‘Reaper Man’ is the best Discworld novel up to this point, by far. While in ‘Mort’ we saw death go on vacation; the entire thing was a side plot played for humor. Hehe, look at Death trying to figure out people while his apprentice is mucking up his job. In ‘Reaper Man’ Death is forced out of his job, and now learning a little bit about people may be the most important thing he can do.
Death isn’t the type to do nothing when forced on holiday, so he sets off to be useful. Widow Flitworth needs a hired hand for her farm. There is perhaps no one more qualified in the world to bring in her crops than the original reaper. Newly rechristened Bill Door takes the job. The story starts with typical Pratchett progressions; neighbors getting Bill drunk, a little girl seeing him as the skeleton he really is, and Bill meeting THE FUTURE (a newly invented combine harvester). But of course eventually Bill is going to be confronted with the possibility that his new friends and family can die; and eventually Bill has to decide if he can break his old prohibition on meddling.
Everything about this storyline is perfect. Bill’s evolving thoughts are organic, the tenderness between him and Miss Flitworth is one of the sweetest things I have ever read. The conclusion was perfect. Never again will a barn dance be mocked in my household, for I have seen what they really are. Death is still Death, he still knows his duties in the end; but he will never forget what humanity means after this book.
Oh wait. There was another part of this book. Wow, this may be the weakest Discworld novel so far. So Death is forced out of a job, and this means that people stop dying. Among these is good old Windle Poons, who being a wizard knows when he is going to die. Except he doesn’t. Because he can’t, there is no Death. After bumbling around a bit trying new ways to kill himself (haha, he jumped of a bridge and didn’t drown) Windle eventually falls in with the other undead of the city, organized by zombie Reg Shoe.
Meanwhile the rest of the Wizards are trying to figure out what this overstock of life force is doing, as little snow globes popping up everywhere eventually turn into shopping carts. From there they try to grow into a city mall. Because people not dying leads to shopping malls? And this must be stopped for some reason. Honestly, at no point do I get what Pratchett was doing here, but I am guessing he was big enough at this point that editors happened to other people.
Look, I won’t tell you there were not bits of hilarity in these scenes; the bickering of the Unseen staff, Mrs Cake, swear words turning into little monsters. But it was unnecessary, absurd, and made zero sense. I could have done completely without this half of the book. Focusing on the Reaper Man side of things would have been perfect.
What do you do if the same book is 5 stars and 2 stars?
3 ½ stars it is.