Had to pick up Catherine Webb a.k.a Kate Griffin a.k.a Claire North's 'The End of the Day' (2017). After reading her earlier books which either talked about one soul or one mind living different lives across the centuries, or jumping across bodies and consciousness, I went slow with this one. Catherine Webb fills her stories with so many details that it's impossible to rush through them.
In 'The End of the Day', the very ordinary protagonist Charlie has an extraordinary job. Charlie is a human, and is a Harbinger of Death, i.e. his boss is Death. Charlie's job is to visit people whose names are on Death's list, but it doesn't necessary mean they will die. Charlie's visit will either be a warning, or to honor their impending death. He's well, a harbinger who brings gifts as instructed, and depending on the individual's reaction and action to the gifts, Death will either pass them by, or take them. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)
Charlie's job isn't exactly a secret. He pays taxes, and he can introduce himself as such, and describe his job to strangers. He also has a girlfriend Emmi, who's a teacher and seems to be into him for real. We follow him on his job which involves trips to visit the people, to war-torn countries, to Iceland, suburban England, etc. We listen to his stories and experiences. People differ in their treatment of Charlie- he cannot be bought or paid to go away. The job has his path cross with the other apocalyptic horsemen (or women)- Famine, Pestilence, and War. They're all humans, and can depend on a company called Milton Keynes to sort out the mundane details of travel and car hire. Death can be a male or a female, it all depends on what the dying choose to see.
Then he got kidnapped in Manhattan, as expected for someone with his job, and tortured for information about Death and what a Harbinger does. He then has a mind shift about his job. He knew what he was getting into, of course, but he found it hard to keep that neutrality. I felt that I was reading a huge chunk of metaphors throughout the story. The story is set in a fairly bleak climate (current), Brexit, developers buying up council flats in suburban London and all that. Generally, the world is pissy, everyone is pissed off at everyone else. How does one deal with Charlie, and what he stands for? And ultimately, how does one greet the eventuality that is Death? I think this might be a book readers will hate it or love it. I love it.
"And now I look at the world and I was honoured, I was honoured to be your Haringer because I honoured life. I was everything you wanted me to be, I went and I did honour to the living before the end, and it was a privilege. It was the greatest privilege that can be bestowed. And now I look and all I hear is the beating of the drums and all I see is a world in which to not be one of us is to be something else. The scientist is right, reason is dead; the dream is dead; humanity has changed into something new and it is brutal. It is ugly. Life is ugly. And it is obscene. And I look. And all I see is you."