Sunday, April 8, 2007

Book review: Reaper Man

Reaper Man

By Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett takes on the concept of what would happen if Death took a holiday and stopped taking dead people to wherever it is they go when they die. Since this is a Discworld novel, Death is personified as a robed, skeletal figure WHO ALWAYS SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS. The plot follows Windle Poons, an extremely old wizard who is ready to die and get on with the afterlife. When his appointed time comes (and every wizard knows exactly when he’s going to die) Death doesn’t show up and Windle discovers that in addition to still being dead, his mind is now more alert than ever and his body is stronger than it has been in decades. Still, it’s no picnic being dead and still hanging around so Windle decides to find out what has happened. Meanwhile, Death decides to see what it’s like being a human and takes on a job as a farmhand for a widow. (He’s very handy with a scythe during harvest time.) In addition, the wizards at Unseen University must deal with some very strange occurrences as a living city (more on that later) tries to take over the town of Ankh-Morpork.

Reaper Man contains the usual assortment of wacky characters, puns, and jokes one would expect in a Discworld novel. I liked the self-help group of the recently Undead and the wizards were funny too. Unfortunately, the book isn’t as hilarious as the last two Discworld novels I read, Guards Guards and Wyrd Sisters. The plot of a strange threat about to take over the Disc is too similar. Also, the explanation for why a city is somehow evolving and taking the form of snow globes and shopping carts is convoluted and murky. Similarly, the philosophical reasons behind how Death works and the idea of “life force” are too abstract to make much sense.

Overall, this is an average Pratchett novel. If you’ve never read one of his books, I recommend starting with Guards Guards. Reaper Man is best saved for later when you’re trying to complete your collection.

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