Reaper Man: The demise of Death

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett science fiction book reviewsReaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Rfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewseading Reaper Man in light of Terry Pratchett’s recent passing was particularly poignant. It is a book all about death, both figuratively and literally speaking. DISCWORLD fans will be familiar with the character of Death, who this book is largely about. Then, of course, there are the blustering wizards of the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, but that is not to say that readers new to the Discworld can’t pick this up as a stand-alone novel. So, what happens when Death is sacked? Utter chaos, apparently…

The mystical forces of the universe (who very specifically have no personalities or individual qualities to them) are not happy. Death has become too much of a character (a he, not an it) and it is simply not proper for the impersonal forces of the universe to have a personality. So Death is out of the job. He is given his own hourglass in which time is (rapidly) running out. Having never actually lived before now, Death goes off to enjoy the experience.

Meanwhile, elderly wizard Windle Poons has died —  except that without Death, he can’t move on, so has no choice but to return to his body. Thus Windle Poons, unlike Death, has more time on his hands than he’s ever had before. He happily goes along with the other wizards’ suggestion of burying him alive and staking him through the heart (though when the other wizards forget to bring the actual stake, they have to make do with a stick of celery).

The juxtaposition between these two storylines in Reaper Man is completely absorbing. Death’s time is finite, Windle Poons’ infinite, but both learn lessons they could never have imagined. Windle Poons is noticing the world for what feels like the first time, and everyone in it. He is paying attention. He is living like he never did when he was actually alive.DISCWORLD by Terry Pratchett

Death, on the other hand, is running out of time and as a result becoming more and more human. He is living under the alias of Bill Door at the farmhouse of Miss Flitworth, an old widower, and putting his scythe to the more traditional use of reaping the harvest. He has dreams and experiences sarcasm, friendship and fear.

And so chaos unfolds. Without Death to lead spirits away, there is an excess of life on the Discworld. Snow globes begin to pop up out of nowhere and transform into sentient shopping trolleys with a tendency toward evil. Sound nuts? It is, really. And that is one of the few pitfalls of the book: the plot has a slight tendency to drift. Yet Pratchett has a wicked eye for the absurd, and while traditionalist readers will be poking holes in the storyline, other will get on board the romp through the chaos.

Structure or no, the story zips along with flair, and one thing cannot be denied: Pratchett does write excellent sentences. Full of puns, parody and witticisms, Pratchett’s prose sure does pack a punch. The dialogue fizzes with humour and wit at a pace that will leave readers breathless.

The storyline of Death (a.k.a. Bill Door) and Miss Flitworth is truly moving, but most poignant perhaps are the lessons we can learn about life in this book. “No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away,” Pratchett writes. “The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.” Those words are especially true of Pratchett’s own legacy. Discworld is alive and kicking and will continue to be so for years to come.

Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.

Terry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. Ericbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Moving PicturesReaper Manbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Witches Abroadbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Small Godsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Men at Armsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Soul Musicfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Maskeradebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Feet of Claybook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Hog FatherJingobook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Continentbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulumbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulum, The Fifth Elephantbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Truthbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thief of Timebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Herofantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thud!book review Terry Pratchett Discworld Making MoneyTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals DiscworldTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals Discworld, Snufffantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Discworld for Kids:

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RACHAEL "RAY" MCKENZIE, with us since December 2014, was weaned onto fantasy from a young age. She grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies and devoured C.S. Lewis’ CHRONICLES OF NARNIA not long after that (it was a great edition as well -- a humongous picture-filled volume). She then moved on to the likes of Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy and adored The Hobbit (this one she had on cassette -- those were the days). A couple of decades on, she is still a firm believer that YA and fantasy for children can be just as relevant and didactic as adult fantasy. Her firm favourites are the British greats: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman, and she’s recently discovered Ben Aaronovitch too. Her tastes generally lean towards Urban Fantasy but basically anything with compelling characters has her vote.

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One comment

  1. I haven’t read this one yet. Death is one of my favorite Discworld characters. It’s sounds like a good one to read as we mourn Pratchett’s death.

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