What happens when the grim reaper itself becomes emotionally invested in its own job, with its own personality? Well, the Auditors of Reality decide they need to replace Death with a New Death, logically. Join me as we look through the wondrous story of Reaper Man.
Featuring some of the weirdest character developments in Sir Terry Pratchett’s whole Discworld universe, Reaper Man features Death who has begun to develop a personality which concerns the Auditors of Reality. They require their Death to be emotionless and focused on the job at hand and nothing else, so they send Death to the Disc in order to assume the life of a farmhand: Bill Door.
The reason I’m such a fan of this book is that it’s full of witty quips. Death still talks in its trademark all capital lettered style and we also learn some things about how Death works in the Discworld in most amusing of ways. Death has to learn a lot about the Disc in a short space of time, which along with its rather quirky personality makes life a bit tricky. Of course, couple this with the fact that people really aren’t passing on, due to the fact that there’s no death, some strange things happen. Supernatural goings on, in fact!
One of my favourite parts of this book is the easy back and forth banter between Death and Miss Flitworth, the lady whose farm Death works on. She’s an older lady, so she can’t see very well and when she first meets Death, who assumes the name Bill Door, they get into a dispute about what his name is. Here’s an excerpt from this amazing back and forth:
The stranger stared at her for a moment, and then looked around wildly.‘Come on,’ said Miss Flitworth.’l ain’t employing no-one without no name.Mr . . . ?’The figure stared upwards.MR SKY?‘No-one’s called Mr Sky.’MR . . . DOOR?She nodded.‘Could be. Could be Mr Door. There was a chap called Doors I knew once.Yeah. Mr Door. And your first name? Don’t tell me you haven’t got one of those,too. You’ve got to be a Bill or a Tom or a Bruce or one of those names.’YES.‘What?’ONE OF THOSE.‘Which one?’ER. THE FIRST ONE?‘You’re a Bill?’YES?Miss Flitworth rolled her eyes.‘All right, Bill Sky . . .’ she said.DOOR.‘Yeah. Sorry. All right, Bill Door . . .’CALL ME BILL.
This back and forth alone was enough to make a young me laugh along with Pratchett. It was probably the first time I had experienced an all powerful omnipresent being, such as Death, become such a blubbering, blathering buffoon. You can tell It is just saying what it has to in order to get by, and even though Miss Flitworth isn’t exactly fooled by the name, she just realises she’s getting an employee either way, so she’ll put up with the shenanigans. I disagree with her slightly, though – A Mr. Sky does indeed exist. Perhaps not on the Disc, though.
Reaper Man was such a well received book, it received a special adaptation called Welcome to the Discworld. I figure now is a good time to talk about the 90’s film, as it starred the recently deceased actor, Christopher Lee. He starred in many fantasy greats, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Saruman and he was the original Dracula. So how did the Welcome to the Discworld short movie stand next to his others? Kind of bland, really… But nevertheless, it was just nice to see Discworld brought to life back then. It was a franchise that had been barely touched before, but heck, the Discworld MUD was going strong!
So this might not have been the “best” Discworld novel (from a general consensus point of view), but it might be my favourite. It’s a brilliant story, which you can’t help but laugh along with. You get the whole satirical view of Death and it has some of Death’s best banter to date… Not to say it doesn’t always have good banter. What do you think of Reaper Man? As always please leave your comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.