I am not the sort of person who believes in anything in particular, apart from the occasional bout of serendipitous good timing, and reading ‘Soul Music’ became one of those times for me in a particularly awesome way. I picked up the book to begin reading one day after the first anniversary of Sir Terry’s death.
I had been thinking a lot about him and Discworld on the anniversary itself and reconciling myself to the idea that there really would be no more from this author who I love and admire so much. I was a bit melancholic when I started ‘Soul Music’ then. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that my second hand copy – which I have read before – is actually signed on the title page by Sir Terry himself. It isn’t much, but it felt like a gift, a little extra something from the man himself, to remind me that whilst I might have read everything he has ever written, I should never let myself think that the books have nothing new to offer me. It’s a lovely thought.
Ironically, ‘Soul Music’ is actually the book I have enjoyed least in the series so far, even less so than ‘Sourcery’. I couldn’t say exactly why, because the story is decent enough and one of the main characters is the ever popular Death, but none of that seemed to help it along for me. The only conclusion I could reach is that at this stage I really want the characters that have been established, the ones I am beginning to know inside out. The stand-alone novels are fine but I think they will have to be something special to really grab me now.
Death is not so present here, not in the same way he was in ‘Reaper Man’, and the story is definitely lacking for that. Susan, his granddaughter, is a strong character but not in the same way that he is. Susan is the daughter of Mort and Ysabelle, and she definitely has more of her mother’s fiery character than her father’s. She has a no nonsense kind of attitude that reminds me of Granny Weatherwax, although she does fall into the same trap Mort did when she becomes more than a little bothered by Buddy and his impending death. She is young, after all. She’s allowed to make mistakes.
She has to make these mistakes because Death has abandoned his post once more, leaving her to pick up the pieces. It is a bit of an odd move for him and one that I am not entirely certain I understand. Early on in the story, Susan upsets him and he freaks out at her in a way that I have never seen him freaking out before. Even in ‘Reaper Man’ when he was facing down the big bad in the climax of that story, he didn’t lose control of his rage in anything like the way he loses it with Susan. I guess family tension can affect even metaphysical manifestations. I never thought I would say it, but the best part of this novel is Archchancellor Ridcully, a character I have been mostly indifferent to up until now.
He seems to be one of the only people not affected by the music and as an island of sanity in a world gone mad, his short and sharp attitude becomes very refreshing. I clung to him as a character I recognised and could rely on. I was particularly struck by the moment when he is breakfasting with Susan and it is noted that he is actually quite a charming man; before this happened, I couldn’t always be sure how exactly Granny Weatherwax could ever have been taken with someone like Ridcully. He always seemed slightly ridiculous to me. Here at least, I can see him for how similar he and Granny actually are, as the sober-minded voices in a world gone slightly mad. I’ll be looking at him very differently from now on, that much is for sure.
“Had an ant farm too,” said Ridcully, thinking far away thoughts, “The little devils never could plough straight.”