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I was pretty much raised by Terry Pratchett novels. My entire family loves them and between them they probably have at least five copies of all the Discworld books. I myself was introduced to the Discworld at the age of nine after finally beating my uncle at chess, to which he gave me a copy of 'The Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents.' And most likely like the rest of my family, i was hooked on Pratchett.
For those of you who are new to Pratchett, the Discworld series is probably his most famous book series, made up of approximately fifty books. These books apply to many different audiences and often are a mick-take of real life, politics, fairytales, the supernatural, people in general and very notably JRR Tolkien.
Starting in 1983 with 'The Colour of Magic' Pratchett's outlandish concepts and writing style had captivated readers from all over the world with this idea of a flat disc on the back of four elephants on the back of a giant turtle that has 8 seasons, five continents (at last count) and is inhabited by 'take no nonsense' witches, incompetent wizards, miscellaneous creatures and the odd average Joe. For me the most memorable character is the "anthropomorphic personification" of death, otherwise known as the seven foot tall skeleton that rides a horse named Binky and has a butler named Alfred, named Death.
Death first appears in the fourth Discworld novel Mort, and appears subsequently in quite lot of the Discworld novels. Reaper man, which is the 11th Discworld book, is, in my opinion, one of the best of the commonly known 'Death books.'
Reaper Man starts off with the Auditors of Reality reviewing Death and his methods, thinking that he has grown a personality and thus is unfit for the job, so they fire him. As a result Bill Door is born, who gets a job with an old farm lady named Mrs Flitworth. There Bill Door learns how to be mortal, including learning about strange things called 'sleeping' and 'dreams' along with making friendships with Mrs Flitworth, the village folk and his co workers, who are all impressed with his harvesting abilities.
However there are consequences to firing Death, and after a strange shopping mall grows out of nowhere people start getting concerned. Including the wizards.
Windle Poon is a 130 odd year old wizard preparing to die, but is surprised to find that he can't no matter how hard he tries. With the help of his fellow wizards he ends up being buried still pretty much undead, where, on the inside of his coffin he gets introduced to Reg and his sort of undead support group. Together they try to figure out what's going on with the apparent inability to die, and with the help of the eccentric Mrs Cake, find out the truth of things.
Meanwhile Bill Door has his own trials to face, namely battling the new Death that is coming for him- yet growing morals and caring for those around him he also faces the classic selfless vs selfish issue that all humans face.
There are many things i love about this particular Discworld novel. For starters the concept of Death actually coming to life is dealt with in a humorous yet understandable manner that allow those who do live consider what they do with their limited time in this plain. Along with this the issue of what would happen if there was no Death is raised in such a manner that although seemingly outlandish, one could actually imagine the events in the book happening in real life.
Along with this the Windle Poons sub-plot raises the issues of town mentality and such like in such a fantastic way that one can see certain behaviours that happen within the book in common every day particularly shopping experiences.
This book also explains why there is a Death of Rats, something that always perplexed me when reading 'The Amazing Maurice and his educated Rodents.'
Pratchett also adds in a very clever effect of this book that is entirely different from any of the other books that i've read in his collection that i didn't even notice until my second reading of this book. It's just very cleverly written and a perfect example of a definition of Pratchett's writing style, where he raises very important political and philosophical issues, places them in this outlandish setting and turns them into points that can be made fun of.
Although Pratchett's writing is mainly aimed at advanced readers i still think you get audiences can enjoy the books- though probably not this one for it is quite complex. Older readers will most certainly enjoy this book along with any of the other Discworld novels, and if you are already a Pratchett fan but haven't read this book i don't understand how you can not have read it and i'd highly suggest you get hold of a copy immediately.
Reaper Man is the eleventh novel to be set on the Discworld - the magical world, flat as a pancake, sitting atop the shoulders of four elephants, which are riding on the shell of a huge turtle swimming through space. The Discworld is home to many interesting and magical places, funny characters and their stories.
But one of the most interesting of these characters I have to think is the character of Death - the Grim Reaper. He makes frequent appearances throughout the series, making at least one in each book, but the best stories are always the ones where he takes centre stage.
Reaper Man begins when Death finds on his desk a lifetimer - a sort of egg timer device which lets Death know when someone's about to die - only, the problem is, his name is on it. He finds out that the Auditors of Reality are planning on replacing him with another Death, as he has become to attached to humans and has developed a personality, which could make him dangerous. So he decides to leave, and start fresh on a farm, and the new "Bill Door" seems to be pretty skilled with a scythe.
However, all is not well, as Death's sudden vanishing from his job means that there's an excess of life, and not only are people no longer dying, otherwise inanimate objects are springing to life. Can the wizards of the Unseen University (headed by the new Archchancellor) find out what the problem is?
Reaper Man is my favourite book in the series. It was one of the first ones I read where I really, really got into it. The character of Death is so ... different to other incarnations of him. With having developed a personality from having worked with humans for so long he has also brought with him a lot of strange philosophies which only the Grim Reaper could have. He's not evil, and he's not good either - he just does his job and tries to keep everything in order.
Here we get to see an even more "human" side to him, than we did in Mort. As he is in fact masquerading as a human for the most part of the story it's a good way of developing his character a bit without simply just tacking new characters onto him. While Mort showed the more business-side of Death, Reaper Man brings out his truer form.
I also really enjoyed the introduction of one of my all time favourite characters - Ridcully the Brown, who is head of the Unseen University. While before, Archchancellors were made through assassinations, he imposes this new rule. We have met a few of the staff before, but here we get a good taste of what's to come - the way they bumble about and react to one another is hilarious. Also it's nice to see a more sympathetic group of wizards. I can't help but feel that, before, they were all just jerks.
Reaper Man is a stunning book, it's funny, original and raises some really good issues. The ending is superb and you'll be gripped throughout.
Reaper man stars the most famous of the discworld character's death aka The Grim Reaper.
Reaper man is the 11th book in the series as well as he also stars in two other books Mort and soul music as well as making guest appearances in other books.
Death usually makes special appearances usually for wizards from Unseen University.
It all starts off when the keepers of the universe decide to kill off death yes that right kill death and replace him with another Grim Reaper.
