Reaper Man
September 9, 2023 10:54 PM - Subscribe

Discworld's Death is forced into retirement, and shortly thereafter a man calling himself "Bill Door" comes a-knocking at elderly Miss Flitworth's farmhouse to work as a farmhand. Windel Poons, oldest of the Wizards of Unseen University, is due to die at half-past nine, and excited to be reincarnated, but that doesn't go quite as expected. And Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler comes across a big case of snowglobes that nobody seems to be claiming... (Discworld #11, Death #2.) By Terry Pratchett.

Welcome back from Summer break to the Discworld Book Club, everyone! If you're new here, we've been through a lot of these books already, not always in the most sensible order, but you can find all of the previous discussions here. As I'm finally listening to these in publication order for the first time, it makes sense to me to just fill in the blanks I've left behind me so far, so here we are, with the first book as-yet uncovered! By this logic, the next book we cover should be Witches Abroad.


The Auditors of Reality have a problem: Death, as manifested on the profoundly magical and deeply improbable Discworld, has developed a personality, which goes utterly at odds with everything they stand for. As such, he is given his own hourglass and forced into retirement, a state of affairs which he takes, well, quite well really.

Also taking well to the concept of his upcoming demise is Windell Poons, a Wizard well north of a hundred years old who has lived very little actual experience in that time, but is excited about being reincarnated (and thinks he might come back as a woman this time!) But his "Going Away" Party drags on an awkwardly long amount of time, as Poons' body dies but... nothing else happens, and Poons has no recourse but to get back in that body and keep going.

At a farmhouse near the Ramtops, the aged Miss Renata Flitworth meets a man calling himself "Bill Door" (after a lot of questioning about it) who is happy to sleep in the barn (yes, he definitely sleeps) and work for next to nothing.

As the days go on, Poons soon learns that he is far from alone in his predicament, and joins the "Fresh Start Club" of the undead, which includes Zombie Revolutionary Reg Shoe, sky bogeyman Schleppel, reverse werewolves, middle-class vampires, and vampires-by-marriage, for a start. The accumulation of unescorted dead is causing the magic of the disc to go a bit haywire, and none of the wizards or priests can seem to do anything to solve it.

Meanwhile, CMOT Dibbler finds a shipment of Snowglobes with no determinate origin, Bill Door gets to learn about the future of mechanized agriculture, and we all get to meet the Death of Rats...
posted by Navelgazer (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love this one, which I feel is a huge expansion on what we got from Mort that allows us to go much deeper into Death as a character, though of course all of the Death books have other protagonists with more page-time. I think that’s smart - Death is a great character who wouldn’t be done any favors by overexposure.

The story for this one feels more ramshackle than most, especially the stuff with the snow globes/shopping carts/mall, but the beauty is in the details, and there are a ton of great details here, most notably for me, Death taking Miss Flitworth to the Morris Dance.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:06 PM on September 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

posted by fullerine at 5:14 AM on September 10, 2023 [6 favorites]

I’ll always remember this as my first Discworld book. At one point I laughed so hard that I fell off the bed, and since I was 12 at the time, this made me laugh harder instead of sending me to the doctor.

Some of the business hasn’t aged so well, especially the spirit guide, which … urgh. But there’s still a beating heart in the book.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:31 AM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]

In retrospect, this is really the point where you can see that Pratchett is going to do something amazing with the series. Before this, the books were deconstructionist in the service of comedy, and had some continuing characters because that's just what you do in this genre, but this? This was really getting into the "Okay, but how would that work? What would happen next?" weeds that would come to define the series, especially the Ankh-Morpork books.
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on September 10, 2023 [8 favorites]

Ah Mrs Flitworth, and the fine silk she kept, enough for Death to perfect his scythe.
posted by Jilder at 10:10 PM on September 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

posted by Halloween Jack at 5:38 AM on September 11, 2023 [8 favorites]

I just noticed these had started up again, and I'm very glad. Unfortunately I don't remember enough of this book to comment on it...time for a re-read.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:53 PM on September 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Re-read this one recently; the Death side of the story is perfect, no notes. I enjoy how quietly sad Mrs Flitworth's life is, a widow waiting to die. I enjoy the parallel between the replacement Death and the replacement combine harvester, and while there's an allusion to that folk tale, it doesn't end up dominating the book because there's a much more interesting story to be getting on with.

Unfortunately, sometimes that's the shopping mall parasite, which is a bundle of 'clever' concepts all smushed together and presented as the B-plot, and honestly, it doesn't really work? It's hard to buy snowglobes as being the eggs of parasitic creatures of consumerism; snowglobes are souvenir objects, and souvenirs have a long history predating capitalism. So it just comes off as kind of arbitrary, and rehashing some of the beats we've seen before in wizard stories, like in Moving Pictures.
posted by Merus at 1:48 AM on October 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

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