Once again the alphabetical round-up of Discworld's people, places, creatures, organisations, books, food and miscellanea is (to hi-tech Pratchett's alleged disgust) based on Stephen Briggs's much-thumbed, uncomputerised card index. It draws its material not only from the first 30 Discworld novels and novellas--from The Colour of Magic to The Wee Free Men--but from associated maps, guides, diaries, cookbooks, short stories and two volumes of The Science of Discworld.
This torrent of information about a world that doesn't even exist (though often seeming suspiciously more real than our own) is carefully channelled. Minor entries on walk-on characters from the early novels have been ruthlessly crossed out to make room for Discworld facts and fancies that are either more important or--preferably--offer better scope for jokes. The Companion is consistently, unashamedly entertaining. From a geopolitical entry on a small but frighteningly important country:
Lancre operates on a feudal system--everyone feuds all the time and hands on the fight to their descendants. The chips on some shoulders have been handed down for generations. Some have antique value. A bloody good grudge, Lancre reckons, is like a fine old wine; you look after it carefully and leave it to your children.
It would probably be madness to read the New Companion from cover to cover, but it's endlessly browsable and offers something amusing on every page. From Abbot via Bugarup University, Orang-Utan/Human Dictionary ("Ook"), Place Where the Sun Does Not Shine, and Vestigial Virgins to "Zweiblumen, Jack", all Discworld life is here. In a closing interview Pratchett lets slip the title of the Autumn 2003 novel, Monstrous Regiment. All in all, it's a must for the hardened fan. --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.