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Soul Music

Updated on October 23, 2009

"I'm mean and turf and I'm mean and turf and I'm mean
and turf and I'm mean and turf,
And me an' my friends can walk towards you with our
hats on backwards in a menacing way,
Yo!"

Music has always had a mythology all it's own, and in Soul Music Terry Pratchett looks back over rock history and puts his unique Discworld twist on it. A young druid, Imp Y Celyn, has a gift for music and after an argument with his father, declares that some day he would be the greatest musician ever. To follow his dream, he follows in the footsteps of those before him, leading to Ankh-Morpork. And much like those who came before him, he ends up broke and hungry, looking for a way to survive the mean streets. In situations like that strange alliances form, in this case the slightly Elvish-looking human, a troll (Lias Bluestone) and a dwarf (Glod Glodsson) form a band, "Band With Rocks In". When they sign a contract with the notorious Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler, their fate is all but sealed. And then disaster strikes, Imp's harp breaks and the closest the group can find to replace it with is a guitar from a mysterious instrument shop.

Meanwhile, Susan Sto Helit, granddaughter of Death, and the child of Ysabell and Mort, is growing up. She too finds herself n Ankh-Morpork, as a student in an upper-class finishing school, where she doesn't fit in as well as she might like. When Death decides to take a break after the accidental death of Ysabell and Mort, Susan learns that she has more power than the typical teenage girl.

As Imp, now Bud Y Celyn, and the "Band With Rocks In" head toward their date with destiny, their paths cross with Susan, who falls in love with Imp, as teen girls often do with rock stars. Now she, with the help of the Death of Rats, are fighting to save the "Band With Rocks In" from becoming just a page in Rock legend.

One of the fun things about this book is the way it pokes fun at various music legends, like the Beetles, Led Zepllin, Woodstock and rap music (Hole music). The story of Imp of course echos the life of Buddy Holly, if only Death had been willing to intervene. The strong arm tactics of the Musicians Guild is fun (you can guess things aren't pleasant for the piccolo player, let alone the trombone player!)

Some Thoughts

My only problem with this book is that, of the two storylines, one is funny and interesting and the other isn't. Imp and his band and the whole rock music story generates some good laughs, especially when the band unwittingly acquires a manager who promotes their efforts beyond their wildest dreams (using posters with "Bee There Orr Bee a Rectangular Thyng"). Pratchett also gets some funny digs in at rock fandom as well, as some of the Band With Rocks In's fans make their own feeble attempts at music; there's also one hilarious footnote aimed at Gary Larson's The Far Side. And yet you can't help wondering at the areas the story leaves unexplored, like overblown rock star egomania. Susan's half of the story is not nearly as good; it carries your interest, mind you, but it doesn't have nearly as high a laugh factor as what I'm used to from Discworld.

It's not a bad story though. I like the idea and there's plenty of laughs to go around, but I think more could have been done with it. If you're already a fan, you'll enjoy it. If not, you may want to work your way up to this one. The DVD version is a pretty decent version of the story, though the animation isn't really up to any standard whatsoever.

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