26 March 2015

Books: Reaper Man By Terry Pratchett (1991)

In Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man, 11th Discworld novel, and the second featuring Death, we meet the Auditors of Reality, beings who watch the Discworld to ensure everything and everyone, in all the multiverses, obeys The Rules. After the events of Mort, they've suddenly realized that Death is developing a personality. The fear from them is that if Death is allowed to continue, Death may end up "liking" people and that will cause all sorts of "irregularities." So to punish Death, the Auditors send the creature to live like everyone else on Discworld, and he ends up, under the assumed name of Bill Door, working as a farm hand for the elderly and lonely Miss Flitworth.
But because humans need more time to complete their deaths -unlike other species whom creates a new death for them- the life force of dead humans starts to build up; this results in poltergeist in an uptick of ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. Most notable is the return of the recently deceased wizard Windle Poons, who was really looking forward to reincarnation. After several misadventures, including being accosted by his oldest friends, he finds himself attending the Fresh Start Club, an undead-rights group led by Reg Shoe. The Fresh Start Club and the wizards of Unseen University discover that the city of Ankh-Morpork is being invaded by a parasitic lifeform that feeds on cities and hatches from eggs that resemble snow-globes. Bu they have a middle form, shopping carts, and now the Fresh Start Club and the wizards invade must come together and destroy it's ultimate, end form, a shopping mall. 
Pratchett continues his commentary on human nature, our society quirks, our weird desires under the guise of a fantasy novel. Plus he adds an alien invasion of shopping malls that seem to appear from nowhere (and the whole idea that shopping carts are used as way to draw people into shopping for things they do not need is inspired. Through the laughs, Pratchett uses Death and the reality of death (the undiscovered country we will always succumb to no matter what) as an instrument of introspection. There are fe nuggets of wisdom thrown in with other philosophical musings to give the reader a look into why death makes us humans so afraid.
And I think, in someways, my choices to start reading Pratchett again and start with his Death novels was an unconscious choice on my part to see how the writer himself saw death, his death. Yes, this was released in 1991, long before his Alzheimer's diagnoses that would kill him in March of 2015, but I think it's a great look at how he choose to live his life. Like Picard said at the end of the first Next Generation film, what we leave begins is not half as important as how you lived. 
Wisdom, indeed.

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