THE NEW DISCWORLD
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
I pull my copy of The Discworld Companion by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs off the shelf. It has a copyright date of 1994 and lists all the Discworld books through Soul Music, plus the short stories “Troll Bridge” and “Theatre of Cruelty.” Unfortunately for my desire to commit reference, but fortunately for my enjoyment as a reader, Mr. Pratchett has excessively prolific in the nine years since this edition was published, necessitating the publication of The New Discworld Companion, which covers the sixteen novels and two short stories of the first book as well as fourteen additional novels, maps, diaries, cookbooks, popular science texts, and, finally, an additional short story.
Changes have been made throughout the book, not just by adding new entries or lengthening older ones. One example is the entry for William de Woorde (in the Ws in the first book and the Ds in the new one). In 1994, Pratchett knew a little about de Woorde, but it was only a nodding acquaintance. The new book takes advantage of the fact that now de Woorde has appeared in his own book, The Truth. Ironically, his entry in the new book is shorter than the original.
When the first edition of the Companion was published, Pratchett had not referenced Uberwald (also Überwald) yet. Since then, it has come to play an ever larger role in the Discworld and, naturally, now has its own entry. Similarly, ideas like the clacks have found their way into the The New Discworld Companion. Numerous new individuals, such as John Keel from Night Watch also make their debut appearance in the Companion.
Not everything has been updated. Entries for minor ideas which have not reappeared since Soul Music, such as Ching Aling, are taken verbatim from the earlier book. This, of course, makes sense, since Pratchett has not added anything new to the concepts since they first appeared. Of course, as Pratchett has demonstrated, this doesn’t mean he won’t return to these ideas. The History monks were an idea, practically a throw-away line, in an earlier book, only to have re-emerged as one of the most powerful forces on the Discworld.
One of the interesting features of The New Discworld Companion is the decision not to outline all the adventures suffered by the various characters. Therefore, while readers will learn of Mustrum Ridcully’s background and mention of his affair with a young Esmerelda Weatherwax, there are no details of his various sojourns to XXXX, Roundworld, or, in fact, anything related in the novels beyond a vague note that he has survived.
Supplementary material in the book, such as an interview with Pratchett, has been updated (ironically, perhaps, since in the first edition, it was entitled "Terry Pratchett: The Definitive Interview"). Stephen Briggs also offers an updated introduction to the book as a whole, including necessary acronyms used throughout. Unfortunately, the Brief History of Discworld in the first edition has been left out.
The New Discworld Companion is, if not an essential addition to the Discworld fan's library, certainly a fan addition. Enough time has past since the first edition was published (and more than enough written) to allow the owner of the first edition to pick up the new edition without feeling like he is spending his money on only a slightly different product. The book also serves a useful purpose to those only now diving into the Discworld, in that they can use it to gain insight into some of the off-hand comments made in the books based on the long history Pratchett has with his characters and his world.