OTHER CHILDREN GET GIVEN XYLOPHONES. SUSAN JUST HAD TO ASK HER GRANDFATHER TO TAKE HIS VEST OFF.
Yes. There's a Death in the family.
It's hard to grow up normally when Grandfather rides a white horse and wields a scythe - especially when you have to take over the family business, and everyone mistakes you for the Tooth Fairy.
And especially when you have to face the new and addictive music that has entered Discworld.
It's lawless. It changes people. It's called Music With Rocks In. It's got a beat and you can dance to it, but...It's alive. And it won't fade away.
I have to say, I wasn’t totally on board with this one…
The sixteenth installment in the Discworld series, tells two separate stories, the first, sees Death going through an existential crisis, abandoning his post and being replaced by his Granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit. The second, follows Imp, a bard as he discovers a magical guitar that unleashes the mystical musical force known as Music with rocks in, onto the Disc.
The problem with the book is that these two stories never really work well together. There’s some crossover as Susan has to work out how the music is keeping Imp (later known as Buddy) alive after he should have died, but for the most part, they feel like plots from two separate novels.
The stuff with Death and Susan is the more interesting of the two plotlines and, as I’ve mentioned before, Death is my favourite character in the series. It’s always a joy to see his outsiders look at humanity and he’s responsible for many of my favourite jokes across any of the novels. Unfortunately though, while it makes for the more interesting story, Susan’s fleeting run as Death is also the slighter of the two.
The main body of the book is given over to the Music with rocks in. admittedly, while not the most interesting story, it’s definitely the funnier of the two and you can tell that Pratchett had a real ball writing it. Every page is stuffed with hilarious references to people and events synonymous with the music industry, to Imp’s name translating to Budd Ee Holy to other bands with names like the Whom and even a literally Deaf Leopard all featuring in the story. Seeing these tropes re-imagined to fit in with the Discworld’s fantasy setting were a treat and if you enjoyed Pratchett’s previous show business book, Moving Pictures, you’ll love this one too.
Sadly, for me, I found the two plots too far disparate to really enjoy this book. Had Death’s side of the story been a little larger perhaps I’d have enjoyed it more, but Buddy’s side of the story, while heavy with gags, is too slight on plot to ever truly engage you.
Still, a less than perfect entry into the Discworld series as a whole is still a fantastic, imaginative and hilarious book in its own right. Newcomers to the series will find a lot to love here and it’ll almost certainly leave you excited for more. For readers more versed in the overall series though, this stands out as one of Pratchett’s lesser works.
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