The author's mind must have been in an interesting space to come up with a story like this its not everyday an author thinks about killing death even though you could understand it because Terry pratchett is sick.
Death gets the shock of his life when he gets a egg timer with his name on.For those that don't know the egg timer is used to measure how much time we have left on this earth to live.
After seeing that he does not have a lot of time left he decides to go look for new kind of work and he stumbles across a farm where he hides his identity under the name bill door.The moment I enjoy the most is when he asked how good he is with a scythe because he is gonna need it as a farm utensil.
Reaper man also follows a wizard with the surname Poons who dies but comes back after death has abandoned his job.
For any first time reader the beginning of Terry book's can be a bit much when he goes into his theories as how the discworld works but it only is for a few pages and then you get into Terry's funny humor.
Besides the flaw I have mentioned the book is really worth all its money.
Although fan-favourite Death had cropped up in a number of previous Discworld novels, Reaper Man was the first in which he took centre stage. So here's the big question: is he strong enough to support a whole plot or is he simply a support player? Let's find out.
The main plot is typically absurd in the traditional Pratchett way. Death is made redundant and moves to the country. But with no-one to take over, Discworld inhabitants are not dying properly, causing a surplus of life. This sparks all sorts of strange events mainly surrounding wire baskets on wheels...
Don't even bother trying to understand the plot. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it's unlikely that you will ever be able to guess where it is heading. But that's not the point. Plots in Discworld novels are just there to give Pratchett the chance to examine the absurdity of human behaviour. That said, by his standards, Reaper Man is a surprisingly political book. Although he often has sly digs at politicians, the lust for power or society's structure in general, this book is more direct in that criticism. Town planners beware!
Don't run away with the impression that this is a preachy book, though. It retains all the sense of fun and silliness that Pratchett fans have come to expect. Packed with absurd situations, humorous observations and witty asides, it will delight both existing fans and newcomers alike.
It's always been the characters that make a Discworld book. Pratchett's colourful characters contain traits which we can recognise from ourselves and others, but these are exaggerated to make them funnier and more grotesque. As well as giving Death a starring role (more on that shortly), the wizards of Unseen University really start to develop as individual characters in Reaper Man. In particular, Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, with his simplistic view of the world and his blustering approach to life will cause much mirth, whilst The Dean really comes to fore in this one as a real character in his own right, rather than just a name. The Bursar too will provide some enjoyment. He has not yet developed into the comic character he will become, but he is well on his way and provides plenty of laughs.
Even so, the wizards still work best as a group. Fighting and bickering amongst themselves, even in the face of extreme danger, this dysfunctional social group with their idiosyncratic outlook on life is responsible for numerous laugh out loud moments. There is always something just naturally funny about adults acting like a bunch of children, and Pratchett observes this behaviour beautifully through the wizards.
Death provides plenty of humour of a different sort. His constant attempts to understand human behaviour again allow Pratchett to point out the absurdity of human thinking. Death's mis-understandings of the way people work makes for some very funny, awkward and occasionally, even touching moments. I was concerned that Death might not be strong enough to carry a whole book, but Pratchett develops him superbly, giving him a real personality. Meanwhile, the careful mixing of Death's bewildered outlook with other plot elements ensures that everything hangs together well.
Whilst the main focus might be on the wizards and Death, there are a whole host of support characters who each add something to the story. What is pleasing about Reaper Man is that much of the plot happens away from Ankh Morpork, giving Pratchett the chance to try something a bit different. It's true they don't all work, and many of them (Miss Flitworth, most of the inhabitants of the village) are simply there to create amusing misunderstandings to bewilder Death. Some though are inspired and very funny in their own right. Windle Poons - a crotchety, bad tempered old man who by rights should be dead is brilliant. And whilst he may only have a few lines in the book I defy anyone not to laugh when Cyril, the myopic, dyslexic cockerel does his stuff. It's the sort of absurd idea that Pratchett does so well - a small touch that adds a whole new level of humour and colour to the book.
Elsewhere the freedom to experiment gives Pratchett the chance to create new characters, many of whom who would go on to become favourites. We meet Reg Shoe - now a Discworld staple - for the first time, for example. These new characters help to add an air of freshness so that the book doesn't have to rely on the same old characters and situations to produce laughs.
As with many of Pratchett's early(ish) Discworld novels, there are a few weaknesses. If you don't get the style of humour, you will simply dismiss it as a very silly science fiction/fantasy book. Although Pratchett's style encompasses many types of humour (slapstick, silly jokes, humorous observations etc.), it won't be to everyone's taste. The predominant style of Reaper Man is to cast a cynical eye on the absurdity of human behaviour, and if you don't appreciate that, you will find large parts of it unfunny. The humour is so broad, though, that most people should be able to find at least something to laugh at.
I know some people also find Pratchett's narrative style annoying. He writes in sections (no chapters), meaning the book is just one long chunk of text with just a blank line occasionally splitting them up. I actually think this makes them more fun to read, but some people don't like it. Similarly, his style of chopping and changing between different plot elements can cause problems. Sometimes this is done for narrative effect (to end a section on cliffhanger), but not always and not everyone appreciates this approach. Once you've read a few Pratchett books, though, you simply accept this as the way he writes.
Finally, the paperback printers of this edition should be put up against the wall and shot. Towards the end of the book, there is a key part of the text which needs to take you by total surprise to work. It needs to happen just as you turn over to a new page, so you don't see what's coming. Apparently for the original hardback edition, Pratchett deliberately added more words to ensure this happened. In the paperback edition, the publishers just printed the manuscript as it stood, with the result that the "surprise" element comes half way down a two page spread and is seen as soon as you turn the page. This won't make a lot of sense if you've not read the book, but trust me, it somewhat ruins the surprise the first time you read it.
On the whole, this is an excellent Discworld novel and one which is slightly different from the titles which went before it. Probably the strongest of the "Death" titles (with the exception perhaps of The Hogfather), it is accessible to both newcomers and established fans alike.
© Copyright SWSt 2009
Death takes a holiday! This is Terry Pratchett in fine form as usual. Death goes missing (well, kind of) and The Discworld is left to cope without him there to collect the dead.
Basically we follow Windle Poons as he approaches death and how he copes with his afterlife and near death (or not very near death as the case may be) experience.
