**This article is contributed by an anonymous fantasy reviewer for BFB but heavily edited by me!**
The Auditors of Reality, the universe’s bureaucrats with no personalities, have decided the Grim Reaper has got to go. He’s become too friendly with humans, he has developed a self. So Death is replaced by a horde of Deaths, one for every species; but the new Death for humans, drawn from the collective imagination of humanity just as Death was eons ago, will take time to arrive, giving Death the opportunity to “live” out his final days before he will vanish. So he goes to a small village and lives among humans while preparing for his final battle.
But all of that extra life force has to go somewhere if it is no longer being harvested, as Windle Poons, a wizard, learned on the day of his death. Finding himself quite unable to die, despite his best efforts, he resigns himself to his body and life as an undead person in Ankh-Morpork.
One of my favourite things about Reaper Man, and a big part of the reason why I think it may be the best of all of the Discworld novels, is its potent symbolism. It takes two diverse, only tangentially related stories and uses them to describe how Pratchett feels modernity has changed humanity’s views on life and death. I can’t go into any more detail without spoiling it but suffice it to say that the villains of this novel are powerful (though not subtle) expressions of the viewpoint.
Besides the brilliant characters, I also enjoyed the little jokes about university life; they’re something that Pratchett does very well, especially the oblique reference to the younger wizards interested in experimentation.
The Auditors of Reality, the main villains of the book, are a very clever construction. They are the bureaucrats tasked with making sure that the universe works properly and according to the rules. Admittedly they are a bit over the top but they make very good villains nonetheless.
Reaper Man is, I think, the best Discworld book. In fact it is one of the most effective books I have ever read. Every part of it accomplishes what was intended and all these pieces work together to produce and masterful and coherent whole. I think it is best summed up by Death’s own words, “WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN.
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