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Johnny and the Dead
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Johnny and his band of quirky pals are back in "Johnny and the Dead," the second book of Terry Pratchett's "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. Pratchett was surer this time around, endowing this hilarious sequel with quirkier dialogue and stories, and snappier writing.

Johnny Maxwell sees dead people. (Yes, like the little boy in "Sixth Sense.") For whatever reason, he sees the dead in their graveyard -- not really ghosts, but not alive either: a crabby former soldier, a distant relative of Einstein, a sprightly suffragette who died in a freak mishap, and a staunch Communist who STILL doesn't believe in life after death. All in all, they are a fairly harmless bunch.

But a massive, mercenary, progress-obsessed corporation has just bought the graveyard for fivepence, and it will soon be razed for new construction. The only people more dismayed than the living inhabitants of Blackbury are the dead ones. So as the dead break their bonds to "unlive," Johnny and his friends will try to save the graveyard from... a fate worse than death?

Yes, it's the sort of bizarre, slightly twisted plot that only Terry Pratchett could cook up, and then pull off. And yes, the same could be said of "Only You Can Save Mankind." But by the time he wrote this -- pre-Discworld -- Pratchett had obviously grown into his skills.

In particular, the Big Message in this book is more subtle -- that money and progress aren't worth anything if they destroy the past. Despite that heavy moral, the handling of it is light and entertatining, such as when the dead Communist calls up a radio talk show host and speaks frankly about being "vertically challenged."

Despite half a dozen amusing dead people, the star of the piece is Johnny himself -- smart, quiet unless he has a reason to speak out, and inexplicably able to see the dead. He also plays straight man to the quirkier pals, like peculiar Wobbler, intellectual Yo-less, and perpetually hungry Bigmac. Although you'll need to have read "Mankind" to know who they are.

"Johnny and the Dead" is not just a sequel that surpasses the first book of this trilogy, but probably the best pre-Discworld work that Pratchett did. Funny, twisted and very well-done.
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Johnny and his band of quirky pals are back in "Johnny and the Dead," the second book of Terry Pratchett's "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. Pratchett was surer this time around, endowing this hilarious sequel with quirkier dialogue and stories, and snappier writing.

Johnny Maxwell sees dead people. (Yes, like the little boy in "Sixth Sense.") For whatever reason, he sees the dead in their graveyard -- not really ghosts, but not alive either: a crabby former soldier, a distant relative of Einstein, a sprightly suffragette who died in a freak mishap, and a staunch Communist who STILL doesn't believe in life after death. All in all, they are a fairly harmless bunch.

But a massive, mercenary, progress-obsessed corporation has just bought the graveyard for fivepence, and it will soon be razed for new construction. The only people more dismayed than the living inhabitants of Blackbury are the dead ones. So as the dead break their bonds to "unlive," Johnny and his friends will try to save the graveyard from... a fate worse than death?

Yes, it's the sort of bizarre, slightly twisted plot that only Terry Pratchett could cook up, and then pull off. And yes, the same could be said of "Only You Can Save Mankind." But by the time he wrote this -- pre-Discworld -- Pratchett had obviously grown into his skills.

In particular, the Big Message in this book is more subtle -- that money and progress aren't worth anything if they destroy the past. Despite that heavy moral, the handling of it is light and entertatining, such as when the dead Communist calls up a radio talk show host and speaks frankly about being "vertically challenged."

Despite half a dozen amusing dead people, the star of the piece is Johnny himself -- smart, quiet unless he has a reason to speak out, and inexplicably able to see the dead. He also plays straight man to the quirkier pals, like peculiar Wobbler, intellectual Yo-less, and perpetually hungry Bigmac. Although you'll need to have read "Mankind" to know who they are.

"Johnny and the Dead" is not just a sequel that surpasses the first book of this trilogy, but probably the best pre-Discworld work that Pratchett did. Funny, twisted and very well-done.
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Johnny Maxwell is just a normal twelve-year old kid, or at least he tries to be. Things just seem to happen to him that don't happen to anyone else - aliens inside a computer game surrender to him and name him their Chosen One, for example (as told in the first book of this series). Compared to that adventure, seeing dead people almost seems rather prosaic. The Trying Times Johnny has been living in have advanced past his parents' shouting and Being Sensible About Things to Phase 3, which sees him now living with his grandfather. He often takes a short cut to school through a local cemetery, and it is there that he meets the Alderman, the long dead and buried Alderman. His friends Yo-less, Bigmac, and Wobbler can't see dead people the way Johnny suddenly can, but events soon convince them that Johnny isn't just fooling around with them. Johnny meets all of the dead people in the cemetery, all of whom are quite put out when they learn that their cemetery, a place which the rules of being dead say they cannot leave, has been sold by the city (for only five pence) to a corporation planning on building office buildings there. Since Johnny is the only human who can see them (and why Johnny can see them is rather a mystery, although the Alderman thinks it is because he is too lazy not to see them), the dead look to him to save their eternal resting place. Stopping a big corporation from doing something the city has granted them the legal right to do is no easy task, especially for a twelve-year-old boy and his friends, but Johnny is wonderfully resourceful.

