57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Shortsighted management has forced another "downsizing". This time the victim of layoff is Death himself, "retired" by the Auditors. He does his job efficiently and he doesn't sass the boss. He's just become "too involved" with those due to receive attention from his infinitely sharp scythe. The Auditors want a firmer hand on the reaping blade. On the street with time on his hands, Death decides he's going to spend it. Wandering the Discworld, he "gets his feet under the table" as hired man at Miss Flitworth's farm. Although a bit confused about eating and sleeping, he's able to respond with resolute affirmation when she asks, "Can you use a scythe?" He demonstrates a harvesting technique only Pratchett could devise.
With Death no longer performing his role, strange events result. Unconfined, the life force manifests itself in bizarre ways. Death, visible to wizards, fails to arrive at an appointment. In consequence, Windle Poons is subjected to various indignities. His colleagues have a prejudice about zombies. Not having actually died, Windle decides to "get a life". Over a century of breathing doesn't necessarily mean you've been living, and Windle, like Death, decides to see something of the [Disc]world. His colleagues, uncertain as to why Windle's still upright and subjected to some mild indignities of their own, seek the cause of unusual manifestations.
If you're new to the Discworld, all this must sound pretty grotesque. Death "fired" only to become a reaper on a spinster's farm? Wizards who can see him and know precisely when he's due? Take heart, this isn't a bleak version of the Merlin legend, nor a Stephen King horror story. It's Terry Pratchett, a writer with an unmatched talent for looking at the world we live in. He peers deeply at how life works. Then with countless deft twists, restructures our globe into a flat Disc. The Disc's filled with novel ideas and even more unusual people, but on second glance all seem terribly familiar. Death isn't a killer, for example. He's only there to collect lives when they're due to end. Unlike the tax man, he only arrives once, and he's terribly, terribly good at his job.
To those familiar with Pratchett, this book should receive high marks. All of Ankh-Morpork's finest are here - even Sergeant Colon makes an appearance. While enlarging on the cameos Death's played in other Discworld books, Pratchett nearly lets Miss Flitworth walk away with this one. But it's Sal Lifton who does that - the Small Child who recognizes Bill Door as a "skellington" as she ponders how he can eat or sleep. For it's Sal who personifies why Death's been put out to pasture [sorry!]. What that implies about Death's philosophy of life [sorry, again!] and how all this reflects Pratchett's own views becomes vividly clear when the "new hire" appears. As with many modern managers, the Auditors have acquired a labour saving appliance.
Pratchett's great genius is many-leveled. A light skim of any of his books is to experience high mirth rates. His talent for quirky description and one liners you seek ways to use in conversation is matchless. But a few months later, Reaper Man may arrive unbidden back in your hand. "There's something else", you may muse, going back to seek it. More jewels will be discovered, the witticisms skipped over revealing things of deeper value. You will then discover why this reviewer considers Pratchett as one of today's most valuable philosophers. And who rejoices seeing his children with PTerry in hand. If there's hope for survival of this species, it will be people like Pratchett conveying human values to people who need it most - the next generation. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"Reaper Man" is the tenth book in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series. He has gone on to win the Carnegie Medal for "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and was awarded the OBE in 1998.
Death - tall guy, somewhat underfed, big grin, wears a black robe - appears in more Discworld books than any other character. However, "Reaper Man" is only the second - after "Mort" - where his appearance in anything other than a very brief cameo. Unfortunately, if the Auditors have anything to do with it, it'll also be his last appearance, Since his personality has led to certain 'irregularities', they've decided he should be retired. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of his retirement will lead to Death's <ahem> death. However, in the time that he has left, Death packs his belongings and decides to live : he begins by taking a job as a farmhand at harvest-time. Luckily, he has some experience with a scythe....
Death never actually did the killing himself - he left that to assassins and soldiers, for example - he just took over when people died. His retirement has now caused certain complications : since no suitable replacement has yet been brought into existance, the dead aren't quite...staying deceased. Up until this point, one of the perks of being a wizard was that Death himself - and not one of his minor demons - turned up to usher you into the next life. Unfortunately, when Death fails to arrive for Windle Poons, the Unseen University's oldest wizard has nowhere else to go but back to his old body. Windle isn't impressed : he'd planned for reincarnation, not an afterlife as a zombie. With the help of the Fresh Start Club (for the recently undead), he intends to find out what's happening...though with his former colleagues at the University assisting, he might just die trying.
