So I’m going to do something counter to almost all my other Discworld reviews and write a (slightly) negative review… GASP.
I have read Soul Music before, and guess it didn’t really stick out for me in the past and I sort of see why. Like all Discworlds, Soul Music is pretty darn good overall, but I feel has a few weaknesses among its strengths.
To recap – Soul music is Death’s 3rd book and we finally get introduced to Susan, who I sort of feel like the MC Pratchett was looking for in the Death series, where Mort didn’t quite cut the mustard and Reaper Man lacked. It’s interesting to me that Pratchett doesn’t really ever give Death much page-time, but rather creates a story around the few actions that Death does take.
Susan appears on the scene because Death has decided he needs to forget (it’s never explicitly stated but its implied that Death is struggling with Mort and Ysllabells respective deaths). As Death’s granddaughter Susan is called upon, Harry Potter styles to take up the job. This sequence is by far my favourite part of the story, where we see Susan struggle with but also embrace the situation.
The second plot thread is ‘Imp’ an elf-like fellow who wishing to pursue a career in music, discovers “music with rocks in it” after purchasing a cursed guitar. Imp was ‘supposed’ to die early in his music career, but Susan watches on as Imp’s life is supernaturally preserved by the ‘soul’ of music. Imps plot is largely characterized by a number of musical puns and satirical sequences riffing on rockstar fame as the Soul of Music increasingly takes over his ‘life.’
All the plot threads are really fun as they’re introduced but where I felt this book didn’t quite work is how the two main threads fitted together. Yep on a practical level Susan is involved because she witnessed Imp fail to perish and starts protecting him – a bit akin to Mort saving the princess in his story. But there is no real reason the Death plot really fits with the Music one. Once all the interest in everyone getting introduced is done with the characters just kind of meet every now and again until eventually the ‘Music’ is confronted (and defeated)
Death’s own journey to forget is kinda undermined and reduced to a few gags before zooming to Susan’s aid the end, his issue isn’t exactly resolved (although as said its sort of implied that he copes with his grief).
Again it doesn’t really fit together that well – the ‘Music’ plot feels similar to Moving Pictures and in my opinion could have had a similar ‘solo’ story that didn’t need Susan or Death. Whereas other than the cool introductions the Death story felt like a rehash of Mort (Death wants some time off, a human takes his job and interferes in the natural order of things).
Finally not exactly a critique but a fair warning that Soul Music has SO MANY puns, mostly about late 1900 rock and pop music – its funny, but holy crap there was a lot.
I’m really looking forward to Hogfather which I feel is peak Death series, although I see that Thief-of-Time is consider an entry in the Death series which I never registered it as.