Johnny and the Dead

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Terry Pratchett

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  HumorousMagic


Johnny Maxwell can see the dead people in the graveyard who are like normal people, but dead. They stress that they are not ghosts. A big company has bought the graveyard for 5p for redevelopment and Johnny and the dead attempt to prevent it. At the end the dead discover their potential to travel outside the graveyard and leave, and the corporation is thwarted by the Blackbury Volunteers, led by Johnny.


A humorous story written for younger readers, and lacking Pratchett's habitual cynicism and mockery for the most part. Some very funny lines (“It's worse than that: I'm dead, Jim”) and situations as the dead come to terms with technology. While the author avoids the theological, the story is just an amusing version of the local-kids-fight-city-developers story. The parts dealing with Tommy Atkins, last of the Great War Blackbury Pals Battalion, are quite touching and lead Johnny to an appreciation of what people have done who are now dead and gone. The not unexpected problems occurs when the “What are the dead doing here anyway?” questions arise. The story certainly denies implicitly the notion of a personal judgement immediately following death but does seem to hold out hope for a final judgement. This is dashed, though, in the last few pages, when the dead discover how to use technology and decide that this is their judgement day as they all depart by various means. The dead Eric Grimes is treated rather strangely by the other dead and it transpires at the end that he committed suicide and so is unable to leave the graveyard with the others. Rather surprising is the sympathetic treatment given to the one apparent Christian in the story: Yo-Less, one of Johnny's friends, a West Indian with uncharacteristic tastes. Nothing much is made of it, but his mother (“She spends more time in church than God”) is mentioned now and again as an upright Christian who cares for her son and his friends and Yo-Less respects and upholds her views when relevant. Given that it might not have been there at all, it's a decent touch.

Tuesday 1st January 2002