We get to learn more about the undead (or the differently alive as Terry puts it) and we also get to see how Death comes to terms with being told he himself is going to die and be replaced by a new Death who is rather less user friendly than the Death we have come to know and love.
With nothing dying theres lots of life pouring into the Discworld & it has to go somewhere. Swearwords come to life, Snowglobes develop a lifecycle which eventually becomes a Shopping Mall.
The book is one of the stranger ones, it has lots of funny moments as well though. It's a book with an good if somewhat unusal resolution but it certainly keeps you turning the pages as you always want to know whats coming around the next corner
I guess I feel like a tree at the moment.
No don't go, let me explain.
There is a passage in this book concerning a conversation between a group of trees. This conversation has been going on for seventeen years. To illustrate my opening statement I would like to present a brief snippet of the conversation :-
'Wow. That was a sharp one.'
'That winter just then.'
And that's exactly how I feel at the moment. It seems only five minutes ago that I posted my previous opinion on Dooyoo yet somehow it's been almost three years. Thirty-six months! Where the hell did they all go?
The trouble is that many moons ago I set myself a challenge. Having read a book called "The Colour Of Magic" by Terry Pratchett I became something of a fan of his humerous fantasy tales set on a magical land called the Discworld. I then reviewed said book and promised to review every single book* in the Discworld series. That was in July 2003. This is June 2008 and I'm only just getting round to reviewing book 11.
* We'll ignore the childrens books for the moment
At that rate I'm averaging a Discworld opinion every 5.45 months. Keeping in mind that Mr Pratchett manages at least one new book every year in addition to the thirty-odd already available that will make it September 2018* when I'm finally up to date. Bugger !
* well, more or less. It is quite late as I sit here doing these sums and I am a bit tired. I'm also not entirely convinced the calculator is working properly...
But enough of my moans. After all, it's not as if I've got to put up with anything like the sort of problems they have to face on the Discworld. Of course the inhabitants of Ankh-Morpork, the Discworlds largest city, should be used to pretty unusual things happening around them by now. For instance, while we may only need concern ourselves with lifes little irritants imagine how inconvenient things get for the inhabitants of the Discworld when the Grim Reaper himself, Death, disappears - especially if you happen to be one of the recently departed.
Well, imagine no more, for this is the premise of the eleventh book in Terry Pratchetts ever expanding Discworld series, 'Reaper Man'.
Our tale revolves around characters who are used to living on a world supported on the back of four giant elephants who, in turn, stand on the back of a giant space turtle. A place where, if you were not careful and walked too far you would fall off the edge of the world. A place where magic, trolls, werewolves and monsters are the norm. All things considered you'd think they'd be a hardy bunch.
But even for these folk it's quite an unusual turn of events when the dead start to come back to life. The reason for this is that the Auditors of Reality have concluded that Death has become inefficient due to him having developed a personality and so decide that he has to be replaced. When Death, who is used to monitoring other peoples lifetimers, suddenly discovers he has one of his own (and what's more it's running out) he decides to make the most of the time he has left and gain some experience of life. Unfortunately the Auditors have't yet appointed a replacement.
Meanwhile Windle Poons, the oldest wizard in Unseen University, has died but things aren't exactly going to plan. With Death not there to greet him his spirit returns to his body much to the surprise of the rest of the wizards, who are not particularly keen on dead people wandering around the University. As these strange events continue throughout the city Death has found himself a job as a farmhand ( well, he is a dab hand with a scythe) and is going down a storm with the locals. Add to the mix a confused cockerel, mysterious snowglobes and some particularly vicious trollys and you have the ingredients for a rather typical Discworld novel.
It has to be said that usually I don't tend to stick with any book whose opening paragraph discusses the intricacies of the Morris Dance. However, dedicated Discworld addict that I am, I proceeded safe in the knowledge that such outlandish ideas are par for the course. Having forged my way beyond paragraph two I'm pleased to report that things do get substantially better.
It would be fair to say that 'Reaper Man' seems to take a little while to build up momentum. There are some very funny passages throughout the whole book but it's the second half that provides the more satisfying dramatic elements. What I particularly enjoyed here is the recognition of Deaths developement from his initial brief appearance to a fully fleshed-out* character complete with his desires to understand and experience life.
* if that's the correct term for a skeletal figure.
Of all the characters yet introduced throughout the series he is the one who has developed the most and proves to be in turns a hugely amusing character yet also a truely poignant one as well. Despite strong competition from other series regulars such as Rincewind, the incompetent wizard and of course, the City Watch, he remains my favourite character and it's always nice to discover a little more about him.
Parallel to Deaths adventures we follow the fortune, or lack thereof, of Windle Poons and the wizards of Unseen University, which makes great use of the chaos Deaths disappearance has caused. The wizards are always great value for money and their various attempts to 'correct' Windles' situation and discover what exactly is going on around them provides plenty of laughs along the way. For regular readers there are also cameo appearances from the likes of Sergeant Colon of the watch and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, a sort of Discworld version of Del Boy.
All of the books in the series have managed to combine slapstick, the dramatic, and Mr P's merciless mocking of many beliefs and ideas found here on our own world. Not wanting to give too much of the plot away or ruin any surprises I won't say any more here other than to point out this is not one of his more subtle messages, although many of us may agree with his sentiment.
But for those among us who just want to take the book at face value and laugh a lot while reading it I can reassure that this is prime Discworld. It may not take the pole position as my favourite - that honour remains with 'Guards Guards' - but it is exactly what I hope to get out of a Discworld novel each time I pick one off the shelf.
I usually have a hard time listing any dislikes for these books for the simple fact I often don't have any. So this time I'm going to be really picky. To start with it's quite a short book at only 286 pages. As I've already mentioned the main story takes a while to get going although to be fair there are so many laughs to be had I can't really complain about it too much.
Finally I would suggest that to get the most out of it you really need to go back to an earlier entry in the series first. I'd always recommend reading them all in the order written if at all possible but at the very least you should read 'Mort' before getting stuck into this one. See, even in picky mode I still struggle to find many faults.
