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4.9 out of 5 stars48
4.9 out of 5 stars
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on May 21, 2015
exactly what was expected awesome
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on January 1, 2015
One of his best, for sure. Thoughtful, intelligent, funny, and heartwarming. Oh my, I'm going to miss Terry Pratchett when I finish his final book.
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on September 27, 2014
I love the books about Death. He's cool
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on December 16, 2013
Will Death ever do his job? Reaper Man is entertaining and there are some great moments, but it's just not as good as most of the other Discworld novels that I've gotten to so far.
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You wouldn't think about job security becoming a problem for Death, the Defeater of Empires, the Swallower of Oceans, etc., but of course the Discworld is itself a contradiction in terms. When your world is a flat plane of existence transported through space atop the four elephants astride the Great Turtle A'tuin's back, the impossible is surprisingly commonplace. In this bastion of animism and anthropomorphism, not only Death but the mysterious Auditors of Reality have been brought into existence via the mere consciousness running amuck throughout the world. These murkily-defined Auditors, who hate nothing so much as individualism, feel compelled to force Death into retirement for the simple reason that he had taken on something of a personality. If he actually has to die, Death is determined to at least live, and we soon find him working on Renata Flitworth's farm in the plains below the Ramtops under the assumed name of Bill Door. Whereas Death has been known to indulge his curiosity of living men and women from time to time, in this significant Discworld chronicle he slips into the ways of man without conscious effort, and to some extent Bill Door actually does live for a time on the Discworld.

Naturally, you don't just replace Death over night; it takes a while for the collective unconscious of all living things to formulate a New Death, and this period of temporary instability proves quite burdensome. One individual particularly unhappy about the current state of affairs is Windle Poons, the oldest of all the wizards in Unseen University. When Death doesn't show up to meet him at the appointed hour, Poons eventually has little choice but to go and reinhabit his old body once again. He's not the only undead person walking around in the days that follow. As if the walking dead weren't problematic enough, inanimate objects begin moving around of their own accord, little glass snow-globes begin turning up everywhere, shopping carts with minds of their own become a menace to society, and the wholly unnatural buildup of life force caused by the absence of a Grim Reaper opens a window on the Discworld for the insidious invasion of the most fearful of all creations.

Reaper Man, the eleventh book in the series, is truly one of the quintessential Discworld novels. We get to see plenty of Death and gain much more valuable insight into his outlook on life; his non-human humanity really shines through his skeletal essence on several occasions in these pages. The always-hilarious wizards of Unseen University are in the mix of things as they should be, and they are joined by a number of Pratchett's most singular characters. The remarkable Windle Poons, more alive than ever in his death, climbs out of the wheelchair of a very old, hard of hearing, mentally addled old wizard to become a very personable hero. For the first time we meet Mrs. Cake, the small medium seer who has a habit of answering questions just before they are asked, Mrs. Cake's daughter Ludmilla who happens to be a werewolf, the aforementioned Renata Flitworth, the Death of Rats, and the unforgettable members of the Fresh Start Club formed by zombie Reg Shoe. Those undead creatures who have decided to rally around Shoe's declaration that the dead aren't going to take discrimination lying down any longer include the reluctant vampire Arthur and his wife (Count and Countess Notfaroutoe), a banshee, an exceedingly shy bogeyman, and a wereman. Pratchett's wit and humor are in exceedingly good form throughout, making this one of the most enjoyable and inherently interesting of all Discworld novels.
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on February 13, 2006
After seeing all the 5 star reviews, it made me think that I had read a different book, but perhaps I just didnt "get" this one as much as all of the other reviewers. It is a great book, hence the 4 star review, but I would never compare it to my favourites in the series (Men At Arms, Guards! Guards!). Lots of great ideas and classic Pratchett jokes abound in this one, though I found that I enjoyed Mort more than this one. Im not saying it was bad, far far from it, I just think that it was slightly under-par for Pratchett. Great book, but I would not consider it a good book to start off with. If you are interested in reading the "death" series of books, start off with Mort, and then read this one second.
