My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a pretty good book, but I don’t think it’s Pratchett’s best Discworld novel at all. Still, puns abound. In this one, Imp the Bard goes to Ankh-Morpork to see his fortune in music as a harp player. He meets some other musicians, a dwarf who plays a horn and a troll who bangs on rocks, and they form a band. However, Imp’s harp is destroyed and they look for a replacement in a magical shop and come out with a magical guitar, unbeknownst to them. And the guitar takes on a life of its own. They get their first gig and the crowd goes wild as Imp — now Buddy — goes out of control on the guitar and the band puts on an amazing performance. Word gets out and they’re soon joined by the Unseen University’s Librarian on keyboards. The place is packed, wizards are in the front row, a riot ensues with women throwing their undergarments on stage and wizards (and others) dancing on tables. An unsavory type approaches them and convinces them to let him become their manager, because he already sees them as a cash cow and will pay them a pittance of what they actually earn. He then sends them on a tour around to various countries and people in the cities go wild.
Meanwhile, while all of this is happening, like in Mort (a book I enjoyed very much), Death wants to take a vacation. And it’s up to his granddaughter, Mort’s daughter, Susan to save the day as Death’s replacement. But she does a lousy job. However, the scenes starring Death (my favorite Discworld character) are hilarious. He tries to join the foreign legion and they bury him in sand up to his neck, I guess to toughen him up, and when they check on him to see how much he’s suffering, he asks if he can stay there one more day. And when he goes to the bar, he gets hammered, falls down flat on his back and is rolled by the customers. That said, I had a hard time tying these events in with the rock band. Susan has a “thing” for Buddy and as he is meant to die, tries to intervene, but something else does first. Buddy’s still alive. And we come to find out it’s the music that does that. The music wants him alive. And then it gets really confusing toward the end when Buddy and the band face a life and death situation and Susan and Death both get involved and something happens to music, but I’m not sure what. Oh well.
There are some very funny moments in the book. If you’re up on your music trivia, you’ll enjoy the inside jokes. Like Buddy’s band, the Beatles played early on at The Cavern. One very popular song is “Pathway to Paradise!” And on it goes. One of the wizards — the Dean — goes all rock and roll rebel on the university, and punks out his hair and gets leather robes with “Born to Rune” stitched on them. It’s all pretty funny. Still, while I enjoyed the book, I felt like the overlap with Death and Susan and with Buddy and the band wasn’t handled as well as it could have been and I found the ending lacking. That’s why I’m giving it four stars instead of Pratchett’s usual five. Still, recommended.