Review: Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

‘It was sad music. But it waved its sadness like a battle flag. It said the universe had done all it could, but you were still alive.’

Welcome back to the Discworld Project! So fun fact about me today, I have a long, emotional connection to various genres of rock music. I went through a very distinct punk/emo/goth part of my teenage years obsessing over Kerrang!, music videos and getting band merch as gifts. I at one point wanted to study music as a result. After years of mellowing out though, I still feel so nostalgic for some songs. Soul Music gave me all those feels with the added Pratchett whimsy.

Yes. There’s a Death in the family.

It’s hard to grow up normally when Grandfather rides a white horse and wields a scythe – especially when you have to take over the family business, and everyone mistakes you for the Tooth Fairy. And especially when you have to face the new and addictive music that has entered Discworld.

It’s lawless. It changes people.

It’s called Music With Rocks In.

It’s got a beat and you can dance to it, but…

It’s alive.

And it won’t fade away.

There is a certain joy in Death. I love reading about him, encountering him and just hearing about his latest shenanigans every time I read his book. But this time, we have Death, Binky, Albert, the Death of Rats (squeak!) AND Susan Sto Helit, Death’s graddaughter. I have been so looking forward to Susan becoming part of the story. Ever since I saw this image of her by Paul Kidby, I was on board.

Iconic.

So this book boils down to essentially two stories, one is Susan’s as she tries to navigate and understand her place in the world knowing her heritage. The other follows the Discworld’s first rock band or in their description, ‘Music with Rocks In’. This is one of the books where I think having at least a basic knowledge of previous Discworld. There are characters passing through in a bigger plot role, such as Archchancellor Ridcully and the other Unseen University alum. And smaller moments there are other major Discworld players like Lord Havelock Vetinari and members of the Watch.

The stories about Death are always a bit more complex than just him doing his job, Soul Music is no different. Susan’s parents, Mort and Ysabell, are dead at the beginning of the book. Having been raised away from Death, she begins to get her memories back surrounding her grandfather as the story progresses. Susan is a layered, complex young lady. She has a solemn nature with a thoughtfullness that she shares with her grandfather. Similarly to how I felt with Tiffany, I really loved the attention Pratchett added to her as a young person confronting grief and death. All the more complicated because she is related to Death.

The other part of the plot focussing around music with rocks in, the infectious nature of it’s subculture and just watching all the wizards become angst driven creatures was so much fun. As is always the way, like snowglobes and movies previous, you can feel this new music has a more devious current to it. It just showed up on a flat world where belief becomes reality in the shape of a guitar in a shop that wasn’t there before. You know, the usual. But it’s just insanely fun to see them all become cranky, wannabe rockers for a bit. Ridcully being at his absolute best in this one trying to unravel the mystery behind it.

The only tiny issue I had was how both stories came together. There was a bit of a rush, a bit of clumsy description that made it hard to understand what exactly was happening but it was still a hugely fun tale. I love Death, Susan now just as much and even the long, suffering Albert got to shine is better colours in this. This book was indeed ‘Born to Rune.’

Next Discworld entry will be breaking from the publication order again but is going to be the direct sequel to this. I’ve planned to read Hogfather for 3 Christmasses now and this should be the one I finally crack it. Apologies as well for delayed reviews but the joy I guess of doing all the reading, is you only focus on that for a while. Thanks for checking in guys, happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

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