Shelf-Life

Books, reading & writing

Soul Music: It’s only Rock and Roll and Discworld, but I like it.

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Well that’s the first book finished. The challenge is now officially underway. Here is my review of Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music (I’ll try and keep it spoiler free). You will be unsurprised to learn that I like it, rather a lot.

This prime cut of Pratchett takes up back to Discworld (which, to those uninitiated, is a flat, disc-shaped world, balanced on the backs of four gigantic elephants, which in turn stand on the shell of the massive star turtle, A’tuin, as it swims through the infinite void of the universe. I would add that it is a world full of magic, but really the elephants and the space turtle should have given that away). Imp Y Celyn, a young musician from rural Llamedos, travels to the great city of Ankh-Morpork with dreams of becoming a bard. But, after acquiring a strange guitar from a magical music shop, he ends up inventing rock and roll instead.

Never ones to miss out on the latest fad, particularly if there is money to be made, the citizens of Ankh-Morpork quickly embrace the new sound, turning Imp and his bandmates into stars. But fame doesn’t come free. Pursued by the traditionalists from the Musicians Guild, brought under the vulture’s wing of band manager, Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler, and stalked by Death (or his granddaughter at least), Imp soon finds true art requires sacrifice, in more ways than one.

So, as I’ve said above, I really enjoyed this book. Given my twin predilections for music of the big-haired, tight-trousered, stadium-rocking kind, and stories packed with trolls, orcs, ogres, dwarves and the like, this is to be expected. But even accounting for my significant bias, it’s a cracking read. Although the main action centres on Imp and his bandmates, a good range of sub-plots let us enjoy some of Discworld’s best loved characters: the Wizards, the Librarian, Death, and Lord Vetinari, all make welcome appearances.

Considering the amount of ground covered, it would have been easy for the story to feel like it had been stuffed into a pair of leather trousers a couple of sizes too small. Pratchett avoids this by skilfully mixing plot & characters, action & reflection, and jokes & heart, in a way that pushes the story along, without it feeling rushed. And, like any good rock performer, he knows what his audience wants. With more rock-related jokes than a Spinal Tap reunion concert, this is a book that can be reread again and again with the confidence that they’ll always be some new nugget to find.

And it doesn’t half make you want to see his record collection. If Killing yourself to live isn’t in there somewhere I’ll eat my LPs.

How much more Pratchett could it be? None, none more Pratchett.

Next up in the reading pile is Island by Aldous Huxley.

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