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Too Old For Rock and Roll? Too Young to Die?
on 2 March 2005
The answers to those questions and more may be found in Terry Pratchett's hilariously funny and thoughtful Soul music.
Soul Music consists of two parallel plot lines which, because this is Discworld and not the earth, converge as they reach the story's horizons. First we meet Imp y Celyn, soon to be known to the world as Bud of the Holly or Buddy, as he travels the long and winding road from his home of Llamedos to Ankh-Morpork. Back hone, Imp's music always made his people smile and he knew if he had a chance he could make some people dance and maybe they'd be happy for a while. Unable to raise enough cash to join the musicians' guild, Buddy, after picking up a very odd guitar at a strange music store joins up with Glod the dwarf and Lias the troll and form a musical group. In short order the group has a gig at the Mended Drum.
In the meantime, DEATH is in the midst of his nineteenth nervous breakdown. As DEATH walks through his land of broken dreams, he seems unconcerned about what becomes of those who should now be departed. There will be disastrous consequences for the universe (see Reaper Man) if DEATH does not perform his obligations. The Death of Rats and his raven translator Quoth go desperately seeking Susan, DEATH's granddaughter. She is persuaded by Death of Rats to fill in until DEATH can be found and persuaded to return to work. Susan soon finds herself atop DEATH's horse Binky. She's eight miles high and when she touches down in Ankh-Morpork she enters the Mended Drum to meet her first assignment - - - Buddy. And then all heck breaks loose.
Buddy starts to play the guitar just like he's ringing a bell and the world seems to stop. It may be that only the good, like Buddy, die young but in this instance Susan says something DEATH would never say: "it isn't fair". Though no fault of her own, Buddy does not go up to that spirit in the sky, Buddy and his music live on. The obvious question becomes why is he still alive and to what purpose?
"Music with rocks in" it becomes the next big thing. Even the wizards at Unseen University fall prey to these musical magic moments, so different and so new. Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler soon makes an appearance and rapidly transforms himself from purveyor of sausages to greedy rapacious rock and roll impresario. Soon, every kid in Ankh-Morpork wants to be a music with rocks in star. They get electric guitars but don't learn how to play. They think with their hair swung right and their pants too tight it will be all right. Little do they know that in the crafty hands of CMOT Dibbler even musicians with talent will soon be in dire straights.
Meanwhile, Susan, Death of Rats and even Albert, DEATH's loyal man Friday, search Discworld for DEATH. DEATH has been seen sitting on the dock of the river in Ankh-Morpork, drinking whiskey and rye with the good ole boys at the Mended Drum, and standing guard at midnight at an oasis manned by the Klatchian Foreign Legion. His internal dialogue is priceless, funny, and thoughtful.
Events proceed rapidly as Dibbler prepares the band for a huge free concert in Ankh-Morpork. This will be Discworld's Woodstock. Will Susan's sense of justice prevail? Will Buddy survive even though the sands in his hour glass are long gone? Will the Librarian get money for nothing and his chimps for free? Will the wizards ride though mansions of glory in suicide machines? The answers to these questions aren't blowing in the wind but they are in the book.
As far as Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are concerned, Soul Music is near the top of the charts . . . with a bullet.
Elvish has left the building.