Small Gods

Just when you think I’m taking a break from raving about how much I love Terry Pratchett, I pick up one of his best books.  Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is the epitome of Pratchett’s writing.  It’s a thoughtful, witty, story that, from what I understand, has had both atheists AND religious people thanking Terry Pratchett for proving their point.  If that’s not a sign of a good and interesting story I don’t know what is.  To be fair, this is the first of the Discworld books that I’ve read that doesn’t star Tiffany Aching, so I haven’t read the Discworld books extensively, but if this is an indicator of what else Discworld has to offer then I can’t wait to read more!

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Small Gods follows Brutha as he meets and helps his god, Om, who is stuck in the form of a turtle, all the while trying to muddle along through the religious structure that has formed around the worship of Om.  The structure is pretty terrifying. About halfway through the book I started looking for “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” jokes.  Only because from what I’ve read about the Spanish Inquisition, what was happening in Omnia was a pretty accurate parallel.  This is one of the many things I appreciate about Terry Pratchett’s writing.  He manages to maintain wit and a sense of humor while writing about terrible things like torture without diminishing the wretchedness and seriousness of the terrible things.  It’s a fine line to walk but Pratchett manages to tip toe the line of levity the entire way through the book.

Religion has a tendency to feel like a set in stone type of structure.  I remember as a kid asking questions and someone would answer with something along the lines of “because God says it is so” which, to me, equaled “It is what it is because that’s just what it is.”  For the record that’s not enough to satisfy a kids (or anyone else’s) curiosity, and if they’re quiet after you say something like that it’s only because they know you’re brushing them off. Regardless, when we grow up questioning and are often are told “just because” it becomes hard to continue questioning.  This particular book has a way of saying what you already know but in a way that is so unusual it forces you to think about it, and question.  A favorite of mine is, “Time is like a drug. Too much of it will kill you.”  This is not wrong.  It’s an obvious fact but it’s stated in a way that makes you notice what the fact means and that’s pretty important.

Reading Terry Pratchett’s books is like lying on the ground, on your back, in your kitchen.  The ceiling was always there, but until you took the time to really look up from a different perspective you never knew that spaghetti sauce had splashed up there. Reading Small Gods is like finding a splash of spaghetti sauce minus the inevitable cleaning day and therefor immensely more delightful.

Common Place Book Entries

“The trouble with being a god is that you’ve got no one to pray to.”

-Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

“Time is like a drug.  Too much of it will kill you.”

-Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

“There’s no point in believing in things that exist.”

-Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

“He says gods like to see an atheist around. Gives them something to aim at.”

-Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

“Om began to feel the acute depression that steals over every realist in the presence of an optimist.”

-Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

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