Despite his profession, Death is one of the funniest characters on the Discworld - nobody does deadpan (boom boom) quite like him ! As the second book to give him a starring role, it may prove a slight advantage to have "Mort" - which is also very funny. However, even if you've never read anything by Pratchett before, you should still enjoy "Reaper Man". Very highly recommended.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2001
What can I say, this book is truly magical. The very concept of the novel is bizarre; that Death could get fed up of his job and go off to do something different, like everyone else. Inevitably, the consequences of having the position of Death in the 'Situations Vacant' column, are amusing to say the least; but one 130-year old wizard (supposed to be dead) really does have the time of his life. Definitely one of the best Pratchetts.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2007
Reaper Man was the last Discworld novel I had left to read. I really want to say that it wasn't a let-down and that I thorougly enjoyed it, but that wouldn't be entirely true. The story has two, relatively-unassociated plot arcs, one which follows the trials of Death attempting to live as a mortal, and the other which tells of Ankh Morpork laying eggs that give rise to killer shopping trollies.
It was this latter story arc where my dissatisfaction fell. It started out interesting, and I was anticipating the chaos that would ensure when the undead took over the streets of Ankh Morpork. I thought the mysteriously-appearing snow-globes were going to be some sort of 'lifetimes' for the people who weren't dying, and that Poons and the Fresh Start club would have to retrieve every globe in the city to end the chaos. And I really wish this (or something along these lines) had have happened, because I believe it would have had funnier, more far-reaching consequences than the absurdity that was about to unfold. Killer shopping trollies and a giant organic shopping-mall thing??? Not funny, not plausable for the Discworld, NOT ENTERTAINING. Other instances where chaos had fallen on the city (eg. the events of Sourcery, Moving Pictures, Soul Music, and fires and civil wars) have been alluded to again in later books, but not so in this case and with good reason.
Next time I read Reaper Man I will probably skip the chapters with this story arc, which is a shame because TP introduces some great new characters here; namely, the members of the Fresh Start club and Mrs Cake and her daughter. It would be nice to see more of these characters in future stories because I believe they have some great potential. It's just the plot they found themselves in that stunk.
You might be wondering why I gave it 4 starts, after all this complaining I've just done. The reason is because of the OTHER story that gets told: that of Death and his relationship with Miss Flitworth. I think it's the most becautiful story Pratchett has ever written. Simple, but extremely dignified. You know how it will ultimately end, but Pratchett weaves a masterpeace that you can not stop reading. It is a fablel with a hundred simple messages, yet it is also a story of unfathomable depth. It more than makes up for events set in Ankh Morpork.
So for any other TP fans out there who haven't yet read Reaper Man, I suggest you go for it. Just be prepared for the Windle Poons plot to fizzle out. And read this book sooner than later, because the Death storyline introduces some of the concepts of later novels, such as the Dark Morris dance that the recent 'Wintersmith' revolves around, and the introduction of the Death of Rats, who appears in all later Death novels.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2002
I have read a great deal of the disc world stories and I personally feel that this is my favourite (although all of the others are great reads and most are nearly as hilarious).
Death is a great "chap" and it's actually nice, and I mean this sincerely, that Prachett has made him such a loveable character as I think most of us think of death as being a bit scarey - for obvious reasons I suppose.
There's a great bit near the beginning when you hear the accounts of May flies and of the Counting Pines. I won't relay it here as I wouldn't want to ruin the joke but I'm sure those who have read it will know the bit I'm talking about - it's very funny indeed. Discover why Death has to use a real live horse, namely Binky, rather than the usual skeletal horse or Fiery Steed that you would usually expect.
A hilarious and also moving and thoughtful story of a seven foot "skelington" and an elderly zombified Wizard. I would urge anyone to read it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Auditors of Reality are unhappy with the Death of the Discworld, who has shown signs of individuality and - shudder - a personality. They decide to fire Death and recruit a replacement. Death accepts this decision stoically, and decides to spend his last few days of existence sampling life, adopting the alias of handyman Bill Door and going to work on a remote farm.
Unfortunately, Death's absence causes some anomalies. Windle Poons, the oldest wizard on the Disc, is upset to discover that, despite dying, he can't move on to the next life. As a result, he has to spend the interim as a zombie but, thankfully, he finds some help from Ankh-Morpork's resident undead rights movement. At the same time, an unusual plague of odd novelty items is afflicting the city. The wizards of Unseen University investigate and discover that something rather unusual is taking shape outside the city walls...
Reaper Man is, in the sometimes complicated hierarchy of Discworld novels, the second book to feature Death in a major role (following on from Mort and running ahead of Soul Music) and the first to feature the Unseen University wizards in a major role (although, confusingly, many of them appeared in a supporting capacity in Moving Pictures and the Librarian has been around since The Light Fantastic). Some of the City Watch (from Guards! Guards!) also crop up.
