Review: Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
Following my last review of “The Pale Horseman” by Bernard Cornwell I advised that the next book I was planning on reading and reviewing is “Reaper Man” by Terry Pratchett – the 11th book of the Discworld series.
I began the series towards the end of last year and initially found the books difficult to get into; it took me three attempts to read “The Color of Magic” all the way through without mashing my brains. It is safe to say that Pratchett has a very specific writing style and sense of humour, which has grown on me, albeit over a bit of time.
There are a lot of things I could say about Pratchett. As a person I have a lot of respect for him, having come to know his background. Perhaps that is a post for me to share with you all another time. For now, I’ll focus my attention on the book to hand.
‘Death has to happen. That’s what bein’ alive is all about. You’re alive, and then you’re dead. It can’t just stop happening.’
But it can. And it has. So what happens after death is now less of a philosophical question than a question of actual reality. On the Disc, as here, they need Death. If Death doesn’t come for you, then what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You can’t have the undead wandering about like lost souls. There’s no telling what might happen, particularly when they discover that life really is only for the living…
As the title suggests, this novel focuses around the role of Death. Over the years doing his duty of taking people into the afterlife and moving them on, he has acquired snippets of personality from them. He is curious about life and in previous books, has tried to experience what it is to be human. The other Deaths of the Universe deem this not to be fit – he is removed from his post and made mortal.
Whilst arrangements are made to replace Death, there is a buildup of life force on the Discworld as nobody truly dies, including 130 year old wizard Windle Poons who becomes undead, despite the numerous attempts and best efforts of the other wizards to see him off for good!
There is a particular element to the story which I didn’t really understand. We learn of the mysterious appearance of thousands of snow globes, which hatch as a result of the build up of life force. I won’t go into too much detail here, but whilst this element of the story is entertaining for humorous reasons more than anything, to me it lacks purpose. The only apparent link this plot line has to the story of Death is in relation to the build up of life force acting as a catalyst. I don’t recall any particular explanation as to where the snow globes came from, their history or previous effect on the Discworld. This is unusual for Pratchett; usually his storylines have very full descriptions and context but I was lacking understanding for this one.
With the inevitability of the Discworld and the involvement of wizards and the undead, vampires and were-people, obviously everything goes disasterously wrong. I found this part of the narrative actually left me with more absent-minded questions than answers really. Whilst trying to get my head around it in the shower I found myself thinking of questions much like the chicken and egg theory – which came first… the snow globe or the city?! Stupid I know. I have come to the conclusion Pratchett came up with the idea for this particular plotline during the early hours of the morning after a drunken night out.
Sorry Pratchett, I love the book overall, but absolutely not this part. If anybody has some better understanding of this section of the book, or I have missed something please let me know.
I have to say my favorite part of this book was the end. Whilst Death is mortal he comes to work for Miss Flitworth, helping bring in the harvest. I think she helps him to understand what it is to be human; to be imperfect but accepting of it. Whereas Death may have at one point had a very flippant attitude to life, he develops compassion for fellow humans. If you want to find out how, you’ll just have to read the book! No spoilers here! It is a very poignant and touching moment the first time he shows it so you can’t miss it! It also makes itself apparent with Miss Flitworth in the last few pages of the book, though if you’re not paying attention, you might miss some part of it. I had to read it over a few times before I understood what happened.
Overall, I would recommend the book as a good read. There are some sections I found myself wanting more from, but perhaps I have interpreted them wrong. If anybody else has read this book, please let me know your thoughts!
For my next read, I’m going to be reading the works of an author I haven’t encountered before. The book in particular I am reading is “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all already!