Soul Music

The sixteenth novel in the Discworld Series

UK hbk: Victor Gollancz, c.40,000 copies on 19 May 1994 (0-575-05504-9) reprinted three times (June 1994. October 1994, January 1995) reissued 21 October 1999 (0-575-06689-X)
Book proof: 146 copies
Discworld Collector’s Library: The Death Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Gollancz, 5 December 2013 (978-1-473-20012-8)

Book club: BCA, 1994 (CN 3524)
BCA’s Unseen Library: c.3,000 copies in November 2007 (CN 154302) This was the last title published in the series, as they were no longer financially viable for the Club, which refused to make them available for general sale.

Large print: Isis, 550 copies in March 1997 (0-7531-5157-X)

Pbk: Corgi, 265,000 copies on 4 May 1995  (0-552-14029-5), reprinted 1995 (twice), 1996, 1997 (twice) and many times since.
Reissued B-format with modified Kirby cover: Corgi, 2013 (978-0-552-16755-0)
New issue, with black/gold photographic design cover, on sale at same time as Kirby edition, 26 September 2005 (0-552-15319-2)
Reissued B-format with modified Kirby cover: Corgi, 14 February 2013 (978-0-552-16755-0)

USA: Harper Prism (jacket illus. Michael Sabanosh), January 1995 (0-06-105203-5)
Proofs: August 1994. Quantity not known.
Pbk: Harper Prism (cover illustration as hbk), October 1995 (0-06-105489-5)
By the 4th printing, the gold on the cover had been changed to white, and the holographic disc to silver.
Premium pbk: Harper Premium, 29 October 2013 (978-0-06-223741-5)

US book club: Science Fiction Book Club Selection, February 1995 (cover as hbk) 13 January 1995 (ref. 06541)

Brazilian:  Bertrand Brasil, [not yet seen]

Bulgarian: Музика на Душата, trs. Mirela Khristova, Vuzev/Akhont-V, 3,000 copies in November 1997 (954-422-049-6),
2nd edition, reset, 2000 (954-422-057-7)

Chinese (mainland simplified): Death Collection 3, Shanghai Dook, Autumn 2020 (978-7-5559-0961-3)

Czech: Těžké Melodično,  trs. Jan Kantůrek Talpress, 10,000 copies in March 1998 (80-7197-150-2)
Double volume, with Men at Arms, pencil drawings by Paul Kidby, Talpress, 2012 (978-80-7197-441-3)

Dutch: Zieltonen, trs. Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), Het Spectrum, 5,000  copies in 1997 (90-274-5614-3)
Reissue: Mynx, 2009 (978-90-8968-106-5)

Estonian: Hinge Muusika, trs. Avo Reinvald, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, March 2004 (9985-3-0827-1)

Finnish: Elävää Musiikkia, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, October 2005 (951-23-4664-8)
Pbk: Karisto, January 2010 (978-951-23-5246-3)

FrenchAccros du Roc, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, September 2000 (2-84172-143-4)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 19 May 2016 (978-2-84172-764-3)
Omnibus: La Mort due Disque-Monde, containing Mort, Reaper Man and Soul Music, L’Atalante, 21 October 2011 (978-2-84172-558-8)

Pbk: Pocket, October 2004 (2-266-13699-2)
Pbk with Marc Simonetti cover: Pocket, June 2011 (978-2-266-21196-3)

German trade pbk: Rollende Steine, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Goldmann, 20,000 copies on 1 October 1996 (3-442-41589-6)
Mass market pbk: Goldmann, September 2001 (3-442-43049-6)
Double volume: with Interesting Times/Echt zauberhaft, Goldmann, March 2009 (978-3-442-13441-0)
New translation: Rollende Steine, trs. Regina Rawlinson, Manhattan 29 September 2014 (978-3-442-54733-3)

Hungarian: Gördülö Kövek, trs. Veronika Farkas, Delta Vision, 28 November 2012 [2009] (978-963-9890-41-1)

