(2020) Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs & Paul Kidby, Gollancz, £25, hrdbk, 252pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22964-8
This is definitely one for Discworld fans. It is very nicely produced, quite heavy, and looks very good on a coffee table. It is not a book for reading from end to end as with a novel, it is one for dipping into. Feel like sitting down for a few minutes? Waiting for someone to phone back? This is one of those books for such occasions. It is a delight and, being an archive and having no plot, can be put down without fear of loosing one’s place in the story.
It is difficult to know how much was written by Terry Pratchett and how much by Stephen Briggs. The ideas are, of course, Terry’s, as are many of the words, but the two of them worked together and developed ways of extracting the original ideas into other forms, such as Discworld diaries and tomes such as this. Paul Kidby has been illustrating Discworld stories for a very long time and Terry said of him ‘I like the reality of Paul’s work, the feeling that he’d just strolled into the books with a sketchpad’; this book is cover-to-cover artwork from Paul.
It is divided into five sections. ‘The City Watch’ gives an overview of this most essential organisation which facilitates the smooth running of the city (apparently) along with details of some of the Watch members and some of those that they watch (the Unusual Suspects). ‘Fool’s Guild’ includes the history of the Guild and explains much about Clowns; well, more of a warning really. Not all Vampyres are blood sucking fiends as we learn in ‘Reformed Vampyres’; breaking the habit is not easy but at least this section gives good advice to the would-be imbibers of
bl…, er, a nice cup of tea (or perhaps a glass of warmed red wine?). The last major section covers ‘Lu-Tze’, the most accomplished of the History Monks, and explains much of The Way and the search for true enlightenment, whilst also touching on other groups of Monks. We finish with the ‘Artist’s Archive’, a short collection of sketches.
The text and its many insights is most entertaining, though much of it will already be known to those who have read the novels. The illustrations are delightful. Apart from appealing to Discworld aficionados, this book would make a great gift for anyone who enjoys humour. Who knows, they may then want to go out, buy the novels, and experience the inner workings of Ankh-Morpork for themselves. And I should go out and find the first Volume!
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