How To Be Dead (Books 1-3)

How To Be Deadby Dave Turner

It is true that I have a strange sense of humour and there are certain types of books that simply call out to me. From the strange imaginings of Terry Pratchett and Tom Sharpe to the gentle humour of Leslie Thomas or Pauline McLynn, they offer an escape from reality. Humour is subjective and just because a book makes me chuckle merrily to myself doesn’t mean it will do the same for someone else. I am a fan of romantic comedies in any form, be it book, film or theatre, but my favourite release has to be the more zany worlds envisaged by the likes of Dave Turner. A world where reality comes face-to-face with the best of human imagination. 

Dave Turner’s “How To Be Dead” is not the first to give the likes of Death human form and a personality, and I am sure it won’t be the last. And whilst it has an uncanny resemblance to at least one Terry Pratchett adventure, it is extremely funny in its own right. 

The first character we meet is Death himself. Unlike most of his other appearances in literature, Turner’s Death is very human in his frailties and his obsessions. His inability to pronounce Beelzebub, his craving for biscuits and his need for reassurance make him a vulnerable and likeable character. And throughout the three books here we will meet his colleagues, War, Famine and Conquest. And Beelzebub of course. 

The story really begins when young Dave Marwood, stuck in a dead-end job and drifting aimlessly through life, becomes a hero. Saving the life of the woman he loves (even if she isn’t aware of it at the time) changes everything. But then, coming face-to-face with Death will do that every time. Following his near-death experience, Dave discovers he has gifts he never knew he had. He is also now living in a world he never knew existed. And for the first time in his life, he has a purpose. He also has a new relationship with the girl of his dreams, so what could possibly go wrong?

The three individual books of this trilogy focus on different strands of the overall story, but at the heart of each of them is Dave’s relationship with Melanie. It was his unrequited love for her that led to his near-death encounter with his new boss. And it is his passions that drive him to beat the odds when faced with a hastily assembled and not very successful attempt at a budget Appocolyps.  

There are some very original elements to this very funny book. I particularly enjoyed the back story to the Four Horsemen of the Apppocolyps. Their relationship was believable, considering they had been working together for millennia. 

But what makes the book such a joy to read is the relentless humour. From moments of slapstick gold to the most subtle of turns of phrase, every page offers something to laugh about. I love the kind of subtle humour that was so well perfected by Tom Sharpe, and reflected here in what I found to be a real page-turner. 

As I said at the beginning of this review, humour is subjective. If you are one of those that simply don’t get the Discworld or have never laughed at Monty Python, then give this one a miss. If, however, you can believe there is a world where Death is a Billy Joel fan with an obsession for bourbons, then this is defiantly for you.