Why I like this book is easier. It's very, very funny. Character and situation comedy, one liners and whole passages - here by the bucketfull, many more of them hitting the mark than missing it. Don't let all the wizards and trolls nonsense put you off. While I've enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings films I've never really been into serious fiction about magic and monsters. It's all just an excuse to create a world that, apart from the obvious exceptions, is actually very similar to our own and provides the perfect setting for quite simply some of the funniest fantasy around.
Oh and if you're wondering what all these little * things are then get used to them because Mr P is very fond of using them to provide comments or a little background information to events, people or places. I only started using them when writing Discworld opinions but I have to say they are damn addictive once you do start.
* Like this except funnier
To sum it up, as a richly humerous fantasy story this is a great book and an easy recommendation to anyone with a sense of humour.
To those dedicated desciples of the Discworld you'll already know what I'm talking about. Treat yourself and read it again.
To those who merely dip their toe into the murky River Ankh occasionally, this is one of the better spots for a paddle.
To those who are tempted but have never encountered Discworld before, go and read 'The Colour Of Magic' then work through the series. This book will still be waiting for you later on and you'll enjoy it all the more then.
Finally to those of you who don't see what the fuss is all about, and especially those who will ignore the series without ever having tried one out, then I'm very sorry for you because you're missing something very special indeed.
Thanks for reading.
© Nomad 2008
"Reaper Man" by Terry Pratchett
286 pages, published by Corgi, £6.99
ISBN : 0552134643
Some Discworld related websites worth a look
The L Space Web - http://www.ie.lspace.org/
Discworld monthly - http://www.discworldmonthly.co.uk/index.php
Terry Pratchett Books - http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
Other Discworld book reviews by me
'Destination Discworld' an opinion on Book 1 - 'The Colour Of Magic'
'Fantastical Magical' an opinion on Book 2 - 'The Light Fantastic'
'Men Only' an opinion on Book 3 - 'Equal Rites'
'A Life Of Death' an opinion on Book 4 - 'Mort'
'It's A Kind Of Magic' an opinion on Book 5 - 'Sourcery'
'Is This A Discworld Novel I See Before Me?' an opinion on Book 6 - 'Wyrd Sisters'
'Time After Time' an opinion on Book 7 - 'Pyramids'
'The Flying Squad' an opinion on Book 8 - 'Guards Guards'
'When You Wish Upon A Star' an opinion on Book 9 - 'Eric'
'The Silver Scream' an opinion on Book 10 - 'Moving Pictures'
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series started out as a collection of gosh-wow humourous adventures on a flat world carried through space on the back of elephants. As Pratchett has matured as a writer, the characters have grown deeper, the plots have grown stronger and the themes have started to verge on the literary.
Reaper Man marks a bit of a watershed in the series as, although it is full of wizards and undead and animated compost heaps, it also contains a lot of thoughtful prose about fate, time, life and the erosion of community spirit due to out-of-town shopping centres. No, really.
The novel is routinely described as 'one of the Death ones'. Death is probably Pratchett's most widely-known character, a seven foot skeleton with a scythe, black robes and a horse called Binky. He pops up in all the Discworld books, and even a few of Pratchett's other novels, and he always gets the best lines.
This kind of cameo character is all very well, but history shows us that a whole book / film of them can be wearing (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back anyone?). Luckily, even in novels where Death takes a central role, Pratchett keeps juggling the star of his show with a number of other characters.
Having been pressed into retirement by the Auditors of Reality, Death retreats to a remote farm to gather the harvest. Going by the alias of Bill Door, he forms a touching bond with Miss Flitworth, a lonely old farmer.
In the meantime, the 'wacky' quotient of the novel is fulfilled in Ankh-Morpork where, without the Grim Reaper around to guide them on their way, the souls of the recently departed are wandering the streets in a fairly bemused manner. Wizard Windle Poons is the main focus for this subplot, as he wanders the streets of Ankh-Morpork with the rest of Mrs Cake's undead chums. This choice of central character is yet another shift away from the fresh-faced young people that populate Pratchett's earlier work, as Poons is an ancient wizard who (now that he's dead) is articulate, intelligent and experienced.
As Bill Door struggles to adjust to mortality, and as the universe struggles to adjust to immortality, an apparently frivolous subplot about snow globes, shopping trolleys and baby cities keeps the faculty of Unseen University occupied. Following the introduction of Archchancellor Ridcully in Moving Pictures, Pratchett fleshes out a cast of wizards who will return time and time again. The sad fact, though, is that the Chair of Indefinite Studies and Lecturer in Recent Runes are largely indistinguishable, and it's the dialogue that zips between these characters that marks them out rather than their characterisation.
The stuff with the cuckoo city is a little bit deeper than it may appear on first reading, and at the time Reaper Man was published, concern about high streets vanishing under pressure from out of town superstores was front page stuff. But stripped of its topicality, this Discworld mall is a pretty toothless and, worse, unfunny diversion from the greater story happening out on Miss Flitworth's farm.
Repeating the central dilemna of Mort - that there is a set time for everyone to die and that to meddle with this could destroy the world - Bill Door is just getting used to his new life when a new Death arises to claim him.
The battle of the Deaths, most of which consists of a struggle to sharpen Bill Door's scythe to Death-like sharpness, loses the plot again a bit. The true strength of the novel lies in scenes where Death talks with a six year old girl outside a pub, and struggles to get in the harvest before the rains.
And just when it's all getting a bit silly and melodramatic, with the New Death proclaiming himself ruler of all and Old Death challenging Lord Azrael to win more Time, the closing sections of the book choose instead to focus on the personal rather than the cosmic, the way in which Death chooses to spend the last minutes of his time are affecting and just right.
If this was just a story about Ankh-Morpork getting a mall, and the undead community fighting for their rights, Reaper Man would be little more than a footnote in my collection.
As it is, however, with the brilliantly drawn relationship between Death and an old farmer, and highly-crafted scenes of witty dialogue, it remains one of my favourite Terry Pratchett novels, and a great introduction to Discworld as a whole, straddling the barrier between exuberant early material and the more mature work that was to come afterwards.
It costs about seven quid in paperpack, although mine was less than a fiver when I bought it about 15 years ago.
