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.
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.
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.
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.
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.