Mark Reads ‘Soul Music’: Part 13

In the thirteenth part of Soul Music, Susan visits Buddy, but is summoned in an untidy manner to a morning meeting with Ridcully. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

There might not be a clear harm spelled out within Soul Music, but the cost that the Music has had on Buddy warrants attention. The opening of this section of the book is eerie because it does demonstrate the unintended consequence of the Music on Buddy. It’s horrifying! I’ll quote this part because it’s important:

How did food taste? It was hard to remember. He’d eaten meals over the last few days, he must have done, but he couldn’t remember the taste. He couldn’t remember much of anything, except the playing. Glod and the rest of them sounded as if they were talking through a gauze.

If we accept what Susan states in this section – that the Music is alive – then I think we’re seeing how it’s taken over Buddy’s body. It’s living through him, isn’t it? He’s barely living his own life anymore, and that is… well, it’s really creepy. Is this all so that some horrible force can come through from another dimension? Like Ridcully says, it’s not like that’s an impossible reality in Ankh-Morpork. THAT’S THE PLOT OF LIKE HALF OF THESE BOOKS. However, there are a couple lines that made me rethink my perception of this mystery:

“It might not be evil but it’s not right! Not here, not now.”

Wait… so it’s a timing problem? A setting problem? Did the Music invade the Discworld when it was supposed to be in our world instead? THESE ARE IDEAS THAT I HAVE. Even later on, while Ridcully is questioning Susan, we get a similar exchange:

“Should it be here?” Ridcully repeated patiently. “Is it something that’s supposed to be happening?”

Susan suddenly felt important. Wizards were rumored to be wise – in fact, that’s where the word came from. But they were asking her things. They were listening to her. Pride sparkled in her eyes.

“I… don’t think so. It’s turned up here by some kind of accident. This isn’t the right world for it.”

Ah. So what’s the right world? And how did it enter the Discworld? It’s got to be related to the fact that Glod and Cliff discovered the numbering system at that shop. The guitar has number 1 on it. That’s meaningful, right? It’s from the BEGINNING… or something. YES. This is a good theory.

Anyway, let’s get back to Susan. Can we talk about this AWFUL line:

The students were staring at her in the manner of those who had heard of the species “female” but had never expected to get this close to one.

I know that I’ve complained about this dynamic before, but this is seriously the worst example of it. Did none of the students or wizards ever have mothers? Sisters? Weren’t some of these people around Eskarina? Aren’t all of them around Molly, Polly, and Dolly in this very same section of the book? I’m a hyperbolic person, so I understand that exaggeration can be used for humor, but there’s the constant need of Pratchett’s to comment on women existing in manly spaces, and it never happens in reverse, or at least it doesn’t to the extent that it does for nearly every woman in this series. I know that they’re all surprised to see Susan instead of the Death that they’re used to, but this is part of a pattern that’s spread over multiple books. Like, there’s that line later on where someone gives Susan a backhanded insult, claiming that as a woman, she can almost be as good as a man, and the text doesn’t immediately condemn this opinion. So what exactly are you trying to say, Pratchett? If he meant to poke fun at the misogyny of these men, he doesn’t do a good job of making that clear.

Look, I just really like Susan as a character, and I want her to get the kind of story that the men do, too. I like that she’s discovering her powers (and limitations) as Death, and I love that she’s rapidly becoming one of the big players in this book. More than perhaps anyone else in Soul Music, she’s closest to figuring this whole mess out.

To be fair, Ridcully is distracted by… um… jeans? LOOK, IT’S TRUE. I’ve spent this whole time believing that Ridcully was exempt from the Music, but once he acted out that scene with the Dean, I HAD TO CONSIDER OTHERWISE. What if his role in all of this is to be the parent who refuses to understand all the “cool” music and hairstyles and fashion that comes along with rock n’ roll? WHAT IF HE’S PART OF THE MUSIC AND HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IT? Of course, it’s entirely possible that this is just a coincidence. Part of the reason I’ve never considered this is precisely because Ridcully has been acting perfectly in character this entire time. This is what he does! He doesn’t like nonsense at all!

Meanwhile, I’m beginning to think that Death’s existential crisis is related to the Soul Music. What has Death been trying to forget this whole time? Literally anything. He drunkenly tells the drum of the horrors of remembering all of time, both past and future, so much so that he can’t escape it. But he sure did try, didn’t he? He went out to the desert, he tried to bore himself into forgetting, and he ended up right back at the Drum, still the same Death, still unable to forget a thing. So, does that mean there’s a chance he’ll accept whatever it is he has to “do” in the future? And he’ll return to being Death? What about Susan? From the events in this section, I’d say she’s still sitting on the fence on her new job. On the one hand, she despises it, and her venting towards Ridcully about the disorganization of it all is proof. But she also enjoys being the center of attention, so is she willing to give that up and go back to being a normal teenage girl?

Actually, her life will never, ever be normal. LET’S JUST BE REAL.

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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