Johnny Maxwell can see the dead people in the graveyard who stress that they are not ghosts. A big company has bought the graveyard 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.
This is a humorous story written for younger readers, and lacking Pratchett’s habitual cynicism and mockery for the most part. There are some very funny lines, (“It’s worse than that: I’m dead, Jim.”), and situations as the dead come to terms with technology. The author avoids the theological, and 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 occur when the “What are the dead doing here anyway?” questions arise. The story certainly denies implicitly the notion of a judgement immediately following death 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 deceased, and it transpires at the end that he committed suicide and so is unable to leave the graveyard with the others.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.