02 April 2015

Books: Soul Music By Terry Pratchett (1994)

Soul Music is the sixteenth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett and the third one to feature Death. 
Once again, Pratchett gives us a modern issues -Rock and Roll and the stardom that follows it- and incorporates it into his sometime vaguely medieval universe of Discworld. Even though this book does feature the further adventures of Death -after Mort and Reaper Man- a rather good chunk of the book deals with Imp Y Celyn, a young harpist who has ventured to Ankh-Morpork in hopes of becoming famous. But to be able to earn a living, he must join the Musicians Guild and pay their fees. But with no money to begin with, Imp wonders how he'll do what he loves. Soon he hooks up with two other unlicensed musicians, the troll Lias Bluestone and the dwarf Glod Glodsson, and form the musical group The Band with Rocks In. When Imp's harp is destroyed, he acquires a guitar from a mysterious shop, unaware that it contains the awareness of a primordial music that was responsible for bringing the universe into existence. Thus Imp takes the new name "Buddy," as "Imp Y Celyn" literally means "bud of holly" (while Lias starts calling himself "Cliff").
Meanwhile, the readers learn that Death's adopted daughter Ysabell and her husband Mort have died. And Death is not taking this very well. As a matter of fact, he has abandoned his post in an effort to avoid the unpleasant memories of their loss. But Susan, the daughter of Ysabell and Mort (and Death's granddaughter) and who has been living (somewhat) as normal girl in the city of Quirm, is forced by the fabric of reality to assume her grandfather's position. While Susan had awareness she is Death's granddaughter, the real truth was withheld from her, so she eventually forgot and spends her days living in a boarding school and trying to avoid unpleasant things by using an unexplained power of being able to fade from awareness of others. But with Death taking a unplanned holiday, Susan's memories return and begins to do her new duties. One such duty brings her to the Mended Drum where The Band with Rocks In is playing and where Buddy is scheduled to die in a riot there. But under the influence of the magical guitar, the riot never happens and Buddy does not die. This creates a new timeline and things only get worse from there. 
Soul Music is no This is Spinal Tap when it comes writing a satire of the music industry and bands. And unlike the two previous adventures with Death, I found the story a bit slow and Pratchett really takes too long to move the story forward. Sure there is the puns and funny bits here and there, but it often reminded me of why I put down the works of Piers Anthony and his Xanth world, as I felt the jokey titles of songs where fairly obvious and a bit too easy for humorist like Pratchett. Still, it contains many funny passages and Susan is clearly the prototype of Tiffany Aching, the heroine of Pratchett's young adult series that would debut in 2003 (which is what I take up next. There are two other novels that feature Death, Hogfather and Thief of Time, but I'll read them later after I complete the four novels featuring Tiffany -if only because I checked them out of the library).

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