Death is by far my favourite character in the Discworld series. Even if I’m struggling with one of the lesser novels I will actively persevere in the hopes of another Death cameo later into the stories. He usually pops up about two to three times in each book and his wry observations and detached bluntness make for the best moments in pretty much every book.
Reaper Man is the second novel in the series to focus mainly on Death, the book Mort being the first. Mort was a very fun book but suffered in that, while it centred around Death’s world, he wasn’t the main character and he played a much smaller role in the book than perhaps he should have.
Reaper Man has Death right at the centre however and it’s all the better for it.
The novel tells of what happens when Death is fired for gaining a personality. He is relieved of his position and given a limited time to live, time which he spends working on a farm under the name of Bill Door, learning more about life.
The action flips between Death and Windle Poons, the oldest wizard in the unseen university who dies just after Death is fired and so cannot be personally collected. He awakens from his tomb and has to adjust to being a member of the undead.
The two plots are both very enjoyable with a lot of great jokes though I definitely enjoyed the Bill Door stuff more. It was great to see a little more depth added to his character. As the novel goes on we get to see Death become a little less detached from humanity and a little more sympathetic to its quirks and customs.
Windle Poons’ side of the story is a little slow going and the eventual end of the plot line which sees sentient shopping trolleys build a living, breathing shopping mall is just a little weird and out of place even by Discworld standards.
There are, as ever, fun cameos. With Death taking the lead role there’s a chance to bring back several minor characters from previous books so there are some funny moments with Sgt Colon, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler and Ridcully. There are also some enjoyable references of things yet to come, it is the first mention, for example, of the Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents who wouldn’t find their way into a book until ten years later.
Reaper Man was by far, the most enjoyable Discworld book I’ve read in a while. It was funny start to finish with a cast of great new characters and offered a chance to learn more about the greatest Discworld character of them all. It’s one well worth picking up.