Discworld is a place where myths are real, where people are
where anything can happen
and where Death exists as an anthropomorphic personality, complete with black robes, scythe, and TALKS LIKE THIS (so you can always tell from a quick glance at the page if Death is on it or not!). He has a thirst for new experiences though, so he does all sorts of things that anthropomorphic representations arent really supposed to do. One of these was to adopt a daughter. Another was to take on an apprentice. (These both happened in the afore-mentioned Mort). He also journeys down to earth on occasion when not on business, for example to find out what this alcohol business is all about.
There are things in the multiverse (Discworld exists in just one of the possible universes, or realities, you see the idea is that everything MUST exists at some place at some time) of Discworld called Auditors. They are the Filing Clerks of the multiverse, so to speak. They do not like disorder. Thus, they do not like what Death is doing. And they have powerful friends
So Death finds himself out of a job. He gets to live in the real world, gets a job on a farm, and turns out to be a dab hand with a scythe
Meanwhile, on the Discworld, people are dying and their souls just hang about because there is no-one to cut their ties to their bodies. Some they simply re-inhabit them and become zombies (one such is Windle Poons, the oldest member of Unseen University, home of Ankh-Morporks wizards). Others simply float around aimlessly terrifying people. And a new menace is arising in the shape of little round spheres with miniature cities in them with what looks like snow when you whirl it around, and wire trolleys on wheels that have minds of their own . Worst of all, its up to the Wizards to sort it out
And thats as much of the plot as youre going to get from me. (You may think Ive told you too much, but believe me theres far, FAR more to that plot than what Ive given you above.
The writing style is Pratchett through and through. Basically, its hysterical. The characters are always good, but with this one featuring Death and Arch-chancellor Ridcully, two of the absolute best, you really cant lose. There are some excellent new characters, including the wonderful Reg Shoe (activist for Dead Rights yep you read it right), a werewolf that is a dog apart from full moons, another werewolf who is vaguely human apart from on full moons, the farm landlady with a secret past, pretentious vampires, Moto, Unseen Universitys dwarf gardener (that is, a gardener who is a dwarf, not a gardener who grows dwarves) who has been around wizards so long that no event, no matter how bizarre or dangerous, can ever phase him - and many more. Much of it is vintage Pratchett, which means its about as good as humour writing can ever get
Except for two things. I enjoyed the first part of the book but it wasnt fantastic the plot seems to move rather slowly, and while the writing was certainly very good, it wasnt brilliant and brilliant is slightly worse than what Ive come to expect from Pratchett. However, the second part of the book is inspired. However, the book as a whole is only worth 4 stars, I feel, also partly because it is one of the shortest Discworld novels. Length isnt the most important thing but its a shame there wasnt more of it.
There are some priceless moments in here though, which stand out as among the funniest Ive ever read in any book, Discworld or otherwise. Look out for Ridcully meeting his brother, and a take on the intro sequence to Raiders of the Lost Ark
This is not quite as good as the absolute crème-de-la-crème of Discworld, but it is still a jolly good read and extremely funny. No self-respecting Pratchett fan could ever be without it
I could tell you what bookshops would stock it... but it would be quicker to list the ones that don't! Paperback is £6.99 (RRP) £5.59 (Amazon).
You can also get it as part of the "Death Triology" which also contains "Mort" and "Soul Music", both of which are short but priceless Discworld novels starring Death. This is £18.99 (RRP) £12.52 in hardback format.
As Death stalks the seemingly endless corridor he sees the rows of timers with the sands of life essence slowly trickling away. Out of the corner of the void that is his eye socket he notices something he has never encountered before. A small golden timer with the sands of life essence flowing rapidly from the top to the bottom of its dual bulbs. On closer inspection he sees five letters discreetly, yet undeniably printed across the timer. Those letters spell DEATH. How can this happen and what will happen to the life if there is no Death?
"Reaper Man" is Terry Pratchett's eleventh novel in his Discworld series. For those unaware the Discworld is a flat, circular planet supported by four giant elephants who are in turn stood on the back of Great A'Tuin the sky turtle. Only on such a world could witches, trolls, werewolves and dwarves live alongside humanity.
This novel is in two parts and essentially follows two plot lines. That of Death's diminishing life and that of Windle Poons, a wizard who dies only to find there is nowhere to go but to back were he came, his own body. Death's tale is sombre and poignant as he discovers what it is like to live whereas Poons's is a slapstick situation comedy involving everything from a group of bumbling wizards to an insecure boogeyman.
Pratchett, in choosing to use two plots simultaneously in the novel could have created an unreadable confusion of plot. However, it is a testament to his ability that the two fates are woven beautifully to a pleasing conclusion. As a reader I can feel a mixture of emotions throughout from sadness to amusement. The characterisation of Death as the automaton that learns how to be human is superb considering the novels relatively short length is also impressive.
Of course, no Pratchett novel would be complete without parody and one-liners and "Reaper Man" is no exception. All things spiritual and religious are treated with particular scorn and there is a hilarious parody of war epics i.e
"He'd never realised that, deep down inside, what he really wanted to do was make things go splat."
And the Dirty Harry films with Clint Eastwood.
DROP THE SCYTHE, AND TURN AROUND SLOWLY.
Add to this a dyslexic chicken ("Dock-a-loodle-fod!") and what you have is a hilarious, yet also poignant novel.
It would appear that I have no criticisms for this novel and I have to admit I struggled to find some. As with all Pratchett's novels the fantasy element is offputting to some with pre-conceptions about the genre. In this particular novel the settings are less impressive than the larger than life characters contained within. However, this is a gripe that I am sure you will not even notice. He is a writer that you will either find him funny and his observations apt or it will wash over you and you will wonder what I am raving on about.
In case you have not guessed by now I really this novel. It has an excellent re-readabilty factor perhaps due to its length. At 286 pages it is a fast paced tale of two halves. It requires no previous Discworld knowledge so is ideal for newcomers yet has enough "old familiars" to keep fans happy. Quintessential Pratchett then!
Published by Transworld
Cheapest price found via kelkoo £5.49 in paperback with free delivery at Play.com
Imagine a world. The world is a flat disc. It's supported on the backs of four elephants, which are, in turn, carried through space standing on the shell of a Turtle.
