Friday, November 9, 2012

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the gods come into existence when people believe in them. Similarly, Death manifests itself as the Grim Reaper because people believe Death is a skeleton, in a hooded black cloak, with a scythe.

In Reaper Man, the Powers That Be have relieved Death of his duty on the grounds that Death has become too sympathetic of his clients (us: the dying and the dead).
They send Death off with his hourglass* and let him keep his horse, Binky. For the first time in his existence, Death has a life, and for the first time in his life, Death has Time.
And he’s going to spend it.
But first he has to get a job.

*Do you get the joke? He’s been a faithful employee so they send him off with his hourglass. It’s hilarious.

Soon after, a tall dark stranger appears on a farm in the country. It’s harvest time, he’s looking for work...and he’s good with a scythe.

Meanwhile, chaos runs through the City of Ankh-Morpork. Death (an important public service) is gone, so the dead are queuing up in the increasingly crowded space between this world and the next.
Windle Poons, a 130 year-old wizard from Unseen University, has been waiting to die and reincarnate for a long time. (So has the faculty member waiting to take Windle’s room.) But without Death to escort him to the afterlife, Windle Poons just...comes back.
As a corpse.
“No wonder the undead were traditionally considered to be very angry.”

Windle must adjust to his new (un)life by:
a) Attending a support group for the undead.
2) Enduring the antics of his kind academic colleagues, who help him out by repeatedly trying to kill him
d) Suffer the influx of poltergeist activity and other phenomenon resulting from Death’s absence.

And a sinister power is feeding on this new energy...and growing within the city.

Reaper Man is an entertaining story that fires on all Pratchett cylinders - save one.

Firing cylinders:
a) The premise is hilarious and the execution is brilliant
2) Death’s life as a human provides a humorous and profound angle on the human condition (This is what pain feels like? How do you keep living when you’re just going to die? Are you tricking me into drinking an alcoholic beverage for your personal amusement?)
d) Death is simply one of the best characters on Discworld

The “save one”:

While the Windle Poons storyline is humorous (especially with the antics of the Unseen University faculty), the silliness-level goes out of control - á la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – so that at some point you stop knowing or caring what’s going on…except that someone’s rushing about doing something exciting and it’s all very entertaining.

I rate this book a solid 7/10.

And I must say: I was very impressed with the ending.
With the final paragraphs.
With the final sentence.

That’s what you call a memorable ending.

Well, done, Mr. Pratchett.

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