Italian: All’anima della musica!, trs. Valentina Daniele,  Salani, June 2013 (978-88-6715-296-4)

Japanese: Choeisha,  2006 (4-88629-954-7)

Polish: Muzyka Duszy, trs. Piotr W. Cholewa, Prószyński i S-ka, 15,000 copies on 11 October 2002 (83-7337-256-3)

Russian: Роковая Музыка, trs. N. Berdennukova, Eksmo, 2002 (5-699-01102-1)
Black cover hbk: Eksmo, 8  April 2020 (978-5-699-18993-9)
Pbk: Eksmo, 3,000 copies on 1 May 2019 (978-5-04-102496-3)
Double volume: Soul Music and Hogfather, Eksmo, 10 October 2017 (978-5-699-91962-8)

Serbian/Yugoslav: Dusevna muzika, trs. Aleksandar Milajić, Laguna, 1,000 copies in 2004 (86-7436-190-0)

Spanish: Soul Music, trs. Albert Solé, Plaza y Janés, June 2004 (84-01-33530-2)
Pocket book: Debols!llo/Plaza y Janés, October 2005 (84-9793-763-5; vol.342/16)
Reprinted  November 2005, February 2006, etc., first printing with new cover, same ISBN, December 2013
Kiosk edition: Altaya, 2008 (with cover design for Reaper Man) (978-84-487-2620-1)

SwedishLevande musik, trs. Peter Lindforss, Wahlströms c. June 2000 (91-32-32463-4)
Reissued in laminated paper covers, described as ‘First edition hardbacks’ [‘Första kartonnerade upplagan’], July 2001 (91-32-32636-X)
Pbk: Wahlströms 2002 (91-32-43355-7)

Turkish: Ruh Müziği, trs.Niran Elçi,  DeliDolu/Tudem, December 2017 (978-605-2349-19-9)

Ukrainian: Душевна музика,  trs. Olga Lubarska,  Starego Leva (Old Lion), 2019 (978-617-679-700-5)


Soul Music had an unbroken run of four weeks in the no.1 position of the British paperback bestseller lists, November-December 1995, and was no.5 in the Observer list of paperback bestsellers for 1995 (compiled by Bookwatch).

This is the sixteenth book in the Discworld series, a fact that seems as unbelievable as the cosmic turtle on which the world rests. It is tempting to scour the pages looking for authorly fatigue, but it is a vain search. Pratchett is clearly enjoying himself far too much even to think of stopping…. a very satisfying climax.
Pratchett’s patented style (*) is thoroughly in evidence. This is a man who can no more resist the excruciating pun than Sid Vicious could pass up a line of speed, and if the ideas of Elvish Presley, esprit de corpse and T-shirts with the slogan ‘Born to Rune’ get up your nose, then give the book a wide berth.
The rest is classic English light humour with all the slapstick, twists and dry observations you could hope for – it might not have moved on much in the past ten or so novels, but then it was pretty damn good to start with.
If Pratchett can reiterate endlessly, then so can this reviewer. The standard conclusion applies: if you have already fallen under the Discworld’s spell, then you will buy this book. If Death and his minions are just an occasional treat, wait for the paperback.
But if you have never visited the particular tourist spot, it is better to start at the beginning with The Colour of Magic. Soul Music is more of the same, and since that includes quite so much [sic] good-natured fun and games, there is every reason to celebrate the fact.
(*) Footnotes and all.                      Rupert Goodwin in The Times

