Mark Reads ‘Soul Music’: Part 4

In the fourth part of Soul Music, Susan takes a journey. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism, particularly anti-Asian racism.

You know, despite having already spent so much time with Death and his home, this was still pretty damn magical. I love that Susan’s curiosity got the best of her, and she simply could not resist trying to figure out what the hell was going on. And what better way to do that than GLIDING MAJESTICALLY ON THE BACK OF DEATH’S HORSE ACROSS THE DISCWORLD? Surely, after all that, Susan wouldn’t disbelieve that something weird was really happening to her? Right?

Well, if anything, Susan is dedicated to her stubbornness. She lands in Ankh-Morpork because, entirely by habit, Binky makes a stop at the Curry Gardens for Death’s usual meal. I’m still torn on how to feel about the how Pratchett portrays the people who run that restaurant because… like, on the one hand, it seems like he understands that in some part, restaurants run by immigrants often do certain things to appease white customers. It’s a business, and many of them alter their menus for a different palate, or they dress up their store so that people will get the full “experience” that they expect of such places. (And now that I’m thinking of it, I cannot locate an absolutely killer article about how fucked up it is that these kind of restaurants are expected to be cheap, because how dare there be high-end Thai spots or luxury Chinese food.) But it still feels super uncomfortable to me to have someone put one of the more horrific cultural stereotypes into this book. The whole Engrish nonsense is just… appalling! Yes, Pratchett says that the menus has misspellings “so that customers can be lured into a false sense of superiority,” but did he need to actually spell it all out for us with that menu? Who’s the butt of that joke?

So, let’s move on to talk about the landscape, hanging in space. Seeing Death’s home through Susan’s eyes is a real treat because she’s struggling with the impossible. I find it so much more interesting that she demands that the world around her make sense to her, you know? Pratchett does not merely describe Death’s home as Susan experiences; no, Susan actively questions it all. It’s an examination.

She expected it to tear when the horse landed, but there was only a faint crunch and a scatter of gravel.

Because Susan was not taught about the power of belief, she applies logic to everything: to the color of the home, to the size of it, the shape of it… it’s incredible. But I think what satisfied me most about her exploration of this house was in discovering that things there were made… wrong. That’s the easiest way to describe it, so I’ll just quote Susan myself:

Everything was just slightly wrong, as if it had been made by someone who hadn’t full comprehended its purpose.

There was a blotter on the oversize desk but it was part of it, fused to the surface. The drawers were just raised areas of wood, impossible to open. Whoever had made the desk had seen desks, but hadn’t understood deskishness.

Even more perplexing were the things in the home that were constructed correctly, but that was easily explained by the existence of Albert. Well, maybe not all of them. I still like to pretend that Death is taking bubble baths with his yellow rubber ducky. DO NOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME.

Of course, the big question hanging over all of this is: WHY? Why did the Death of Rats and Binky bring Susan here? Susan’s confrontation with Albert, which was suitably surreal at times, answered this for me. As I suspected, Death was not doing his job, but unlike the events of Mort, the world has continued on… well, dying. Does that mean no one is bringing these souls to their afterlife? Maybe that’s not the point. Susan, if she took up the job, would exist as the figurehead of sorts. I mean, she destined for it because she inherited the position. Which is a weird thing to say because somehow, Death passed his memory and his abilities to Susan despite that Ysabell was adopted.

But it’s fitting for an emotional reason, too. Death adored Susan, and the little bits of her past with him we get are so cute that it hurts. Horse rides! Bubble baths! All while Mort and Ysabell were terrified of what Susan would turn into. And despite how they raised Susan – which explains her no-nonsense outlook – she was still brought here. She felt the pull to this world. Now what does she do? There’s a hole that needs to be filled in this universe, and Susan seems to be the right fit. But what if she doesn’t want to do this? What then? Will Albert convince her to stay or will he focus on getting Death back?

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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