Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!
Today I am going to be reviewing The Reaper Man. This is the second book of the “Death Collection” which comprises of four books within the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. If you would like to read about the first book of the death collection, or about the Discworld series in general, please see my review of Mort.
In this collection, the main character is Death himself, a skeletal figure, adorned with scythe and black hood who sends people on their way from this dimension to whatever comes next.
The premise of this fantasy novel is that Death is inexplicably given the sack, plunging the Discworld into chaos as the dead refuse to… well… die. Meanwhile for Death, he is given a chance to experience human life for the first time, as his immortal status is revoked and he is to face his own demise as soon as a new Death is hired.
This is the second book I’ve read of the Terry Pratchett series and Reaper Man has certainly reinforced my desire to read through all 41 of the series. If you enjoy fantasy, quirky humour, and interesting characters, then Terry Pratchett is for you.
Of course, at the beginning of the novel, Death is largely absent (which is the whole point) and the story focuses on a wizard, Windle, and his group of friends. The wizards are an enjoyable bunch of characters, who make a great parody of stuffy professors who have spent their lives locked away in learning establishments, having very little to do with the real world. This makes them both knowledgeable, but lacking in common sense, and their buffoonery (there’s a word you don’t get to say very often!) makes for an enjoyable read. I found that I did miss the character of Death though in these first sections. It’s a bit like watching your favourite television show, in an episode where they focus on one of the supporting characters. It’s still enjoyable, but you’re really just waiting for everyone to reunite and the main character to get back into the story.
However, I would say the second half of the book supersedes Mort in terms of action, pace, and building towards a suspenseful showdown of an ending. The last third of the book is full of excitement as it leads to the climactic scenes that will leave you unable to put it down. It features touching moments too, as Death goes through his own journey as to what being mortal is all about. This book will make you reflect on life and death, but it’s all approached in a lighthearted way that may leave you feeling a bit better about your own mortality!
One of my favourite parts of these books is when Pratchett will put a little asterix * amongst the text which will guide you to some extra information on the bottom of the pages. The “information” is almost always a quirky bit of Discworld trivia, history or fact which is sometimes insightful, but always funny. It is like Pratchett is prodding you with his elbow and winking, an extra little joke for you. Throughout the whole book Pratchett’s humour and love of oddness and nonsense come twinkling through the pages.
Whilst Mort has a protagonist who is young (16 years old), the main protagonist of this novel is Windle, who is very, very old. Pratchett therefore shakes up the formula and steers away from making these novels for any particular age group. Anyone of any age can enjoy these books! Also, I would say it is not necessary to have read any of the Discworld books beforehand, as both this and Mort were completely self-contained stories. However, I would recommend reading Mort first if you can, as it gives a bit of background into the Death character which will make this read more enjoyable.
I hope you enjoy reading this book, I’ll be reviewing my next Pratchett in two weeks time, called Soul Music!
Next week we’ll be taking a break from Pratchett and reviewing a classic, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Until then, happy reading and take care, and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!
Feel free to comment below on your thoughts of Pratchett, The Discworld Series, or any recommendations of what to review next!