‘Reaper Man’ is the first book I have read by Terry Pratchett. Yes, I know I am very late to the party and I am reading it out-of-order. I am even reading Death’s story out-of-order. I was looking for a Halloween book, and this was recommended by a Pratchett fan, and I have it on her good authority that I will not burst into flames by reading it as a stand alone. This book is brimming with the undead, zombies, werewolves, vampires, bogeyman, and of course Death himself. This has all required villains for Halloween but in this book they aren’t evil or scary. If you are looking for the more frightening interpretations of death and other ghouls this is not for you. Reaper Man is an intelligent book that can be read in the presence of little human ghouls.
I did not stamp this with my Halloween approval on a technicality. It is not set around Halloween. Take that out of the picture and it is perfect for it.
Pratchett has wizards casting spells to make the dead stay dead after Death quits his job. Most adults have done a job they didn’t want to do and when the opportunity presented itself they quit for greener pastures. This generally doesn’t cause any real damage that can’t be fixed. What happens when Death quits? It wreaks a special kind of havoc. The dead remain much to the livings frustration. The dead don’t particularly want to stay either. Wendell Poon was a wizard but when he died there was no place for him to go and no death to collect him. He takes back possession of his body only to scare his colleagues, to try to find a way truly die to no avail, and ends up finding a group for the disenfranchised dead who are discriminated against by the living. They take up the cause for dead rights.
Death during this period is working the harvest for a woman on a farm learning what it means to be human. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. He finds himself depressed in an existential plight. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to die and starts to become annoyed with time.
This delightful book explores how we want what we can’t have. More accurately, it explores whether we really want the things we think we want: another job, more time, an escape from death. This is another fun quick read that has more depth for an adult audience but can still be enjoyed by younger ones. I recommend you read rather than listen to ‘Reaper Man.’ Audible has a good narration of it by Nigel Planer. There are so many characters to differentiate and he does a good job, but I preferred my own interpretation of Death. You can enjoy it either way but I liked it when I listened to it and truly enjoyed it when I was reading it.
I mentioned earlier, but I will say it again. If you are looking for the more frightening interpretations of death and other ghouls this is not for you. ‘Reaper Man is a well crafted piece of intelligent humor and fantasy.