Mark Reads ‘Reaper Man’: Part 2

In the second part of Reaper Man, Windle Poons dies. Sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For talk of death.

Well, this is weird and I’m into it, if only because I really need to know how this is going to be dealt with. Death only appears once in this section because Pratchett sets up another storyline. What happens to those who die in the interim between Deaths? With Death no longer on the job (and ostensibly about to take one long, final vacation), there’s no one doing the job of reaping. (Where’s Mort when you need him?) Since Death is a constant, regular thing on the Disc, a problem arises fairly quickly.

And Windle Poons is a manifestation of that problem.

Now, Windle is not really a favorite character of mine, nor is he someone I find all that interesting. He was pretty gross in the last book, first of all, and his characterization was… one-note? Simplistic? I don’t know, I don’t feel like there’s much depth to him beyond him cherishing the “old” days and yelling at people and being crude. Even here, he makes a joke about reincarnating as a woman, and it’s just all so uncomfortable?

I don’t know that Pratchett wanted us to like Windle Poons all that much, though. The set-up here is that one of the oldest wizards – possibly the oldest – is about to pass, and all the other wizards are eagerly awaiting the chance to see Death before their own time. We know from past Discworld books that Death always comes to reap the souls of wizards, and thus, these characters simply wait for it to happen.

And they wait.

And they wait.

And then he dies.

One second Poons is alive, the next he is not. And to the surprise of every wizard who was waiting for the exact moment, no one shows up. Even worse? Windle Poons goes to the way station prior to the Great Beyond, and there’s nothing there, just utter darkness and a “distant, forlorn soughing, as of wind at the end of a tunnel.” No reaper, no guide, nothing.


That was the first genuinely surprising thing in this section, and I still have like a billion questions about it. Is he a zombie??? Does he count as one? Or merely undead? Half-dead? Does he still have a soul? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? What happens if he dies again? Can he even die again??? Am I also reading this correctly?

The door to the chapel was locked. However, Windle found that the merest pressure was enough to pull the lock out of the woodwork and leave fingerprints in the metal of the doorhandle.

Okay, does he possess more strength than he had before??? On top of that, he starts being able to control his normally-automatic bodily functions. THROUGH SHEER WILLPOWER. What the fuck, y’all???

Eyes that had viewed the past sixty years through a pale, fuzzy veil had been bullied into operating like the finest optical machinery.

How? HOW? What else can Windle do now that he’s undead??? I mean, his body still LOOKS dead to him, so… I DON’T GET IT, y’all. And that’s a great thing because it completely pulled me in to this book simply because I need to know what’s going on.

Something wonderful, if you took the long view, was about to happen.

If you took the short or medium view, something horrible was about to happen.

WHY ARE YOU TEASING ME LIKE THIS? What is going to happen?

I was happy to see Mustrum Ridcully return, though! He’s always entertaining, and I’d actually like to learn more about him. He’s not in this chapter much, aside from the moments when he speaks up to suggest that a bunch of undead in Ankh-Morpork will be “unhygienic.” Which is absolutely true, for the record, but perhaps not the top concern? But this is Mustrum Ridcully we’re talking about, and I accept his absurdities wholesale. That’s what makes him so much fun! I am fully expecting that he come up with some sort of shenanigans to deal with the undead, as I suspect Windle is just the first of a wave of them. Right? There’s no hint of a solution to the problem of Death, you know? Who’s taking his place???

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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