Mark Reads ‘Reaper Man’: Part 14

In the fourteenth part of Reaper Man, Windle Poons discovers the identity of the Queen; Death figures out what he has to do; and the final battle is yet to begin. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

You know, as utterly absurd as this opening scene is, I think it’s actually quite scary. Pratchett has a knack for horror; the way that the exploration of the “mall” unfolds is pure suspense. He twists our expectations, he turns every detail of the place into some sort of nightmarish hell. A MALL. IT’S ALL A MALL, AND IT’S STILL SCARY. The idea that it more or less possessed the wizards to play roles like mall entertainment characters or sandwich board advertisers or MALL SECURITY is just so creepy to me.

Well, it’s also uproarious. How the hell does this exist??? Oh my god, I was so tickled reading the brilliantly written dialogue between all of the undead characters trying to figure out how to stop the mall music. I know how much of a broken record I am at this point, but I love how frequently I get to talk about Pratchett’s ability to combine humor and horror, comedy and tragedy. Not that they need to be separated in any way, you know? There’s a thin line between the two of them anyway, and Pratchett knows that. He knows that it is utterly hilarious to have Arthur flung to the ceiling in his bat form, only to turn back to a human just so he can destroy part of the speaker system. He also knows just how horrifying it is to reveal one last little trick not long after this moment:

More floor tiles leapt into the air. The stairways shattered, revealing the dark, serrated and above all living tissue that had powered them. The walls pulsed and caved inward, the marble cracking to reveal purple and pinkness underneath.

Of course, thought a tiny calm part of Windle’s mind, none of this is really real. Buildings aren’t really alive. It’s just a metaphor, only at the moment metaphors are like candles in a firework factory.

Living cities. Pratchett teased me with this concept before, and I thought it was metaphorical. No, y’all. NO. THIS MALL – THIS SURREAL AND HORRIFYING MANIFESTATION – IS AN ACTUAL LIVING CREATURE. THIS IS ENDLESSLY FRIGHTENING TO ME, AND I CAN’T EVEN LAUGH ABOUT IT.

He reached down, grabbed a double handful of pulsating tubes, and heaved.

The Queen’s screech of rage was heard all the way to the University.

It’s no secret by this point that Reaper Man has changed my perception of Windle Poons. This is yet another example of why that is so. Amidst this unrelenting horror, Windle considers himself the “defense” against this terrible creature. It’s a self-sacrificing act, one I would not have ever expected of Windle Poons in any other book. But that’s who he is now.

I LOVE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

Which provides me the perfect segue to talk about Death, who, in the wake of vanquishing the new Death of Humans, sets out to get his old job back. Granted, that’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. I wasn’t surprised by the Auditors showing up and giving Death a hard time, but ultimately, couldn’t they just give the job back to the being most qualified for it?

Well, there’s someone I forgot about: Azrael, the Death of… Everything? Sort of? We haven’t heard his name since the very beginning, and now, the auditors are invoking him as a last-ditch effort to take out Death. But why? What can Azrael do that they can’t? With Death reassembled (well, minus one key figure, the Death of Rats), he’s back to his prior power. Granted, if Azrael is some sort of step above Death on the scale of power, then the fight they’re about to have should be pretty interesting. That’s including whatever fight the undead (and some of the wizards) are preparing for as well. Pratchett appears to have set all the chess pieces on the board, and I’m genuinely excited to see how they’ll all save the Disc from these things. It’ll help a little, right? A group is better than a solitary hero, in my opinion. And most of these characters are eager to fight and eager to show off with the two parts of th lemnade. Azral is going to be surprised, and so was the weird black rice thing. The end certainly injects this with a great energy. But can Reaper Man maintain that sort of narrative energy for a long time?

Time for me to find out.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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