THE COMPLEAT ANKH-MORPORK
by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In 1993, Terry Pratchett wrote Ankh-Morpork, “the city which features in many of the Discworld books would have to be unmappable because I’d made it up as I went along.” The irony of this statement was that it appeared in the introduction to Stephen Briggs’s The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, a map and gazetteer of the city. Twenty years later, Pratchett and the people at the Discworld Emporium have updated the map and expanded the gazetteer to book length.
The focus of both projects is the large fold-out color map of Ankh-Morpork, with the new map providing two different views of the city, one on each side. Essentially the same, a close examination of the map does show that over the last twenty years part of the city have seen some renovation, such as New Brickfields, which twenty years ago was the site of the Dragon's Landing Redevelopment Site. This is a nice touch since it treats Ankh-Morpork as a living, ever-changing city rather than a stagnant literary creation. Furthermore, while the earlier map named the major thoroughfares, and a few minor ones, all the streets and alleys of Ankh-Morpork now have proper names.
The book connected to the map also gives Pratchett a chance to flesh out many of the ideas he’s had for Ankh-Morpork that he hasn’t been able to work into a book. Some of these ideas have previously appeared in other ancillary projects, such as the series of Discworld diaries that appeared n the early twenty-first century. Many of the entries, particularly for businesses, restaurants, or street names, are brief one-line jokes which don’t appear to have the ability to sustain anything longer, and are therefore appropriate for this sort of work.
As mentioned above, this project shows the changes in Ankh-Morpork, and this is also evident in the text, which refers to the changing reputation of such Discworld stalwarts as the Broken/Mended Drum and the Shades, neither of which are quite the same rough-and-tumble places their were when Pratchett first introduced them.
Another way the book really brings Ankh-Morpork alive is through the three walking tours of the city which are provided. When read in conjunction with the map, it really helps bring the city together in a naturalistic manner, showing how the neighborhoods and places are related to each other and providing an inkling of the way the citizens would interact. It is a clever idea and moves away from the idea that the map is just a way to plot out the places Pratchett has mentioned in his writing and then filling in the holes with random streets and buildings. There is now a purpose for all of those places.
Even more than the original Streets of Ankh-Morporak, The Compleat Ankh-Morpork sets the design and location of the city in a reasonably permanent manner. However, as Pratchett has demonstrated over the past twenty years, having Ankh-Morpork laid out on a map doesn't stifle his creativity or resourcefulness, but rather it can be used to spur new ideas as he examines the most complex of all the characters he has created for the Discworld, the Patrician's city of Ankh-Morpork.