The wonderful thing about reading encyclopaedias is that there are no rules to follow. From cover to cover, if you wish. Selecting topics of personal interest and ignoring all else, if that's your preference. There's pleasure gained by arbitrary random choices as well as with following cross-references to see where they lead. One thing is certain about this collection, you won't be disappointed in whichever path you follow. And there's a laugh per page, if not per entry.
Ever since the Enlightenment and Diderot's compendium of the natural world, encyclopaedias have remained a buttress to learning. Some of us had the "EB" as children almost as a matter of course. All these references were collections of facts - about nature, people, literature - almost anything you might name. Rarely is an encyclopaedia a collection of one man's imaginative musings. And there are few writers around with the imagination, wit and prose style of Terry Pratchett. If you can catalogue a man's thoughts, it's been done with this "Discworld Companion".
In the earlier part of his career, Pratchett declared he didn't strive for consistency or much order in his writings. Characters, events and places on the Discworld could vary in personality, happen and be forgotten, or be seen and lost. The same place wasn't always in the same place twice. With so many books, so large a fan base and a deluge of questions, some level of order was demanded. Although there is a web page devoted to sources for the origins of Pratchettean allusions, there has never been a catalogue of persons, places and events. Hence this book.
The Companion is a rich trove of entries, many enhanced by Briggs' delightful illustrations. Anyone can read it. The long-term fan will find explanations for things encountered. The novice cruising through here will likely respond: "She did what?" and nip over to buy the referenced book. Major Discworld figures are fleshed out by background material not found in the stories. Characters with fleeting exposure in the books, are explained more fully here. Places are described in detail and placed in historical context. One can almost see Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist, clutching this book as he gazes in wonder at the Place of Lamentations in Kom, major city of Klatch. He will leave soon for the Orohai Peninsula in quest of a sponge lunch. Don't believe me? You could look it up. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]