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Book #7: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett



Number of pages: 253

Reaper Man is the second Discworld novel to give a starring role to Death, a character who appears in every single book, usually making a brief cameo close to the start. The book opens with Death being forced into retirement; he subsequently leaves home and finds work as an actual reaper on a farm, making good use of his scythe. Of course, as we are told, "another Death" will come, and there is a big turning point in the book after Death saves a girl's life, despite the fact that he knows fate cannot be tampered with (as demonstrated in Mort).

In the book's sub-plot, a wizard called Windle Poons, who briefly appeared in the previous book, Moving Pictures, dies; however, due to the fact that Death is not around, he cannot pass over to the other side and instead comes back as a zombie. When the efforts of the other wizards to help him fail, he joins an undead support group. To help the reader, the sections involving Windle Poons and the wizard are printed in a bolder typeface throughout the book.

Reading the book again, I found Death's storyline a lot more compelling. I loved the fact that he was constantly nonchalant about even the most shocking of events, and his attempts to fit in with normal life were at time hilarious. The story gets gradually darker as the plot builds up to an inevitable confrontation at the end. The storyline also introduces the Death of Rats, who appears in many subsequent books. The Windle Poons storyline eventually centres around bizarre events at Unseen University, involving the appearance of mysterious "eggs", and trolleys. I wasn't precisely sure how it all fitted into the book's central conceit of Death taking retirement, and it felt like it was added in to make the book longer.

However, there were some hilarious moments inolving the undead support group. The book pokes fun at the way vampires are perceived to always dress in evening wear (which seems to have originated with Bela Lugosi), and I loved the idea of a banshee with a speech impediment who had to push notes under the doors instead of screaming.

I loved all of the subtle literary references that Terry Pratchett inserted; this time, there were a couple of implicit references to Edgar Allen Poe (The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven). Personally, I think any book that centres around Death is worth reading, and the only drawback with this one was that it took a while to get going, particularly with Death's storyline.

Next book: Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now, As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It by Craig Taylor
Tags: book review, british, comedy, contemporary, dark fantasy, fantasy, humor, vampires, zombies
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