Terry Tuesday: Reaper Man

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EEEEEE!!!! This is one of my favorite Discworld books, it’s been in my top 5 Discworld books for a long time now, and I only seem to like it more every time I read it.

The Auditors of Reality are displeased that Death is starting to develop a “personality”. They are convinced that once one develops a personality, that personality must at some point come to an end – that’s the way individuals worked. In their opinion, only forces endure, it’s the way of things, Gravity having a sense of humor or caring about Humans would be unnatural. Now that Death is starting to be an individual has to become a mortal, whether he wants to or not.

Death finds a new hourglass timer in his home which is set outside of reality and time. He had never seen it before, which is highly unusual since he’s the type of being to know exactly where everything is all the time. Misplacing things isn’t one of Death’s personality traits. Upon further inspection, he sees that his own name is on the timer, and realizes what happened however unlikely. The auditors come and explain that their predicament with his ‘personality’, and that Azreal has decided that he must die and be replaced by a new Death. So, Death loses his job, he didn’t even know that was in the realm of possibility. Not knowing what else to do, he heads back to the Discworld to live out his life as a mortal. He doesn’t know what to do with what Time he has left, Time, after all, has always been something that happened to other people, not Death. All things considered, he initially reacted well to being fired and was excited about “experiencing things” for the first time.

Death eventually comes to work on a farm for Mrs. Flitworth, an older widow who needs help but can’t afford to pay him that much. He has to come up with a name for himself, so he chooses Bill Door, because of course he does. While living on the farm he experiences dreams for the first time, the sunlight and rain, new drinking companions. Over time he starts to dread his own certain death, like all mortals do. He gets more than he bargained for as far as life experiences, describing living as being pulled forward by darkness, and wedged between two cliffs. He doesn’t understand how mortals can stand being alive, knowing they’re going to die.

Now that there’s no Death,  Windle Poons can’t die, he’s 130 years old and ready for his next adventure in the afterlife and is very much hoping for a reincarnation. Most Wizards know exactly when they are going to die, they even make a celebration out of it similar to a birthday. All the Wizards gather round, have extremely awkward and forced conversation, avoiding all meaningful conversation as best they could, and try their best to make it through the evening. Wizards aren’t social creatures by nature. Windle gets rather disheartened that when it was his time to go, all that happened was his spirit left his body, and then re-entered his own body since there was no one to usher him to the other side.

Most Wizards wait in nervous anticipation for their face to face meeting with the anthropomorphized personification of Death, but it’s even more unsettling when he doesn’t show up. No one knows what to make of his absence since it’s never happened before, and Wizards aren’t great at on-the-fly problem-solving. They’re a group that sits down and ponders for a bit, preferably with a Big Dinner. Since Death didn’t show up, it’s up to Windle to kill himself. He’s really giving it his best, among other things he tried burying himself and drowning himself. What’s bizarre is that he’s actually extremely healthy now, muscles that have ached or not worked for years are now working in overdrive. He doesn’t have any eyesight problems, his knees aren’t giving him shit – things are the best they’ve ever been, quite frankly. Windle eventually ends up joining an undead support group complete with an agoraphobic boogeyman.

This is the first book that features the Death of Rats, since in Death’s absence each species on the Discworld has their own personified Death to take care of them, it’s the humans that are still waiting for their New Death, and while they wait, the Disc experiences an explosion of paranormal activity due to the excess life-force floating around.

This is another book where I could just quote it all day long. I won’t though, for your sake. I identify with this book more and more as I get older, one of the main themes of the book is getting older, being old, or dying. Now that I work with the elderly/hospice this books calms me down rather well after a particularly shitty day.

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Favorite Quotes

“Death’s pale horse looked up from its oats and gave a little whinny of greeting. The horse’s name was Binky. He was a real horse. Death had tried fiery steeds and skeletal horses in the past, and found them impractical, especially the fiery ones, which tended to set light to their own bedding and stand in the middle of it looking embarrassed.”

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.”

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

“I thought turning into a bat would be interesting, but the owls around here are murder”

“Intellectually, Ridcully maintained his position for two reasons. One was that he never, ever, changed his mind about anything. The other was that it took him several minutes to understand any new idea put to him, and this is a very valuable trait in a leader, because anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn’t have been bothering you with in the first place.”

“Was that what it was really like to be alive? The feeling of darkness dragging you forward? How could they live with it? And yet they did, and even seemed to find enjoyment in it, when surely the only sensible course would be to despair. Amazing. To feel you were a tiny living thing, sandwiched between two cliffs of darkness. How could they stand to be alive?”

Audience:

  • comic fantasy
  • non human POV
  • stories about dying
  • high fantasy
  • shorter books
  • wizards/mages

Ratings:

  • Plot: 13.25/15
  • Characters: 15/15
  • World Building: 15/15
  • Writing: 14/15
  • Pacing: 13/15
  • Originality: 13.5/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 10/10

Final Score: 93.75/100 – 5/5 stars, highly recommended.

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