Greetings and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha is back, and this time I really am going to finish the Death & the apocalypse feature I promised! In part I we explored the world’s end & what to do about it, and now in part II we’ll focus more on the (wo)man who’ll make it happen. Death is a very important figure for most people (eventually), but (s)he never gets much face-time (ba dum chi). So today we’re going to take a peek into several different versions of Death as a character. However, I won’t be giving you selections like The Book Thief, because while I hear it is a great read, I’d prefer to look on the lighter side of Death for today (and I’ve never heard of a single Death-&-Nazi-centrous book that made me laugh). So without further ado, I give you a character who is just dying out in literature. I hope the humor’s not too grave for you! _______________________________________________________________ Mort by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett’s Mort is first on the list, for the simple reason that Discworld’s Death is my favorite in the entire series. He is charming, his humor just kills, and he’s really very understanding about his job (though he would like to have people be happy to see him, just once!).
In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory.As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.
This book is worth a read if only for a look at how death (the state) functions in Discworld where the afterlife is whatever you believe it is, and everyone has a different idea of what comes next.
On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1) by Piers Anthony
Another series novel, On a Pale Horse has a very different approach to Death. Unlike the usual idea of Death as an immutable anthropomorphic personification (a.k.a. just the one skeleton forever), Anthony shows Death as more of a job that gets filled by a new working stiff. All in all it’s not too bad; the hours aren’t great and the walking skeleton look takes a bit of getting used to, but you meet a lot of new people, travel the world, and don’t have to worry about health insurance. It’s just the retirement plan that’s a bit troubling.
When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.
Undeadly (The Reaper Diaries #1) by Michele Vail
Moving even farther from the personality-less sythe-carying skeleton we all know and fear, Undeadly posits a very different view of the incarnation: a teenage girl who thought the world would be a nicer place with one more cute boy in it. Oops.
The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird…
Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.
Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another…except, there’s something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly’s got an undeadly knack for finding trouble…
When Adam Lacroft Met Death by Carlos Paolini
For one last outsider’s opinion on Death, I’d like to point out that there is really no reason he needs to be a he (especially considering the whole fleshless skeleton thing…seems a bit of a moot point to me). When Adam Lacroft Met Death not only gender-bends our grim friend, but also gives her a personality. Far from Mort‘s understanding Death, this young(old) lady likes playing games with the lives, and deaths of others (but I suppose after a few millenia anyone would get tired of chess).
Death, in the form of a sexy, capricious twenty-something woman, offers a teenage boy a questionable way to win back his life in 19-year-old author’s debut novel.
Adam Lacroft is a carefree seventeen-year-old, in love, with a perfect slacker future in front of him–until a reckless driver crashes into his car and threatens to take all of that away. When Adam wakes-up in an empty white room, a cute girl sitting by his side giggles and explains to him that he is now dead. Coquettish and border-line psychotic , the girl produces a few demonstrations that scare Adam and verify the reality of his state of being. A proper introduction is then made and Adam Lacroft meets Death herself. Death, however, tells Adam he may call her Eve.
Feeling sympathy (or is it something else?) for Adam, Eve strikes-up a deal with him: if he can find and kill the driver who caused his accident within three days, Adam gets to turn 18 and find his natural end some other time. Having no clue of what to do next, Adam confides is rather strange predicament in his friend Erica and, together, they begin searching for the man who caused the accident. Their mission is unconscionable enough, but as Adam and Erica find-out more about their target, they find less of Eve’s version of the events ring true. Death is spoiled and condescending and, despite seeming to have a crush on Adam, is constantly setting him up to fail.
Death: a Life by George Pendle
Finally, I want to shift gears a bit, out of the typical fiction and into autobiography. We’ve been looking at so many different accounts of what Death is like, it is only fair to get his perspective on the matter. (We at the Fiction Feature do believe in fair representation after all).
At last, the mysterious, feared, and misunderstood being known only as “Death” talks frankly and unforgettably about his infinitely awful existence. Chronicling his abusive childhood, his near-fatal addiction to Life, his excruciating time in rehab, and the ultimate triumph of his true nature, this long-awaited autobiography finally reveals the inner story of one of the most troubling, and troubled, figures in history. For the first time, Death reveals his affairs with the living, his maltreatment at the hands of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the ungodly truth behind the infamous “Jesus Incident,” and the loneliness of being the End of All Things.
Intense, unpredictable, and instantly engaging, Death: A Life is not only a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a universe that, despite its profound flaws, gave Death the fiery determination to carve out a successful existence on his own terms.
DEATH was born in Hell, the only son of Satan and Sin. He was educated in the Palace of Pandemonium and the Garden of Eden. Since before the Dawn of Time, he has ushered souls into the darkness of eternity. This is his first book.