Fantasy Review: ‘Soul Music’ by Terry Pratchett

Part 16 of The Complete Discworld Reread

Remember that rash of movies that came out a few years ago that sold themselves as parodies?  Their names were nothing more than the genre they were supposed to be hilariously mocking.  And the “jokes” usually were nothing more than a scene from another movie reworked with one small thing changed.  They were supremely unfunny, most people only got tricked into watching one of the hundred or so were put out, and what few small chuckles they provided were lost because all you could remember were the easy jokes they took.  I already went through this with “Moving Pictures,” which made Soul Music almost unbearable.  At least the former had a thousand elephants.

Better than Moving Pictures, at least the plot made sense; had a little life even.  Music as a force of creation: music with a life of its own.  A guitar bought in a mysterious little shop ends up in the hands of Buddy, who starts a new craze called Music with Rocks in It.  Crowds go wild.  Meanwhile, Death leaves the scene… again… and someone else has to take over. 

Enter Susan, practical young orphan living in a girl’s boarding school that contrary to all fantasy tropes DOESN’T abuse, starve, or otherwise hinder her life.  She is also Death’s Granddaughter.  Death takes off and she inherits the duties.  She turns into a great character too, in later books, but I am not seeing it in this book much.  Mostly she refuses to believe the evidence right in front of her eyes for a while, and then spends her time stalking Buddy and protecting him from harm. 

But really this book is just a long damn string of musical puns, most of which are well below Pratchett’s usually standards.  Is a group of people playing “Pathway to Paradise” in a music shop a joke, an homage, or just lazy?  Don’t even get me started about a dwarf coming up with “rat music,” a cheap throwaway joke not even worth a chuckle.  

More plot holes and inconsistency within the world than normal; why did people keep dying when Death went away this time?  Susan didn’t really take the duties all that seriously, at least that we saw.  No, you know what?  I am done, not going through any more of my notes.  Everyone is allowed a bad day, and my favorite author is allowed a clunker or two.  I can keep going after this book, but why?  More good books in the series are on the way, so focus on the positive.

A more coherent ending than the other pop culture parody (Moving Pictures).  Ridcully once again proved to be entertaining; I loved him eating breakfast with Death(Susan).  We see the start of Hex, known to fans of the series and missed in my first read through.  Susan does become a great character, and she wasn’t bad here, just fairly forgettable.  

Basically I would recommend this to someone in need of a Discworld fix that has tried everything else.  I see it recommended as a starting point once in a while due to its standalone nature, but I can’t imagine this book convincing someone that this is a series to follow.  I really didn’t enjoy rereading this book, though I don’t remember hating it the first time around.

2 Stars.  Perhaps if I had reread it before Moving Pictures it would have been that book that got the majority of my ire, however the two similar books were just too much.

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