Vainolo's Blog

Book Review – Hogfather

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Hogfather-2I thought there couldn’t be a more philosophical Terry Pratchett book than Small Gods. It was so deep, so… right, that I thought that no other book could make the same impression on me.

I was wrong.

Hogfather is filled with insights into the inner workings of human belief, and how they affect our daily actions and society itself. Even when I sometimes felt some scenes spread over to many pages, this was quickly corrected with a short conclusion that just blew up my mind.

Here are some examples of the brilliance of this book. There are way more than what I usually put because I just couldn’t stop highlighting. I’ll separate them into subjects:

Belief

  • “you brought some magic into that little life,” said Albert…
    IT’S THE EXPRESSION ON THEIR LITTLE FACES I LIKE, said the Hogfather.
    “You mean sort of fear and awe and not knowing whether to laugh or cry or wet their pants?”
    YES. NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL BELIEF
  • “You’re saying humans… fantasies to make life bearable.”
    REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. 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 YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point-”
    MY POINT EXACTLY
  • The path to wisdom does, in fact, begin with a single step. Where people go wrong is in ignoring all the thousands of other steps that come after it. They make the single step of deciding to become one with the universe, and for some reason forget to take the logical next step of living for seventy years on a mountain and a daily bowl of rice and yak-butter tea that would give it any kind of meaning. While evidence says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, they’re probably all on first steps

Artificial Intelligence

  • [Ridcully, after talking with Hex, the wizard’s AI machine] ”Amazing”, he said again. “He just looks as though he’s thinking, right?”
    “Er.. Yes.”
    “But he’s not actually thinking?”
    “Er… no.”
    “So… he just gives the impression of thinking but really it’s just a show?”
    “Er… yes.”
    “Just like everyone else, then, really,” said Ridcully”
  • In the past, when Hex had been recalcitrant about its calculations… Ponder had tried to sort things out calmly and logically. It had never occurred to him to contemplate hitting Hex with a mallet… What was impressive, and also more than a little worrying, was that Hex seemed to understand the concept
  • Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
  • “Beats me how you fellows remember how to do all this stuff”…
    “Oh, it’s largely intuitive… you have to spend a lot of time learning it first, though”

Humans

  • The old woman… was quite gaga, and one of the symptoms of those going completely yo-yo was that they broke out in chronic cats
  • Death was fascinated by humans, and study was never a one-way thing. A man might spend his life peering at the private life of elementary particles and then find he either knew who he was or where he was, but not both
  • Death had created a bedroom for himself, despite the fact that he never slept. If he really picked things up from humans, had he tried insanity? It was very popular, after all
  • “This isn’t food. No one expects it to be food. If people wanted food they’d stay at home, isn’t that so? They come here for ambience. For the experience. This isn’t cookery, Bill. This is cuisine”

General

  • What was the point of teaching children to be children? They were naturally good at it
  • Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on
  • Horses, Death felt, shouldn’t grin. Any horse that was grinning was planning something
  • The Auditors lived by consensus, which made picking scapegoats a little problematic… [but] if everyone was to blame, then it was no one’s actual fault. That’s what collective responsibility meant
  • They were grown men or at least had lived for several decades, which in some societies is considered the same thing
  • MERE ACCUMULATION OF OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE IS NOT PROOF

Go, buy and read the book. And thank me later.

Written by vainolo

May 29th, 2016 at 4:24 pm

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