Terry Pratchett’s new book is about rock and roll. It is a poignantly apt subject for his caustic wit. Partly because of the recent death of Kurt Cobain, who seemed hellbent on following the tragically inane rock and roll script of live-fast-die-young. And partly because Pratchett is one of the few writers who has the type of fans for which Bob Geldof would surrender his knighthood.
As with previous novels (this is the 16th in the Discworld series), Pratchett lures classical themes and popular mythologies into the dark corners of his imagination, gets them drunk and makes them do things they wouldn’t dream of doing with an Oxford don. In classical mythology, gods do occasionally question their actions, but to the best of my knowledge the Grim Reaper has never before left his job to answer the question ‘What’s it all about then, eh?’. . . .
Pratchett still occupies a unique place in literature: he manages to be pertinent, funny, original and popular. Even the most debated writer of this century, Bertolt Brecht, described the crucial ingredient for good drama as Spass; translated, it means ‘play’ or ‘fun’. Pratchett has this in abundance.
Mark Thomas in The Mail on Sunday

It’s rather hard to know quite how to categorise the Discworld novels of Mr Pratchett. Originally seen as a science fiction writer, his richly comic invention has long outstripped the narrow confines of this particular genre.
He is now a PERSONAGE, one the world outside sci-fi and fantasy has come to accept as that rarity: a writer of brilliance. Sci-fi scenario apart, Pratchett is one of today’s greatest comic writers, certainly on a level with P.G.Wodehouse or the now forgotten Bertram Atkey. At time he can approach, dare one say, the inspired heights of Lewis Carroll, both writers using their created worlds to make some kind of social comment on their own times.
The plot of Pratchett’s current foray into the lunatic logic of Discworld revolves around what amounts to a pop group who play a new kind of music: Music With Rocks In: which turns out, unnervingly, to be alive.
The Fab Four of Discworld are a troll (a drummer, only he plays rocks) a dwarf (a mean war horn player) a large red-haired orang-utan (great as a four-handed keyboard player) and the hero whose name is Imp, but gets to be known as Buddy. The last named is a guitarist only he uses a mysterious instrument which seems to play him!
The story also involves a middle glass ‘gel’ named Susan, who finds it necessary to take over the family business in the absence of her grandfather. Her grandfather is a kindly old gentleman who rides about wearing a black robe and an hourglass: his name is Death.
Death’s job of terminating the time-expired devolving on to a schoolgirl provides the perfect passport to the marvellously comic invention which has made Pratchett such a cult figure.
Soul Music is Pratchett at his effortless best: the humour, the incident roll on, all so effortlessly entertaining and there are some brilliant lines. Not many writers can come up with a sentence like ‘Reality was lying again’. Eastern Daily Press

Pratchett serves up a robustly funny ace as the 16th novel in his Discworld series. Even newcomers to his bizarre universe can chuckle at the hard-pressed Tooth Fairy, the exceedingly odd rock band and the boarding-school girl standing in for her grandfather, who would love to forget he is Death. Daily Mail

Like the Asterix books for younger readers, Discworld novels make an immediate appeal with lots of jokes (some of them footnoted by other jokes), recurrent characters and places, and a finely judged mix of predictability and fresh invention. Like Asterix too, they can be enjoyed more on re-reading and with passing years, as more references and send-ups are detected. Here Soul Music is, like so much on the Discworld, almost but not quite like something we already know. In this universe budding guitarists are forbidden to play ‘Pathway to Paradise’ in music shops and prospective concert-goers are exhorted to ‘Bee There Orr Bee A Rectangular Thyng’.  Daily Telegraph

Even favourite authors have bad books. It is rare to be able to pick up a book by a particular author and be sure that you are going to enjoy the novel.
But Terry Pratchett is such a master craftsman at his art that he never fails to delight every time. Soul Music is no exception.
The novel is set once again on the Discworld with all the familiar characters – and if you are not familiar with them then you are missing the Pratchett experience. Pratchett manages to change from sledgehammer wit to subtle humour in the space of a sentence.
Also there is the added pleasure of trying to identify which film scenes he is stealing from. In Soul Music he manages to range from a Marx Brothers sketch (from A Night at the Opera, I think), to The Blues Brothers.
This new Pratchett book is a joy to read – but fans who haven’t even picked it up yet will know that already.  Michael Higgins in The Birmingham Post

Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti