“He had the feeling, once again, that he’d missed out on something somewhere. He’d never really realized it until the last couple of days. He didn’t know what it was. He just wanted to do things. He didn’t know what they were. But he wanted to do them soon.”
“There are millions of chords. There are millions of numbers. And everyone forgets the one that is a zero. But without the zero, numbers are just arithmetic. Without the empty chord, music is just noise.”
It was just happenstance that the first Pratchett book I got to read after Sir Terry died last month is one of those that feature DEATH, and musings on, but it certainly made the experience of reading Soul Music more bittersweet than it would have been otherwise. It didn’t end up being my favorite Discworld book, but it’s still a reminder of what we’ve lost in losing* Terry Pratchett.
*A euphemism implying we can probably find him hiding under our beds or stuffed in the fridge next to the ketchup if only we just looked hard enough.
The Discworld books don’t have to be read in order, but I have to read them that way. If you’re looking for a way in to the series, you could do worse than with this book. I feel it’s good, not great. But if you want a stellar one to start with I’d recommend Guards! Guards! instead, or even Reaper Man, which was the previous book in the DEATH sub-series. Terry Pratchett’s version of Death is an anthropomorphized, soulful, skeletal sort of guy who’s always having emotional crises, losing faith in his job, and then wandering off for a while to find himself. He also speaks IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
This time around, his crisis precipitates his granddaughter, Susan, taking over the business. Susan is a very practical girl, raised by her parents (Death’s adopted daughter and his old apprentice) to disregard anything even remotely nonsensical. While Susan is busy learning the Family Business, magical disaster is of course once again invading the Discworld, this time in the form of music. Specifically of the type “with rocks in.” Imp y Celyn (Welsh for Bud of the Holly . . . get it?) and two new acquaintances also new to the fine disaster of a city known as Ankh-Morpork decide to start a band after being rejected by the Musician’s Guild, and after finding a guitar in a Mysterious Shop that produces the most wondrous music . . .
As they tend to do in Discworld books, the two stories converge in a manner I can only describe as “wonko,” but the twin themes of Death and Music actually work really well together, and I ended up coming out of the book sort of teary-eyed, and not just because I was thinking about its dearly departed author.