Apr 13, 2010

[Books] Reaper Man

Reaper ManThe Discworld series of novels are known for their humor and their witty use of satire to drive story plots. There's always something about life on the Disc that will seem extremely familiar and yet things remain distinctly different from what we know to be true.

Any longtime reader of the Discworld books will understand what I mean about the series having certain story arcs. While the books all generally are capable of standing on their own, there is still an understanding in terms of the sequence of the novels and certain characters are revisited over time. For example, there are many books that talk about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and those that follow the Witches of Lancre.

Then there are the books that talk about the Discworld personification of Death. Yeah, these books tend to be among my favorite plus these stories tend to be rather epic in scale.

Reaper Man is the 11th novel in the Discworld series and the 2nd to feature Death as the protagonist. Death is not just a fearsome, awe-inspiring figure however. In fact he's more and demonstrating human traits as he learns more about how human society behaves.

An Auditor as it appears in the SkyOne adaptat...Image via Wikipedia

In the book, we are introduced to another cosmic force known only as The Auditors of Reality. They are the ultimate agents of Order and the loathe human emotions, creativity and generally their unpredictable nature. The increasingly human behavior observed in Death disturbs the Auditors and they take steps to get him "removed" from his post and replaced by a new Death. This ultimately manifests itself as Death suddenly having a lifetimer of his own - he has become finite. A figure with a beginning and an end.

Now that he is essentially mortal, he decides to stop performing his function and tries to experience life for himself. He takes on the persona of Bill Door and gets hired as a farmhand on Miss Flitworth's farm. Meanwhile, things stop dying all around the Discworld and this leads to its own family of consequences while a new Death comes into being.

While this wasn't the funniest Discworld novel that I've ever read, not all of them are meant to be laugh-out-loud funny, when you get down to it. The book did have a rather striking story and it gave us a better look at the character we've all come to enjoy as Death. Plus the concept of The Auditors of Reality was something else and it gave Death a natural "adversary" of sorts to deal with in the books to come.

Plus this book introduces another fun character - The Death of Rats. when Death stops performing his role in order to live his life, various little "Deaths" manifest and try to take up the slack of making sure life continues in its natural cycle. It's not a perfect solution but they certainly try and the Death of Rats becomes quite an interesting character on his own, one who can only speak in SQUEAKS.

We really get to experience life from Death's perspective, which is fun in its own right. Plus there's the alternative plot thread of Windle Poons, a wizard who is supposed to be dead but ends up linger on with Death no longer performing his role. Through his arc we get to meet the Fresh Start group with Reg Shoe, the zombie, as its head. Reg becomes more of a regular character later on and its nice to see how he came to join the Discworld universe.

Reaper Man may not be the greatest of all Discworld novels, but its certainly enjoyable in its own right. Plus if you're a fan of Death like I am, then you'll definitely need to include this book in your collection, or at least your reading list. It gets 3 charming snow globe souvenirs out of a possible 5.

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