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on February 14, 2004
Death is one of the most interesting recurring characters in the Discworld stories. He's just a regular guy, dealing with a major mission. But now he seems to have acquired a personality and has therefore been sacked from his job. All the smaller deaths -- the Death of Tortoises, the Death of Daffodils, the Death of Rats, and so on -- which used to be subsumed in him are on their own. Death finds he now has a Life-Timer of his own, and the sands of the Future are pouring through the bottleneck of the Present and piling up in the Past. (Pratchett has a terrific way with words.) What else is there for him to do but seek work on a Discworld farm, harvesting corn instead of lives? More important, with no Death to keep it under control, life force is piling up, making its vital presence felt in the form of poltergeist activity and a plague of snowglobes and supermarket baskets, which are only the harbingers of the dreaded appearance of Mall Life. Meanwhile, 130-year-old wizard Windle Poons has just died -- but Death, who is out of a job and not yet been replaced, hasn't come for him. Windle is one of the undead, so naturally he is approached by dead-activists. Then he gets caught up in the struggle against too much life being carried on (reluctantly) by the faculty of Unseen University, of which he was lately a member. And I haven't even mentioned Mrs. Cake and her werewoman daughter, or Lupine, or the grocer vampire, or the bashful banshee who slips notes under doors instead of screaming. Pratchett is a first-rate parodist but he's also a very talented designer of complex and highly original plots and characters.
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on July 17, 2002
this is certainly among Pratchett's top five books. It's a wonderful work...full of understated humour and philosophical observations which give a slightly different slant to the way we view our own world. The humour is laugh-out-loud funny, and there are some lines you just want to keep in your head forever, remembering with a smile.
Pratchett's writing humour aside, is also quite brilliant. It is eloquent, elegaic, and his descriptions are amazing. Simple things such as a grandfather clock, or a scythe, or even just daylight, are seen in a different way after being put under the microscope of Pratchett.
the plot is brilliant, as are the characters. it rides along at a fair pace, with Death at the head of the cast. (My, and many others', favourite character).
This is an excellent addition to the series, and for fans of Mr Pratchett comes very highly reccomended.
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on June 28, 2001
"Reaper Man" has all the elements of a good Discworld book. Old friends -- Death, The Librarian -- show up and reap (pun intended) havoc. A gaggle of befuddled wizards leave the sanctuary of Unseen University to try and solve a mystical dilemma. And a sheltered innocent, an old wizard named Windle Poons, learns a little something about himself. All fine and good. The problem, and thankfully it is a rare occurrence in Pratchett's world, is that these elements don't interact enough to create a cohesive whole. Pity.
Death gets top billing here, and he is fleshed-out wonderfully (a tough task considering he had no flesh to begin with). A supernatural career crisis leads him to a job harvesting crops, where his skill with a scythe is put to good use. A budding relationship with his new employer, Miss Flitworth, teaches him to actually live.
Windle Poons undergoes a crisis of his own. He's died. Well, almost. See, Death is not around to collect him. So what happens? Well, Terry heaps confusing circumstances on poor Mr. Poons. Poons reacts in much of the same way that Death did. He learns to live, too. After 130-years of sheltered existence, not to mention the last 50 years living with a decrepit body, he is liberated by Death. Only Terry could come up with such a wacky but logically sound notion.
The rest of the cast of characters, including the Wizards and a rag-tag group of misfits called the Fresh Start Club, lively wander around the plot, narrowly bumping into each other while providing fine comic moments. The Wizards get a little too caught up in their quest, eventually donning cloth headbands and yelling "Yo!" as if going into Rambo-style warfare. Couple this with their sheltered pomposity, and we get truly funny moments. The Fresh Start Club is quite the inspired creation on Terry's part. Their group is made up of the failed undead, including a bogeyman who's scared of people, a wolf who turns into a man during a full moon, and a shy banshee who, instead of wailing, slips a card under your door that reads: "OOoooEeeeOooEeeeOOOeee". I would have liked to spend more time with this motley crew.
And Terry's concept of what happens when Death is not around (to collect humanity's deceased life force) is a true revelation. It confused me at first, but upon further reflection, I realized that not only has he conjured up a truly poetic invention, but has made a sly comment on the reign of terror consumerism has inflicted on our culture. I'll say no more; just be prepared to sing for your supper because Terry's not about to hold your hand (with explicit explanation) through these sections.
So the elements are all there. But they never interact in any meaningful way. Terry usually manages to tie the varying narrative threads together by the end. The end here is satisfying in its own way (Death's final scenes are poetic and beautiful), but doesn't carry its weight in terms of helping unify the book's structure. It made me think that there were really two or three distinct stories here, slapped together without much afterthought, to create one full-sized book. That was really my only problem. The rest of the book is enchanting and wonderful; a lesser entry in the Discworld series, but fine reading nonetheless.
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on June 9, 2001
Yes - that does say "emotional." I've read a lot of Pratchet and this is by far his masterpiece. Not because it's funnier or bigger than his other books, it just has more substance. Douglas Adams (rest his soul) never brought a tear to my eye (in fact, very few books do), but Reaper Man's has a few spots of touching brilliance that transcend the ordinary machine-gun wit of Terry's other books. In fact, I would call this my favorite book of all time. Buy it - you won't be sorry.
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