I guess the person that said that the problem with Terry Pratchett is that you have to read him more than once probably applied it to this book in the same way that it had been applied to the other books that I have read and discovered that the second time around I have enjoyed them much more than the first time. Okay, I am probably not going to pick up Moving Pictures again, though this one is definitely one that I should come back to again some time down the track.
The problem that I found with this particular book is that Pratchett seems to try to squeeze two concurring plots into the single book, which is something that he has not really done previously. Most of his other books is generally focused on the main plot, where as this one deals with the retirement of Death and the resulting chaos that comes about, and concurrently deals with this strange phenomena that has appeared in Ankh-Morpork: Shopping Centres.
Somebody also suggested that Pratchett has moved from simply writing parodies of fantasy novels to becoming somewhat more satirical, though I would have to say that I think he has been like that for most of the Discworld series. Equal Rites, which deals with gender equality, was the third book in the series, and he returns to a similar issue with this book when dealing with discrimination against dead (or rather the undead) by the living.
Then there is this issue with shopping centres, which I sort of wonder what the point was, which is why I probably have to go back and read it again. It seems that these things first appear in the form of snow globes and then expand into miniature cities with hordes of vicious trolleys. It is also interesting how they have music which lures people into them in the same way that the Pied Piper lured rats, and children. Personally I believe that shopping centres are a lot more insidious, though you get the idea that from his books these aspects of modern culture are not all that pleasant. My gripe with shopping centres is the way they destroy public space and take people out of the public sphere and place them into the private sphere, which is in effect a controlled corporate space where the corporation not only sets the rules, but also controls what people see. In a way shopping centres destroy our culture and simply turn to what is in effect crass commercialism.
However, that is not the major plot of the book because the main plot deals with how Death is sacked from his job for becoming too human, and as such he retires to a small village where he takes up a job as a farm hand. This is where Pratchett's brilliance really comes out because of the utter banality of his existence, yet it is an existence that Death seems to enjoy. In a way, it is the banality, and being able to appreciate and love the banality of life, that makes us human.
Another thing is how Death is so obviously Death, but it is only the children that actually notice that he is a skeleton. It is obvious that he is a skeleton, and nothing actually changes when he goes into the ordinary world, yet nobody wants to accept it. In fact it seems that if we are confronted with something truly horrifying we end up putting it out of our mind and start pretending that it is actually something else. The reason that the children seem him for who he is: they have yet to learn that a creature such as death should be horrifying. In the end it all comes down to perception – a child's innocent prevents the child from experiencing fear, and it is only when the child learns to fear (or is told to fear something) that they actually begin to fear. In a way it is very much the same with us adults – if we are told to fear something, such as refugees, immigrants et al, then we begin to fear them, even if that fear is unfounded.