Full Title: Small Gods
Author: Terry Pratchett (On GoodReads)
“Lost in the chill deeps of space between the galaxies, it sails on forever, a flat, circular world carried on the back of a giant turtle— Discworld —a land where the unexpected can be expected. Where the strangest things happen to the nicest people. Like Brutha, a simple lad who only wants to tend his melon patch. Until one day he hears the voice of a god calling his name. A small god, to be sure. But bossy as Hell.”
My gods, one of my favorite books ever and one I go back to reread at least once a year. Sir Terry Pratchett is a master of the craft and Small Gods is one of his best works. “Small Gods” is comedy, religious satire, and an interesting social commentary on organized religion (easily read as Catholicism) set in his Discworld universe.
The main character, Brutha, is seen as a dimwitted novice by all who meet him, even the god he claims to worship. AS the story progresses, the reader learns more of the Great God Om (holy horns) and how the god’s religion seems to have gotten away from him a bit. And as much as his own religion has processed away from him, his prophets seem to be running amok as well. Even his own god notes Brutha’s “not the chosen one I would have chosen” as they adventure together. At its heart, this is a reluctant hero novel with a dash of religious satire.
As a reader, I love this for many reasons, some very personal. First, I enjoy the Discworld universe immensely. The world is vast and with so many books loosely connected through the universe, almost everyone touches on characters or plots the reader has seen before. It gives everything an incredible depth and breadth so that even a single book has the feel of a whole world. I love Brutha as a character because he holds hidden depth and complexity, despite his simple description, and he is a great “straight man” to his tempestuous god and counterpart.
On a more personal level, I love this book because of how I was introduced to it. As a teen, my group of friends was religiously diverse: a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Jew, and a Presbyterian who was strongly considering being an atheist. My introduction to this was sitting on my living room floor as our Buddhist read aloud. We listened, enthralled, to her melodious voice and giggled over Brutha hoeing the melons. (“Melons. Melons. Well, that goes some way toward explaining things, of course.”) While it’s not a book that pushes one to atheism, apostasy, or agnosticism, for a teenage girl who was already questioning the need for organized religion, it was an awakening to see an entire book that gently mocked the bureaucracy of organized religion.
As an author, I love this book for its technical mastery. Like “Legends and Lattes,” it not only plays to an established world, but it uses well known tropes and executes them masterfully. Brutha is a perfectly written reluctant hero. His god, Om, is a dynamic anti-hero. And the villain is written so well that his villainhood comes to you slowly until the reader is staring at the pages in horror at their actions. It follows the standard plot arc, and the climax is perfectly timed and built.
Rating: 5 cups of tea
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