The tooth fairy is real, dragons breath fire, oceans tumble off the rim of the world, and DEATH is a seven-foot-tall skeleton, wrapped in a cloak of absolute darkness, wielding a scythe and riding a pale horse. Called Binky. Truly.
This world is Terry Pratchett's Discworld. On this world, magic works, and the world really is flat (and those on the world that disbelieve that are wrong, for that is really how the world is).
There are two connected plots to Reaper Man, one involving DEATH and the other the wizards of the Unseen University, as well as various other assorted dead, undead and vaguely alive characters. And shopping trolleys.
In the first, Reaper Man could alternatively be called Death Takes an Enforced Holiday. Cloaked figures, The Auditors, who disappear should they develop individual awareness are unhappy with DEATH. As an incarnation, he should also be devoid of a 'personality.' However, due to his regular interaction with humans, he has himself developed awareness (though not necessarily understanding - he has all sorts of problems with simple things like doorknobs) of himself and those around him. As One Auditor says: "There is a personality. Personalities come to an end. Only forces endure."
DEATH certainly has a personality. He keeps goldfish (OK, they're actually black, but the thought is there). He has a grandfather clock (no hands on it, but again, he means well).
The Auditors, with the permission of Azrael (the ultimate God figure) relieve DEATH of his duties. He is retired, and so he will, like other personalities, eventually die. Styling himself 'Bill Door' (after some discussion), he becomes a farm hand to an elderly lady, Miss Flitworth, and finds himself part of (in a manner of speaking) a small community. Yet always he fears death - he can hear the sands of his lifetimer trickling down. In the course of his residence with Miss Flitworth, he attempts to teach a forgetful rooster to read (sadly, Cyril the rooster is dyslexic - his subsequent attempts at crowing are amusing), gets drunk, learns how to play darts badly (he's very good at playing badly), saves a little girl from a fire, and, of course, brings in the harvest. One blade at a time. You see, he's very good with a scythe.
The second plot concerns the consequences of DEATH's absence. Windle Poons, an elderly wizard at the Unseen University, dies. Except, he doesn't. In fact, there seems to be a problem in the death department. There is now too much life. As a result of being dead, Windle meets all sorts of people...ish. There's Reg. He's a Zombie. We also have a reluctant vampire, a terrified bogeyman, a shy banshee (he writes notes - OoooooOOOOeeEEee) amongst many others.
Because of all the life sloshing around, a new life begins. It starts with snow-domes appearing. This is the larval stage. They eventually turn into shopping trolleys with a hive mind. The hive is what is clearly an incipient shopping mall. Complete with a queen. This mall tries to suck the spare life out of everything, and it's up to Windle, his bizarre collection of friends and the wizards to stop this.
Like most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, Reaper Man is funny and satiric. The idea that shopping malls suck life out of towns and cities is not a new one. Pratchett voices our collective discomfort with the cost of conspicuous consumption that shopping malls and the other little conveniences of life (like shopping trolleys) provide. He even satirises mall music!
However, the book has a serious side as well. I certainly chuckle at DEATH's attempts to understand and emulate humanity (and I still love the scenes with him and Cyril, the daft chicken - 'Dock-a-loodle-fod!'). Yet DEATH is a melancholy character. His yearning for life, for time is poignant and, at times, truly sad and touching: "After a while he was aware of an insistent hissing. He took out the golden timer and put it right at the other end of the loft, under a piece of hay. It made no difference at all." DEATH has become aware of mortality and the fear of...well...himself. He doesn't want to die. He begins to understand the fear of death everything conscious possesses. And he is afraid.
He learns why people do some of the things they do - why prisoners keep birds. Why we cling so tenaciously to life. For the harvest, and the flights of birds. He begs Azrael for time, to give Miss Flitworth back the time she lent to him. Forgive the quoting, but these lines are, for me, the best in the book: "And even oblivion must end some day. Lord, will you grant me just a little time? For the proper balance of things. To return what was given. For the sake of prisoners and the flight of birds...Lord, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?"
Given that this book is meant to be funny, DEATH does triumph in the end, after some 'drama' (DEATH always speaks in small capitals - you'll just have to imagine that): "No crown, said Bill Door, looking directly into the smoke. No crown. Only the Harvest.". Yet the victory is tinged with regret - regret for DEATH's brief humanity, and for the inevitability of death, with a little d. Still, this IS Pratchett. The book really ends with the DEATH of Rats.
I do like the Discworld novels. I guess that's clear now. And I am especially fond of DEATH (the character, rather than the state of non-being). Pratchett has several recurring characters and sets of characters in his books, each of with form mini-series-within-the-series. There is the City Watch (Guards, Guards! being one of those), Rincewind, the incompetent magician (the series started with him in The Colour of Magic) and the witches (Lords and Ladies is one of those). But DEATH is my favourite character. He's a comic/tragic figure. And he has a nifty scythe. And a horse called Binky.
Reaper Man is probably my favourite instalment of the Discworld series. It doesn't require extensive knowledge of the previous ten Discworld novels; it has some of the best lines (both funny and serious), and contains DEATH. And life. Have fun!
The usual NOTE
I have posted this elsewhere(s) as mattygroves.
"And at the end of all stories, Azrael, who knew the secret, thought: I REMEMBER WHEN ALL THIS WILL BE AGAIN."
