expect people to buy things if some Person is giving them away? Now please go and get him out of here.’
‘Arrest the Hogfather, style of thing?’
‘On Hogswatchnight?’
‘In your shop?’
‘In front of all those kiddies?’
‘Y—‘ Mr Crumley hesitated. To his horror, he realized that Corporal Nobbs, against all expectation, had a point.”

“The Archchancellor pointed dramatically skywards. ‘To the laundry!’ he said. ‘It’s downstairs, Ridcully,’ said the Dean. ‘Down to the laundry!’ ‘And you know Mrs Whitlow doesn’t like us going in there,’ said the chair of Indefinite Studies. ‘And who is Archchancellor of this University, may I ask?’ said Ridcully. ‘Is it Mrs Whitlow? I don’t think so! Is it me? Why, how amazing, I do believe it is!’ ‘Yes, but you know what she can be like,’ said the Chair. ‘Er, yes, that’s true—‘ Ridcully began. ‘I believe she’s gone to her sister’s for the holiday,’ said the Bursar. ‘We certainly don’t have to take orders from any kind of housekeeper!’ said the Archchancellor. ‘To the laundry!’
The wizards surged out excitedly, leaving Susan, the oh god, the Verruca Gnome and the Hair Loss Fairy. ‘Tell me again who those people were,’ said the oh god. ‘Some of the cleverest men in the world,’ said Susan.

“I THINK I MUST TELL YOU SOMETHING, said Death. ‘Yes, I think you should,’ said Ridcully. ‘I’ve got little devils running round the place eating socks and pencils, earlier tonight we sobered up someone who thinks he’s a God of Hangovers and half my wizards are trying to cheer up the Cheerful Fairy. We thought something must’ve happened to the Hogfather. We were right, right?’

“‘I’m sure he wouldn’t keep on eating them if they were addictive,’ said the Senior Wrangler.”

“‘I really should talk to him, sir. He’s had a near-death experience!’ ‘We all have. It’s called “living”,'”

Lastly, a quote which also made it into the movie (even if in a somewhat abbreviated form):


June 12, 2012 - Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Terry Pratchett


  1. “Good Firework” not Firewood?

    Comment by gwern | June 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Of course!

      Thanks, I’ve corrected the mistake.

      Comment by US | June 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. “…the movie”

    Have you seen this? Is it worthwhile? I just don’t see Pratchett translating to the big screen.

    I enjoy Pratchett for his prose, and is less interested in his story-archs and characters. Unlike most authors, Pratchetts books are only exactly as great as the sum of the parts, and it is due to the brilliance of the parts, that I consider myself a fan.

    I just don’t see a movie based on a book, which primary quality is that it is damn well written.

    Comment by WilliamJansen (@WilliamJansen) | June 12, 2012 | Reply

    • The books are in my opinion much better than the 1,5 movies (one plus half of another) I’ve seen. I much prefer the books and I think many fans of the books will be disappointed with the movies. That’s probably the way it always will be in situations like these.

      Of course the prose is a big part of why I like Pratchett too – it’s simply a pleasure to read his books. But unlike you, I also do have enough of an interest in at least some of the characters – Rincewind, Death, Moist von Lipwig and Lord Vetinari – (read: ‘consider them awesome enough’…) to see why it might make good sense to try to make a movie or two. Some of Pratchett’s characters are just plain awesome and I think they ought somehow to be able to hold a movie together without the help of the prose, if done well.

      Incidentally, according to ‘the average imdb contributor’ the movies aren’t actually bad; they just aren’t super great either (and I prefer to only watch great movies). The colour of magic has a 7.0 rating, Hogfather’s rating is 7.4 and Going Postal (which I have not seen anything of) is at 7.7.

      Comment by US | June 12, 2012 | Reply

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