Reaper Man

Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

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Reaper Man is a 1991 fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, the 11th Discworld novel.


All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in August 2002 by Harper, ISBN# 0-06-102062-1
  • One said, That is the point. The word is him. Becoming a personality is inefficient. We don't want it to spread. Supposing gravity developed a personality? Supposing it decided to like people?
One said, Got a crush on them, sort of thing? (p. 3)
  • In a general sort of way everyone knew they were going to die, even the common people. No one knew where you were before you were born, but when you were born, it wasn't long before you found you'd arrived with your return ticket already punched. (pp. 11-12)
  • Every day took an age to go by, which was odd, because days plural went past like a stampede. (p. 13)
  • In the hall of the house of Death is a clock with a pendulum like a blade but with no hands, because in the house of Death there is no time but the present. (There was, of course, a present before the present now, but that was also the present. It was just an older one.) (p. 14)
  • Wizards don't believe in gods in the same way that most people don't find it necessary to believe in, say, tables. They know they're there, they know they're there for a purpose, they'd probably agree that they have a place in a well-organized universe, but they wouldn't see the point of believing, of going around saying, "O great table, without whom we are as naught." Anyway, either the gods are there whether you believe or not, or exist only as a function of the belief, so either way you might as well ignore the whole business and, as it were, eat off your knees. (p. 28)
  • The Archchancellor was the first one to recover.
"Windle!" he said. 'We thought you were dead!'
He had to admit that it wasn't a very good line. You didn't put people on a slab with candles and lilies all round them because you think they've got a bit of a headache and want a nice lie down for half an hour. (p. 32)
  • "It's not old Windle. Old Windle was a lot older!"
"Older? Older than dead?" (p. 34)
  • Was that justice? Was that a proper reward for being a firm believer in reincarnation for almost 130 years? You come back as a corpse?
No wonder the undead were traditionally considered to be very angry. (p. 35)
  • Intellectually, Ridcully maintained his position for two reasons. One was that he never, ever, changed his mind about anything. The other was that it took him several minutes to understand any new idea put to him, and this is a very valuable trait in a leader, because anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn't have been bothering you with in the first place. (p. 38)
  • 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.
It's like the difference between seeing a beautiful new star in the winter sky and actually being close to the supernova. It's the difference between the beauty of morning dew on a cobweb and actually being a fly. (p. 35)
  • "Oh. Hallo, Modo."
"I ‘eard you was took dead, Mr. Poons."
"Er. Yes. I was."
"See you got over it, then." (p. 39)
  • "Seems to me...seems to me...look, death must be going on, right? Death has to happen. That's what bein' alive is all about. You're alive, and then you're dead. It can't just stop happening." (p. 43)
  • Everything that exists, yearns to live. That's what the cycle of life is all about. That's the engine that drives the great biological pumps of evolution. Everything tries to inch its way up the tree, clawing or tentacling or sliming its way up to the next niche until it gets to the very top—which, on the whole, never seems to have been worth all that effort. (p. 81)
  • "I suppose there's not some kind of magic you don't know about?"
"If there is, we don't know about it." (p. 93)
  • Then there was a silence. It was the particularly wary silence of something making no noise. (p. 124)
  • "Huh! Priests!" said Mr. Shoe. "They're all the same. Always telling you that you're going to live again after you're dead, but you just try it and see the look on their faces!" (p. 131)
  • Bill Door made the mistake millions of people had tried before with small children in slightly similar circumstances. He resorted to reason. (p. 159)
  • He said that there was death and taxes, and taxes was worse, because at least death didn't happen to you every year. (p. 182)
  • The senior wizards know that the proper purpose of magic is to form a social pyramid with the wizards on top of it, eating big dinners. (p. 189)
  • "It can't be intelligent, can it?" said the Bursar.
"All it's doing is moving around slowly and eating things," said the Dean.
"Put a pointy hat on it and it'd be a faculty member," said the Archchancellor. (p. 195)
  • William Spigot was the one that sang when he worked, breaking into that long nasal whine which meant that folk song was about to be perpetrated. (p. 203)
  • That was the bloody trouble, every time. Whenever someone was trying to do a bit of sensible thinking, there was always some pointless distraction. (p. 212)
  • "But how can a city be alive? It's only made up of dead parts!" said Ludmilla.
"So're people. Take it from me. I know." (p. 226)
  • Just because something is a metaphor doesn't mean it can't be real. (p. 236)
  • I am not sure there is such a thing as right. Or wrong. Just places to stand.
"No, right's right and wrong's wrong," said Miss Flitworth. "I was brought up to tell the difference."
By a contrabandistor.
"A what?"
A mover of contraband.
"There's nothing wrong with smuggling!"
I merely point out that some people think otherwise.
"They don't count!" (p. 237)
  • The Dean himself didn't know when he'd been happier. For sixty years he'd been obeying all the self-regulating rules of wizardry, and suddenly he was having the time of his life. He'd never realized that, deep down inside, what he really wanted to do was make things go splat. (p. 242)
  • Windle shook his head sadly. Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind. (p. 262)
  • It was, as he was wonderfully well placed to know, merely putting off the inevitable. But wasn't that what living was all about? (p. 277)
  • A crown? His voice shook with rage. I never wore a crown!
You never wanted to rule. (p. 281)
  • Ridcully was simple-minded. This doesn't mean stupid. It just means that he could only think properly about things if he cut away all the complicated bits around the edges. (p. 297)
  • No naked little men sat on the summit dispensing wisdom, because the first thing the truly wise man works out is that sitting around on mountaintops gives you not only hemorrhoids but frostbitten hemorrhoids. (p. 301)
  • What's the good of having mastery over cosmic balance and knowing the secrets of fate if you can't blow something up? (p. 305)
  • He lay back and smiled. It was never too late to have a good life. (p. 311)
  • Mothers like her exist everywhere, and apparently nothing can be done about them. (p. 313)
  • In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence. (pp. 316-317)
  • With any luck, they'd have best of both worlds. Not just feeling...but knowing.
Always best to have both worlds. (p. 317)
  • There was never anything to be gained from observing what humans said to one another—language was just there to hide their thoughts. (p. 319)
  • Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. (p. 321)
  • There is no hope but us. There is no mercy but us. There is no justice. There is just us. (p. 322)
  • Lord, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the reaper man?
  • You are as old as you think you are.
"Huh! Yeah? Really? That's the kind of stupid thing people always say. They always say, My word, you're looking well. They say, There's life in the old dog yet. Many a good tune played on an old fiddle. That kind of stuff. It's all stupid. As if being old was some kind of thing you should be glad about! As if being philosophical about it will earn you marks! My head knows how to think young, but my knees aren't that good at it. Or my back. Or my teeth. Try telling my knees they're as old as they think and see what good it does you. Or them. (p. 336)
  • Death said nothing. He helped her up onto the horse.
"When I see what life does to people, you know, you don't seem so bad," she said nervously. (p. 342)
  • In the village in the Ramtops where they understand what the Morris dance is all about, they dance it just once, at dawn, on the first day of spring. They don't dance it after that, all through the summer. After all, what would be the point? What use would it be?
But on a certain day when the nights are drawing in, the dancers leave work early and take, from attics and cupboards, the other costume, the black one, and the other bells. And they go by separate ways to a valley among the leafless trees. They don't speak. There is no music. It's very hard to imagine what kind there could be....
And in the cold afternoon, as the light drains from the sky, among the frosty leaves and in the damp air, they dance the other Morris. Because of the balance of things.
You've got to dance both, they say. Otherwise you can't dance either. (pp. 344-345)
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