Shelf-Life

Books, reading & writing


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

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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The Challenge

Step 1: Admitting you have a problem.

For many years now I have struggled with addiction. I know I am not alone. There are thousands of us out there, suffering in silence, lying to our friends and family, telling ourselves we have it under control and then sneaking out at lunchtime for a quick fix. Just one, we say, nipping in on the way home. But it rarely turns out that way. We all know that. Well no more, not for me. I’ve decided I’m going to take back control. I hope that by charting my progress here on this blog I might draw strength from you internet people and maybe even inspire others to take that first step.

 

So here goes:

 

My name is David and I’m a bookaholic.

 

I used to think I could handle it but I’m in too deep. There’s just too many. My to-read pile teeters shakily on my bedside table. One night it will fall and that’ll be it. They’ll find me days, maybe weeks later, crushed under a bricklayer’s hod of typeface lives and compressed paper universes. I thought the Kindle would help but that just made it worse. It’s like absinth double concentrate, the bottle might be small but if you tried to down it in one you better be ready to meet the Green Fairy… and the White Orc, and the Black Knight, and the Red Queen, and all their friends.

The challenge is simple. From today, I will not buy another book until I have read all the ones I already own. I’ll give put periodic updates on this blog, so you can follow my progress and hopefully help me resist temptation. Lent is coming up and maybe that pushed me into it (although I think this might take a bit more than 40 days). Once I finish each book I’ll post a review too. They’ll also be other stuff: places I like to read, places I like to write, strange ideas that come to me in the night, all that kind of stuff.

Now you might think not buying books is easy. Just don’t go into book shops. Now, putting aside the fact that the internet only puts me a few clicks of my Kindle away from a good 300page speedball, let me remind you that I live in Edinburgh: home of Holmes, rangelands of Rebus and principality of Potter. It is also the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature and every August hosts the world’s biggest book festival. On an average day I pass four second hand book shops, one large chain bookstore and spend most days within a five minute walk from a small, independent book shop that also does great coffee. A gambling addict in Vegas would have more chance than me.

Still think it’s easy. Well, we’ll find out together. Here is the full pile:

Image

 

Add to that these from the Kindle:

The City & the City – China Mieville

Dark Eden – Chris Beckett

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Dracula – Bram Stoker

 

Will I manage it. Only one way to find out.

I’m going to start gently, ease myself into it. First up is Soul Music by Terry Pratchett.

For those about to rock…