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The Art of Discworld
Terry Pratchett, illustrated by Paul Kidby
Gollancz, 112 pages

The Art of Discworld
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collector's Edition 2005
SF Site Review: Going Postal
SF Site Review: Monstrous Regiment
SF Site Review: The Wee Free Men
SF Site Review: The New Discworld Companion
SF Site Review: Night Watch
SF Site Review: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
SF Site Review: Thief of Time
SF Site Review: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
SF Site Review: Maskerade
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Paul Kidby and Terry Pratchett have long worked together to present the world with a window into "a distant and second-hand set of dimensions" where the world is an enormous disc carried on the backs of four great elephants, Berilia, Tubul, Great T'Phon and Jerakeen, who in turn ride through the cosmos on the cratered shell of the Great A'Tuin. In The Art of Discworld, the two men, chronicler and portraitist, present paintings of the people and places who have grown familiar over the course of the novels, along with text describing both the characters and the process by which Kidby gives them faces.

From the images of Rincewind and Twoflower, who first graced the pages of The Colour of Magic more than twenty years ago, to Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle of A Hat Full of Sky, Kidby presents memorable images of some of Pratchett's most (and sometimes not so) memorable characters.

Kidby's style varies tremendously through the book, from a near-cartoon quality similar to that of Discworld's other great illustrator, Josh Kirby, to a more realistic style which often parodies great works of art (such as his covers for Night Watch or The Science of Discworld). Kidby's ability and willingness to alter his style helps create a feel of history for the Discworld. Artistic styles allow the artists (or actually the artist) to capture a variety of moods, from the glee of the Librarian at the organ to the same character's grumpiness as he peruses magical books.

While Kidby shows many characters only once, other characters, such as the Librarian, Rincewind, Samuel Vimes, or others, are shown in multiple portraits. Each is clearly recognizable as the same individual, even if the circumstances or age in the portrait changes. Perhaps the most interesting is the growth of Susan from a schoolgirl to the more mature woman who can step in for her grandfather as needed.

Kidby's illustrations are accompanied by the words of Terry Pratchett as he described, variously, what he was trying to do when he created the different characters, his opinions of Kidby's visions (always complimentary), and descriptions of the characters. What he doesn't often do, but would have been a nice addition, is discuss any sort of collaboration he does with Kidby as Kidby works to get the characters right. The closest Pratchett comes is noting that Kidby draws his inspiration not only from the work at hand, but also from details about the character Pratchett gave in earlier works.

The Art of Discworld is a beautifully reproduced book, well organized (mostly by geographical area, from Ankh-Morpork to Uberwald), lacking only in an index. The characters presented range from the famous to the infamous to the random trivia answer. All of them, though, give a feel for Pratchett's world and help make it into a place which is its own, not just a satire of our own.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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