This is one of many discworld books, and, as with the other books the story is set in a fantasy world called The Discworld. The discworld is a huge disc set on the back of four elephants who in turn stand on the back of a space turtle. This place does, at times seem remarkably like earth both in the countries and the attitudes of its inhabitants. The discworld is populated by a wide variety of the usual fantasy creatures, sometimes with an unusual but humorous twist such as the vampire who is into near fatal flash photography (a character from The Truth). In Reaper Man there are two separate but linked plots, one involving death (perhaps predictably depicted as a skeleton) and the other involving the wizards from the unseen university (the discs premier school of magic) and the results of the absence of death. The character that features most strongly in Reaper Man is death, the book develops the character of death. Death is relieved of his duties because he develops a personality, which is seen as a cause of inefficiency by the auditors of reality. The only problem is that without death, souls are beginning to pile up with no one to usher them into the next world. Meanwhile after being given a life death takes binky and an incredibly sharp scythe in search of a job. He finally finds a job as a farm hand and "Bill Door" is the more life filled, but still skeletal incarnation of death. Death however does not have much time to enjoy his new life, as soon as the new death arrives the old death will die. Windle Poons, an old wizard, is the main feature of the other half of the plot. After Windle Poons dies he gets fed up of hanging around outside his body waiting for his soul to be collected, so he forces his way back into his body and becomes a zombie and a member of the "Fresh Start Club" for the assorted un-dead misfits of Ankh Morpork. The rest of the wizards are trying to work out what the hell is going on, and, more importan
tly who is to blame for the baskets on wheels. I found this book an enjoyable read and it was great to see another side of death. The book is one of the death sub-series and can be read without any prior knowledge of the discworld, thought knowing a bit about the characters beforehand means that you can see the development from the first books. I liked the way the book is written as the two separate but linked plots provide different views of the same situation as well as greater variety in the range of characters involved. The pace of the book varies but the begining is quite quick so I didn't get bored waiting for the story to start. I think Death is by far the star of this book but the Windle Poons part of the story does add variety and is an interesting way of showing the effects of the absence of death. This is a book not only about a fantasy world because there are many elements that are reflected and exaggerated from our own world into Pratchett's make-believe one and this perhaps makes it easier to understand and engage with the book. Even though the discworld is a very complex place the books are still easy to read so I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good humorous fantasy story that?s not difficult to get into.
Death has been sacked! Not death, the simple state of being without life, but Death - the great big bony skeleton that people on the Disc have anthromrophised into existence to embody this state. He's been given his timer and has to live in the real world, experiencing time's passage and the Disc is in trouble. Reaper Man is another of Pratchett's books to feature Death as the main character; it follows the cause and effect of his removal and the "life" he leads outside of his own dark realm. He becomes Bill Door, a farmhand on the small freehold of Miss Flitworth, getting older and heading towards the end of his being. While there he develops a fondness for life and gets to love the farm and his new surroundings, even though he still dreams of his old times and how he'd like to get back to them. The first person to feel the effects of Death's sacking is Windle Poons, a 130 year-old wizard who, upon dying finds that there's nobody to take his soul away and he has to return to his body. We follow both Windle and The Fresh Start Club of dead people as they try to find the cause of the problem and the solution to it and just WHAT ARE those little wheelie baskets that have started to crop up all over the city? The life of Death and the death of Windle Poons occupies the vast majority of the book, it's a great contrast - Death is living in a very small, rural community where he's known as Bill Door and popular amongst one and all while Windle is un-living in Ankh-Morpork, city of a million inhabitants and no plumbing where everyone is terrified of him. A strong supporting cast of The Faculty of the Unseen University, the Fresh Start Club - comprising 2 vampires, 1 agoraphobic bogeyman, 1 zombie, a banshee with a speech impediment, a ghoul and a reverse werewolf, numerous "new" Deaths, the Auditors of reality and a Medium (verging on a small) makes for a very funny book wi
th a very well thought out plot. Overall: -------- As I'm sure you're all aware by now, I'm a big Pratchett fan. Death in particular is a blessing to any of his books in my opinion and he really shines here. Pratchett makes Death so incredibly funny by placing him in situations that are completely unsuitable for him. We often hear Death say that there is no justice, only him but place him in a barn or a pub and he's totally naive and unable to connect to his peers - being so unused to the attention or need to make small talk. The Wizards are very funny too - each as bumbling as the next and getting in the way of just about everything. The key to all of Pratchett's books is the humour, it's always there and you WILL laugh out loud throughout this book. The humour is always clever, always thick and fast and generally gets more and more as the books go on. Lots of in-jokes so you could do worse than starting off on some of the other Discworld novels before going onto this one. For a Pratchett fan this should be the Holy Grail. Priced at £5.99 and 287 pages long it is a great book that should not be missed!
How on earth am I going to convey enough about all the plots and characters in this novel without actualy typing in most of a book's worth of review? This is an excellent and very full book. I only hope I can do it some sort of justice. Pratchett's discworld series is now very long indeed. The seting is a fantasy world - The Discworld, a large disc supported by four elephants who stand on the back of a giant turtle. The place often bears an uncanny resemblance to earth, the rest of the time it bears a strange resemblance to Shakespeare and a whole host of fantasy novels. Death has been a presence in the books since the very begining and has gradually become quite a presence. "Mort" is worth reading before you have a go at this one, and "Soul Music" has a lot of Death in it as well. They work fairly well out of order, so don't worry too much. The Plots: Death has been fired by the dull beings that audit reality - he is deemed inefficeint because he has developped a personailty. Death takes his horse, Blinky and his scythe, and manages to get a job as a farm hand. He still looks like a skeleton, but people's minds won't accept this so they just see him as being terribly thin! Gradually, Death enters into life, as "Bill Door" and gets involved in a few local events, as well as quite a lot of reaping. However, whe the new Death arrives, the old Death must die, and time is running short. The second plot line follows the effects of Death's absence - things cease to die. Windle Poons, elderly wizard, fails entirely to die and ends up joining the "Fresh Start Club" for undead. Lots of comic moments with these people. (One Bogeyman who has to stand behind something, two vampires (one by marriage) two were beings, and a militant zombie.) Meanwhile, the wizards are trying to work out what's going on, the priests are claiming its got nothing to do with the gods and total mayhem is breakin
g out. To make matters worse, these funny little wheeled baskets keep turning up all over the place..... Something has to be done about Death, but at elast they have those handy little baskets turning up to put everything in..... (Not all is as it seems, and there is something sinister afoot, so sinister that it might destroy the city of Ankh-Morpork.) "Reaper man" is pant wettingly funny in places, so be warned about reading it in public. It is also very clever - the various plots weave neatly together. As you would expect from Pratchett, there are hordes of humorous bit parts, and there's a fair amount to think about. In terms of comments on our own society, watch out for the sounds designed to turn the human brain into cottage cheese. I would recomend this book for anyone who likes intelligent homour. Unlike many Pratchett's it does not seem to depend too ehavily on you having read something else first, which is a distinct advantage.
Terry Pratchett is one of this country’s most successful authors, in fact his series of books based on the fictional fantasy world, called Discworld has spawned its own cult following, with figures of the characters being produced, spin off books and a big fan club, with its own conventions. Now I have dabbled in these books before and thought yes these are Ok quite funny in places, but why all the fuss. So, having read three reviews on this book all spouting its greatness, I thought that I would give Reaper Man a try. In fact I have had this book finished for a week now and was stuck as how to review it, or what exactly I thought. So lets get on shall we? PLOT Death (in the form of the Grim Reaper) has been made redundant, he is old technology, and the cosmic forces want a new Death. Now Death himself is not so pleased about this event, but as part of his compensation and before death himself is reaped by his replacement, he gets some time to be alive in the mortal sense. So off he goes on his trusty horse called Blinky (of who Death has some rather paternal feelings for) and becomes a farm hand called Bill Door. Of course his mastery of the scythe comes in handy in this respect. Death learns what it is like to be governed by the rules of the universe, time etc and actually starts to enjoy himself. Now the cosmic forces have made a large mistake, they have let Death go too soon, they have no replacement lined up as apparently it is people that will create this with their thoughts. (Well, aren’t the cosmic governors stupid Geoffrey the Mad Mohican Giraffe, would only have been too happy to help, he loves doing nasty things with his axe.) Back to the book. Now the absence of Death leaves the whole universe with a large problem, who will take away the spirits of dead people? So we are left with a series problem in Ankh-Morpork (Discworld’s principal city), spirits and life force are running wild. Windl
e Poons a mad old Wizard is supposed to have died, but he didn’t, or rather he did, but his spirit got so bored with nothing, that it forced its way back into its old body and thus Windle Poons became a Zombie Wizard. All the life force is causing havoc and it is materialising in the form of shopping trolleys, which will in the end cause the destruction of Ankh-Morpork. So it is too the rescue Mr Poons the Zombie, with his fellow band of dead, but un-dead friends, the shy Boogey Man, the socially climbing vampire couple and the Banshee that has to write its messages. What we are left with are two separate stories within the same book, one about Death and the other about the chaos his redundancy has caused the rest of the universe. Yes, you are right this is an off the wall book. But does it work? HUMOUR Pratchett has his own brand of humour, it is mad, but at times very amusing, the dyslexic chicken scared into crowing properly had me in stitches as did the Orang-u-tang librarian. What Pratchett does is turn normal objects often inanimate (or animals) into characters and at times this works very well. Pratchett certainly has a penchance for lateral thinking and it is refreshing to find this in print. Thinking in straight lines can be bad for you. But it would be nice just to have a few straight line sub-plots just to stabilise the book. The humour involving death is very amusing as Death struggles to come to terms with being a mortal and tries to grapple with the living world and the idea of giving this vague concept such as the Grim Reaper a rather endearing character is great and very novel. But the in my view the shopping trolley idea was not that amusing and I found this part of the book’s plot, disappointing and rather drifting. MESSAGE Does Pratchett have a social message? Well, yes I think he does, the redundancy of Death before the cosmic forces have made plans is rather s
ocialist. Is this a swipe at large companies that make the work force redundant without thought for the consequences? The campaigning of rights for the un-dead is a way of saying to people, that just because they are different from you, this is no reason to poke fun at them or deny them the basic rights of others. This could apply because of race, disablement, different cultures etc. Finally, perhaps, the shopping trolley escapade, was an attack on the rampant commercialism and consumerism within our society, the dominance of the desire to consume products whether we need them or not. Why else would he use the shopping trolley as the icon for the downfall of Ankh-Morpork? STYLE Pratchett’s writing style flows well and it can, when he is writing at his best suck you in. But the standard throughout the book fluctuates at times I found myself drifting away and finding his wacky humour just a little irritating and over the top. The humour is great in small doses and adds to the books appeal, but he uses it too much to keep the book flowing along nicely. Pratchett does not use that much in the way of description, he writes in conversation between the characters or as the characters thoughts and as in all books with this style it makes it quite fast paced and to add to the fast pace, Pratchett writes in short sharp sentences. I will give you an exert so you can sample the humour and style: “It was another dawn. Cyril the cockerel stirred on his perch. The chalked wording glowed in the half-light. He concentrated. He took a deep breath. “Dock-a-loodle-fod!” Now that the memory problem was solved, there was only the dyslexia to worry about!” MY THOUGHTS Pratchett is a talented writer and this book is very amusing in places and trying in others. The idea of breathing life to Death is brilliant and his characterisation in the book is exc
ellent. But did I like this book? Well yes and no. The plot surrounding Death is great, but the sub-plot surrounding Windle Poons tends to wax and wane. The Death plot would get 4 stars and the Windle Poons part three stars, so it is a hard one to classify, but I think due to the hit and miss nature of the humour and its overuse I will give this book three stars, but I will certainly read more of this original author’s fantasy works, but I will not be joining the fan club. Geoffrey on the other hand is now having delusions of grandeur of being the Grim Reaper! The book is 288 pages of small writing long and costs £5.99.
Is this subliminal techniques by Pratchett? Is he encouraging us to buy his books ? Well nevertheless , Pratchetts own brand of deranged humour is self evident once again as he takes on of his mainstay characters , "Death" , and places him in another situation that eventually resembles what Mort ended like with the discworld under threat due to a mistake. In this installment , Death finds himself suddenly mortal , no longer with his soul reaping scythe , but a more pratical one for the farm. Plus he knows his sand in his timer is running out. Meanwhile the discworld is thrown into turmoil as there is no-one to rid the world of the excess life that is building up and manifesting itself in strange and bizarre ways in the forms of metal-baskets-on-wheels . Wonderfully dramatic , Pratchett really shines in this edition and his description is vivid as ever of each scene, though his complex ideas presented in the book can baffle some people and bewilder them for the rest of the book , nevertheless , persevering brings an enjoyable experience. Pratchetts constant comparison to deaths job and farming are quite amusing and i thought this was a very well thought out title by him.
Death is missing. Dead Rights activist Reg Shoe suddenly has more work than he'd ever dreamed of, and newly-deceased wizard Windle Poons wakes up in his coffin to find that he has come back as a corpse.