The Disc is experiencing some supernatural change as Death becomes existential and music gets itself some soul. “Soul Music”, the 16th installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, focuses once on Death along with his family and a professional colleague as they deal with him letting off his duties again, only for the power of music to interfere in Death’s duty as well.
The death of Death’s adopted daughter and his former apprentice leaves “him” feeling existential and looking for answers in total contradiction with his duty, however unlike before there is someone to fill in for him—his granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit. However getting Susan to take up the position is up to Death of Rats, who attempts to help the novice Grim Reaper learn the family trade. However, Susan comes up against something “supernatural” that prevents her from fulfilling her duty to an aspiring musician in The Mended Drum in Ankh-Morpork. Imp the Bard, aka Buddy, wants to be the greatest musician in the world and attracts that attention of the Music embodied in a guitar that Buddy purchases after his harp is destroyed. Buddy along with Glod the dwarf who blows his horn and Cliff the Troll who drums his rocks create a new sound, Music with Rocks In. It is Buddy’s prevented Death that forces Susan and then dear old Grandfather to deal with the Music in the end.
“Soul Music” is a mixture of good and bad making it one of Pratchett’s weakest works so far. The positive parts all deal with Death, Susan, Death of Rats, Archchancellor Ridcully, and the always funny Librarian. However, almost in a direct counterweight is the bad which deals with almost everything connected to parodying of early rock and roll music and the popular cultural surrounding it. The parody and jokes almost seemed copy and pasted from “Moving Pictures” only being changed from films to music in presentation. Given my low rating of “Moving Pictures” it effectively forced my rating of this book as well.
Overall, I think “Soul Music” is a good fun book to read but not up to the earlier Death books of the Discworld series which is a shame considering the great new character of Death’s granddaughter Susan Sto Helit. I recommend readers looking to try a Discworld book not to read this book first, check out some of the better books before trying this one.