Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion. . .So Far
by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs
Cover Artist: Marc Simonetti
Review by Gayle Surrette
Harper Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062292551
Date: 08 April 2014 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I have to confess that I've yet to read all 39, or rather 40, Discworld books now that Raising Steam has come out. I read The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic years ago and since then have sort of read the books in a hit or miss fashion, missing some completely. A few months ago, my husband and I begin to re-read the books starting with The Color of Magic and shortly found that reading them is order is not as simple a task as we thought because you can read them in publication order, or grouped by subject (for example read all the Tiffany Aching books, or the Witches books, or the Watch books, or the Death books, one after another).
The point of this is that I don't really have an in-depth understanding of some of the ins and outs and who is who of the Discworld to help me when reading the books. Luckily, Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion showed up on my desk just when it would be the most useful, and it truly has been useful. The problem with trying to review encyclopedia-type volumes like this is that you can open them and skim until something catches your eye, or you can try to read them cover to cover, but you never really get a feel for how the usual reader would use it. This time, I actually could look up things I didn't know when I wanted to know it.
Because I had Turtle Recall, I could look up the various guilds. I finally found out that the Seamstresses' Guild is not what I thought it was at all. (So, I'm unbelievably naive -- deal with it.) Not to mention that this particular guild has enforcers called "The Agony Aunts" and they are really all about agony, so you don't want to be against what they are for -- really.
I also think either my French is very, very mushy after years of disuse, or a proof-reader missed a bit. I checked it with a heraldry site and I believe the Alchemists' Guild's coat of arms is flipped so that the upper right/lower left are shown as upper left/lower right in the illustration -- it's also this way in the finished book, I checked in the bookstore as I'd read the advanced reader copy.
It's been very helpful while reading to be able to look up someone or something, to get an idea what the item or person is about and why it's important. I've found Turtle Recall very handy to have nearby when reading and it's making reading the books out of order, but by category of story, far easier and more fun. Now if I could only keep myself focused at looking up the one thing I want to know, rather than spending the next thirty minutes to an hour following my curiosity, the book reading would go a lot faster. But then this is the danger of having an encyclopdia-type book lying around within reach -- I used to lose hours in the Encyclopedia Brittanica when I was a child.
Terry Pratchett fans should definitely look into getting a copy of Turtle Recall especially if you often re-read the books and/or have a faulty memory for details. Looking item up won't spoil the plot but will help put things in context.