This slightly complicated arrangement probably adds to the schizophrenia of the novel. In all of the Discworld books prior to this, the storylines usually converge at the end and the story is usually quite focused. Reaper Man instead sprawls, with Death/Bill Door's adventures and the subplot of the wizards/Windle Poons not really gelling together. There is a vague link between them, but otherwise the two stories don't really intertwine, resulting in a rather disconnected feeling to the book. This is added to by the wizards stuff being quite funny and the Death stuff being quite serious (the advent of the Death of Rats aside).
Pratchett is also pursuing another satirical target here, following on from films in Moving Pictures and police procedurals in Guards! Guards! Unfortunately, the target is rather weak - Pratchett apparently doesn't like shopping malls, hates muzak and isn't keen on combine harvesters - and there's a distinctly half-hearted feeling to proceedings here. The book never really seems to come together and fire up like the best books in the series, despite many individually good moments and some funny lines. Ultimately this appears to be a case of Pratchett trying to be serious and even moving but also trying to throw some chaotic comedy into the mix as well, and it doesn't work. It's notable that when Pratchett separates the two out - as he does in the double-whammy of the more serious Small Gods and the funny Lords and Ladies - he does very well, but the mix here does not work as effectively.
Reaper Man (***) is readable and interesting, but definitely one of the less successful books in the series. It is available now in the UK and USA.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2001
I'm still reading this book, and it's got me in stiches! It's basically about DEATH who's got the sack from some gods because he's started to get a personality. DEATH has now got a life, and is searching for work, so he get's a job on a farm, cutting corn with his scythe. - The problem is, without DEATH there'll be trouble! Windle Poons, a 130-year-old wizard, died and then came back to life as an undead wizard!! A superb read!! Funny!! Great!!
`Reaper Man' is the eleventh Discworld novel and the second in the Death series of books. The book sees Death fired for developing a personality and compassion and must live out the rest of his short life learning how to live. Death being out of the picture though leads to some strange phenomena and a threat to the city of Ankh-Morpork.
Death series of books is my favourite part of the Discworld series but `Reaper Man' has always been my least favourite of them. The problem is that the book has two plots going on simultaneously and while the one about Death finding out what living means is very good, the other which sees the wizards of the Unseen University dealing with the aftermath of Death's redundancy, while still funny, isn't nearly as good. The book also introduces some characters who reappear later on in the series with the Auditors, Reg Shoe and the Death of Rats all making their first appearance.
The book is extremely well written with some a lot of very nice moments here and there. It is the last quarter of the book though which is the best and I feel that the book does have on of the most emotional endings of any book of the Discworld series. `Reaper Man' is a good book and if it wasn't for the bits with the wizards it would be well worth a full five stars but as it is I will have to give it a mark of four out of five.
Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 and is one of the most popular authors writing today. He lives behind a keyboard in Wiltshire and says he 'doesn't want to get a life, because it feels as though he's trying to lead three already'. He was appointed OBE in 1998. He is the author of the phenomenally successful Discworld series that started way back in 1983 with The Colour Of Magic: (Discworld Novel 1
There is just no other author about who writes like Terry Pratchett. His humour is second to none. There are one or two writers who are trying to get close to him, but failing miserably.
When the dustbin men or the bus driver's go on strike you know what chaos is caused to the infrastructure of society, so imagine what it must be like when Death goes missing, after all he is probably the Number One Public Service. For all his rough manner, Death was a likeable guy who will be sadly missed.
Death's disappearance is the key to all sort of mayhem and laughter on the Discworld as Terry Pratchett weaves his magic yet again. (Perhaps he went to the Unseen University as well). Anyone who has read a Discworld book will know what to expect in spades. Anyone who hasn't, you don't know what you are missing.
on 5 April 2010
I haven't read every Discworld novel - far from it - but I have read a lot of them, and while I like them all, "Reaper Man" is the only one I feel compelled to review at the moment. As others have pointed out, there are two plot strands in this novel. One is fairly weak - something about snowglobes and shopping trolleys I think. While occasionally amusing it feels unnecessary, and detracts from the excellent main plot: Death is demoted by the heavenly powers, and has to face a destiny he has imposed on millions of living creatures - his own mortality and eventual demise. It's an intriguing set up: the Grim Reaper getting a taste of his own medicine. He ends up in a rural area, lodging with a tough old widow. His typical deadpan, blunt manner is very funny when he has to fit in the real world, living among the kind of all-too-mortal people he used to take to the afterlife with sympathy but no real understanding. Along the way, he learns a very mortal concept: sacrifice.
A purist might say that newcomers should start their Discworld journey with the very first novel. I wouldn't: if you want to dive right into the humour, warmth and philosophy of Pratchett's brilliant fantasy world, "Reaper Man" is what I consider the best starting point.