The ending of this book didn't have much spark to it, but overall Johnny and the Dead is an even better read than the first Johnny Maxwell novel Only You Can Save Mankind. It also rings quite distinctly at times of the type of humor showcased by the author in his Discworld novels. There is one bit early on that is just hilarious. Wobbler puts the idea in Johnny's head that dead people basically lurch around like the zombie types in Michael Jackson's Thriller video, and this indirectly leads to the Alderman trying to moonwalk in the cemetery. The dead people as a whole put a lot of life into this book, oddly enough. Among the fascinating, entertaining dead folks we meet are an ardent suffragette, an inventor who is quite proficient at manipulating electronic equipment, a brilliant man named Einstein - Solomon Einstein the taxidermist, and a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist who is quite disappointed at the way things have gone in the world since his death. The vibrant personalities of the dead men and women more often than not clash in a number of very funny ways as they all try to cope with modern life or the lack of it.

This book does stand up fairly well on its own, but the characterization of Johnny and his friends is not detailed enough for you to really get to know them without having read Only You Can Save Mankind already. This is considered juvenile fiction, but as with everything Terry Pratchett writes, men and women of all ages, providing they have at least a nascent sense of humor, will find much to enjoy and laugh about in these pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Johnny Maxwell is just a normal twelve-year old kid, or at least he tries to be. Things just seem to happen to him that don’t happen to anyone else—aliens inside a computer game surrender to him and name him their Chosen One, for example (as told in the first book of this series). Compared to that adventure, seeing dead people almost seems rather prosaic. The Trying Times Johnny has been living in have advanced past his parents’ shouting and Being Sensible About Things to Phase 3, which sees him now living with his grandfather. He often takes a short cut to school through a local cemetery, and it is there that he meets the Alderman, the long dead and buried Alderman. His friends Yo-less, Bigmac, and Wobbler can’t see dead people the way Johnny suddenly can, but events soon convince them that Johnny isn’t just fooling around with them. Johnny meets all of the dead people in the cemetery, all of whom are quite put out when they learn that their cemetery, a place which the rules of being dead say they cannot leave, has been sold by the city (for only five pence) to a corporation planning on building office buildings there. Since Johnny is the only human who can see them (and why Johnny can see them is rather a mystery, although the Alderman thinks it is because he is too lazy not to see them), the dead look to him to save their eternal resting place. Stopping a big corporation from doing something the city has granted them the legal right to do is no easy task, especially for a twelve-year-old boy and his friends, but Johnny is wonderfully resourceful.
The ending of this book didn’t have much spark to it, but overall Johnny and the Dead is an even better read than the first Johnny Maxwell novel Only You Can Save Mankind. It also rings quite distinctly at times of the type of humor showcased by the author in his Discworld novels. There is one bit early on that is just hilarious. Wobbler puts the idea in Johnny’s head that dead people basically lurch around like the zombie types in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and this indirectly leads to the Alderman trying to moonwalk in the cemetery. The dead people as a whole put a lot of life into this book, oddly enough. Among the fascinating, entertaining dead folks we meet are an ardent suffragette, an inventor who is quite proficient at manipulating electronic equipment, a brilliant man named Einstein—Solomon Einstein the taxidermist, and a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist who is quite disappointed at the way things have gone in the world since his death. The vibrant personalities of the dead men and women more often than not clash in a number of very funny ways as they all try to cope with modern life or the lack of it.
This book does stand up fairly well on its own, but the characterization of Johnny and his friends is not detailed enough for you to really get to know them without having read Only You Can Save Mankind already. This is considered juvenile fiction, but as with everything Terry Pratchett writes, men and women of all ages, providing they have at least a nascent sense of humor, will find much to enjoy and laugh about in these pages.
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My nine year old son has to do an oral book report a week so I'm always looking for things that might interest him. JOHNNY AND THE DEAD fit the bill and was fun for me to read also. For americans, we had to get past the barrier of a common language (Pratchett uses British colloquialisms, not american ones - e.g., lift, Maths, etc.) but actually ended up having fun discussing the use of language. This book is absolutely not morbid and the "vertically challenged" (buried 6 feet under) are far more amusing than scary. I'd call this a book full of sweetness and gentleness and the best of the Johnny Maxwell series (3 total titles?). It's probably more suited for a slightly older reader, but 9 year olds on up will enjoy this work. Addendum: my 3 year old was listening attentively as I read a chapter or two as well!
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on September 20, 2000
In the second book about Johnny Maxwell, a 12 year old who is aware of things most people just don't notice, he finds more than he expects when he wanders into the local cemetery. Fortunately, the Dead are a lot more like old people than the shambling undead that you see in late night movies, and they develop a keen interest in what's going on out there.
I found this book to be more fun than the first book "Only you can save mankind." The dead are very likable, and it raises some thoughts about where you go when you become "vertically challenged." It stands alone well if you have not read the earlier book.
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on June 20, 1999
This book stands as a testimony for the unique and broad writing skills of Terry Pratchett. Far away from the Discworld is the Earth, where Johnny Maxwell is living with his own struggles and problems of his life. Pratchett manages to tell a complete different story from the Discworld with a good mixture of humour and sensibility. Johnny and the Dead (they prefer "vertically challenged") is worth every single cent, pence or whatever currency is used in your country.
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