Friday, 15 June 2012
Review: Reaper Man
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I bought Reaper Man at a jumble sale, last year or maybe the year before. This is the third time I read the book, and I couldn't put it down. In cases like this I think that not being able to put down a book isn't necessarily caused by wanting to know how it ends. For me, it's knowing how it ends and wanting to read - no, experience - it all again. Really good books can do this to you.
Reaper Man is Terry Pratchett's eleventh discworld novel, and was first published in 1991; it's also the second in the Death story line. In it, the so-called auditors of reality decide that the death of the discworld has to be replaced, seeing that he has developed a personality. So, when Death finds his own life-timer counting the seconds to his ceasing of existence, he leaves his realm to spend his remaining life time with the living (to great dismay of his servant, Albert). Under the name of one Mr. Bill Door, Death is hired as help on the farm of old Miss Flintworth, just in time for the harvest. Here, he experiences feelings, and sleep, and dreams, for the first time.
While he is away, though, things start going wrong all over the discworld. With no one to take the dying to the netherworlds, life force is building up, finding outlets wherever possible. One person extremely affected by this is the wizard Windle Poons (whom we've met in Moving Pictures as the oldest wizard at Unseen University), whose time has come to go. Upon dying, he ends up in a blackness, with nowhere to go except back to his dead body, which he does. Being a zombie isn't easy, though: you have full control over all bodily functions (by the way, how does the spleen work?) and when you've been looking forward to being reborn as a woman, spending the afterlife in your own dead body is no alternative. The other, alive, wizards at Unseen University are more than willing to help Windle die, but as none of their approaches work, he ends up at the Fresh Start Club, with other un-deads and people generally un-welcome in society.
Finally, while Death confronts the new death (wearing a crown!) to reclaim his job, Windle, the Fresh Starters and the wizards have to save the city of Ankh-Morpork from the consequences of superfluous life force.
Terry Pratchett is good at humour. It's what he is most famous for.
How often do people mention his talent for suspension and drama, though? Reaper Man is one of the discworld novels with this dramatic, touching, heart-breaking turning point that is so important for a good story.
The secret is, he won't leave you with that. A discworld novel always ends with something funny, relaxed, witty. For the balance of things.
View all my reviews on goodreads