Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion...So Far by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs

It's hard to make a guidebook to something that keeps expanding, particularly if you keep trying to nail it down between covers. (Sure, there's always a Wiki if you want ease of updating, but a Wiki is much harder to sell than a book, and publishers aren't in the habit of spending money to build out something that they then give away for free.) Turtle Recall is, if I'm counting correctly, the third edition Discworld Companion, after two earlier versions with separate individual titles.

And not to be morbid or anything, but the only reason why this one is likely to stick is because Terry Pratchett died in 2015 after having only written two more books than those incorporated here. If he'd still been around, he would have kept writing, and Turtle Recall would have been outdated in a few years, just like the other two editions were.

(And, yes, we all do wish we were in that leg of the Trousers of Time. Sadly, we never get that choice.)

Turtle Recall is credited to Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, who has been the motivating force (or maybe just an able pair of hands) behind most of the "non-fiction" Discworld projects for the last two decades -- Mappes, cookbooks, the previous Companions, etc. The text is all pretty Pratchetty, though I have my suspicions that it was Briggs who actually assembled all of it. Of course, one reason bits of that text may be particularly Pratchetty is that they were originally written by Pratchett -- I don't think there's much more than phrases lifted out of the novels, but much larger pieces come from the annual Desk Diaries, from the Mappes, and the other miscellaneous books.

Which is, of course, all as it should be: this is a guide to those other things, so it should tell us what is in those other things. (Preferably in a shorter space, or else the map is equal to the territory and we're into a Borges story.)

That's exactly what this third edition Companion does, in much the same way as the first two editions did it. The Discworld keeps getting bigger and more full of people, so this new edition has to mention many more people and places and shiny new technologies as the Disc strides confidently forward into the Century of the Anchovy.

(Hey, since I can't find any other place to shove it into this post, here comes my theory of Discworld plots. Like most things, Discworld can be divided into three historical eras, based on the typical plots.
  • Early Disc: Creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions want to eat us, and they Must Be Stopped.
  • Medium Disc: There is a very nasty thing -- possibly a creature from elsewhere (not the Dungeon Dimensions!) and possibly a human being with a distinct lack of affect and empathy. It also Must Be Stopped.
  • Late Disc: It's steam-engine time! Aren't steam engines neat! Oh, OK, have a little plot, too. Here are some people doing things, probably including Moist von Lipwig. Nothing Must Be Stopped, because Progress Cannot Be Stopped, and everything just keeps getting better all the time, gosh darn it.)

So, anyway: a guide to Discworld. Updated through Snuff. Quite possibly the last edition of this book, unless Rhianna Pratchett utterly changes her mind and decides to take over the Old Establishment herself. (I'm not betting on it, but who expected Brian Herbert to write more Dune novels than his father when the old man kicked off in 1986?) Utterly useless if you're not interested in those books, but why did you read so long in this blog post if that's the case?

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