Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett

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Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 1/5
Reviewer: Dave Martin
Reviewed by Dave Martin
Summary: Johnny and the Dead is a poor book, lacking in tension, decent plotting and any meaningful characterisation. It's little more than a thinly veiled attack on the multinational corporation, and will probably go over the heads of its readers without even giving them an enjoyable read. Not recommended.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 213 Date: January 2006
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 006054189X

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Johnny is walking home through the cemetery with his friends. While reading the gravestones, he is surprised to find a dead person talking to him, then more. They have one purpose. They have decided that Johnny will be the one to save the cemetery from demolition. How can an eleven-year-old boy save the dead?

"Johnny and the Dead" is the second book in Terry Pratchett's "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. Where the first novel followed Johnny's action-packed space battles against the alien hordes, "Johnny and the Dead" is a far more pedestrian affair. In fact, it is so pedestrian it is almost stationary! Nothing really happens in this novel. Johnny has the task of saving the cemetery from planned demolition but there is no satisfactory conclusion. It would appear that no one, not even "The Dead" themselves, is interested in what happens. As such, the plot is defunct and this becomes a pointless read.

The novel is not helped by the complete absence of any sort of characterisation. Johnny seems likeable enough. He is the typical eleven-year-old boy whose word no one credits. Like many boys his age, he believes the world is against him while at the same time is revolving around him. However, the other characters are entirely unimaginative and lifeless creations (excuse the pun). Johnny's friends are a cross-section of working class stereotypes. From "Yo-Less", the token black friend, to "Wobbler" the computer nerd, and even "Big Mac" the thug, this is a book full of poorly drawn characters with no depth. Even "The Dead", on whom the novel centres, have no personality other than being a gang of "feminists, communists and mobsters". This means that I care about neither the plot nor the characters. I have no empathy for them; they invoke no feelings one way or another. Coupled with a plot that goes nowhere, you have a truly awful novel.

Perhaps the worst thing about "Johnny and the Dead" is its complete lack of humour. Pratchett's subsequent efforts include parody, wit and one-liners, yet this novel is devoid of any humour. With hundreds of horror movies to lambast and ridicule Pratchett chooses to remain serious throughout. He prefers to attack the corporate machine and seems so intent on preaching about the evil of the multi-national that he has forgotten for whom he is writing.

"Johnny and the Dead" fails completely as a children's novel. It does not entertain, it does not educate and it does not engage the reader. The writing does not flow and there is nothing here that will make child, or adult either, want to read it again. I certainly struggled to get to the end.

Not one to borrow and definitely not one to buy, at any price.

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Yartek said:

I met Pratchett at a signing for this when it first came out. I was, perhaps, a little older than the target readers for this one, but my younger brother took it as a bit of a springboard to investigate the first world war and the 'Pals Battalions' discussed in the novel.

Johnny and the Dead might not have the frenetic pace of Only You Can Save Mankind, but it contains much that I still remember after more than ten years. To my mind, the Maxwell books only really went off the boil with Johnny and the Bomb, which was just a little bit too silly.

d2.bharadwa said:

Whoever had written what was above was right. I think that the book does not educate any one and does not have any plot