Mort, by Terry Pratchett (HarperTorch, 2001)
It’s rare to find a book that prompts a snicker on nearly every page. Mort falls delightfully into this category, and I had to restrain myself from interrupting everyone around me to share the best lines.
The title character, Mort, is an awkward teen whose father decides to apprentice him out instead of putting him to work on the family farm. At the apprentice fair, Mort is the last one chosen… by Death.
As one might expect, Death is a bony fellow, although he rides a living horse (named Binky). Mort is relieved to discover he doesn’t have to turn skeletal himself to take the position.
Mort lives with his employer, along with Death’s adopted human daughter and their butler/cook. As Mort takes on more responsibilities, it leaves Death with more time for himself, and his attempts to relax prompt a sort of midlife crisis (if someone who’s not alive can have such a thing).
When Mort tries to save a girl he’s supposed to help die, reality begins to warp. The harder he tries to fix it, the more desperate things get. And Death can’t be found.
Thank you to my friends who’ve been suggesting I read Terry Pratchett. Starting part-way through his Discworld series may not have been the wisest idea, but Mort stands alone quite nicely and I don’t think I lost anything this way.
If you’re not familiar with the Discworld universe, suffice to say the planet isn’t a sphere. It’s flat and highly unusual. Book one is Going Postal, and since one of my friends said it’s her favourite, that’s the one I’ll read next. [Edit: Thanks to Tamara, who commented that Going Postal is not book one although a fine read. For an overview of the Discworld series, see Terry Pratchett's Discworld at Fabulous Realms.]
The official Terry Pratchett website has plenty of Discworld resources, including an artist’s rendering of what the Disc itself looks like.
[Book from my personal library.]