He said that there was death and taxes, and taxes was worse, because at least death didn’t happen to you every year.
Terry Pratchett | 1991 | 374 Pages
Death is, himself, dying and his bosses give him the boot, sending him off into the world to live out his final days. Our robed, skeletal friend becomes a farmhand, gleaning new perspective on the lives that he once collected. In the mean time, there is no one harvesting the souls of the dead, creating an imbalance of life force that threatens to destroy the world. Can an old wizard-zombie save the day with his vampire and werewolf friends?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Death. He’s such a fun character and any book that really features him (he makes at least a cameo in every Discworld title) is going to rank highly with me. Reaper Man might just be my favorite of the series so far.
Death is the personification of, well, death. He’s a skeleton, wears a black robe, rides a pale horse, carries a scythe and collects the dead when the sand in their personal hour glasses runs out. He experiences time differently, relationships differently, everything differently. Starting his life over as a farmhand named Bill Door is hilariously awkward as a result. Though he’s “lived” since basically the dawn of time his reactions to human things are gloriously naive. It’s a delight seeing such a deadpan and consistent character become a total fish out of water.
While that story plays out we also follow the narrative of Windle Poons, a university wizard who was supposed to die but… can’t. His attempts to cross over into the afterlife are delightfully funny, and they eventually lead him to team up with other creatures from the supernatural realm. Their hijinx trying to solve the overabundance of life (and the forms that appear in response to that) are delightfully goofy and absurd in a way that only Pratchett could think of.
If the Death of Rats doesn’t show up in future books I’m going to be really upset.
Should You Read This?
If you’re a fan of absurd fantasy humor, then Reaper Man is right up your alley. It is loosely tied to other novels in the series, but at the same time could probably stand on its own without being too confusing. As long as you go in understanding the Discworld is a silly place, then you’re good to go.