This month I’m going to review a book that would be my all- time favourite if it wasn’t for Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
“Small Gods”, A Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett
Well, it’s my second favourite book of all time. This certainly is the funniest book I’ve ever read. Anyone who’s ever read a Terry Pratchett novel before will know why– if you haven’t let me fill you in.
Terry Pratchett is a writer from Great Britain who seems to share the common bond of a wonderful sense of humor with many other famous funny Brits like Monty Python or Rowan Ackinson. The only writer that I could compare with him is Douglas Adams, another hilarious British author, although Pratchett is far more prolific and consistent with his humor.
Most of his novels including this one are set in the Discworld, a world that sits atop the backs of four enormous elephants who in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle that flies through space looking for a nice place to lay its eggs, an idea taken from Mankind’s own early beliefs of our earth’s place in the universe.
Small Gods is a slight departure from the normal Discworld romp. It takes place in the country of Omnia, a religiously fanatical people who believe in the Great God Om. They also believe that the world is round, spinning around the orb of the sun, heresy in the Discworld, of course no one is going to tell the almighty Omnians that. The parallels to modern religion are delightfully obvious; however, it turns out that for all their fanatical beliefs that there is only one person in the entire world that still believes in Om. And in the Discworld this means that Om’s powers as a god have diminished to the point where he’s nothing more than a tortoise.
The story follows the adventures of Brutha, the last true believer in Om, as Om seeks Brutha out in an attempt to regain his power. Of course listening to a talking tortoise who is speaking heresy is probably not the wisest thing to do in Omnia. And so begins the story�
This novel absolutely hilarious, but at the same time it does take a very serious look at religion and war. What one takes out of this book depends on one’s views I suppose, as I know as many ardent atheists who loved it as I do devout Muslims who thought it was wonderful.
Pratchett has a masterful way with laying out a plot, and his skills as a wordsmith are amazing. Here’s a couple of examples:
“In the rain-forests of Brutha’s subconcious the butterfly of doubt emerged and flapped an experimental wing, all unaware of what chaos theory has to say about that sort of thing�”
“The Brutha boy was flat on his face in front of a statue of Om in His manifestation as a thunderbolt, shaking and gabbling fragments of a prayer. There was something creepy about that boy, Bhumrod thought. It was the way he looked at you when you were talking, as if he was listening.”
He also has a great way with characters. Deacon Vorbis strikes fear into even my heart; Brutha is believable and it’s easy to sympathize with his situations. The Great God Om himself is just about the funniest bloke in the whole book– he ranks right up there with my personal Discworld favourite Death and other memorable characters such as Cohen the Barbarian and C.M.O.T. Dibbler, renamed Cut-Me-Own-Hand-Off Dhblah in Omnia.
I’ll leave you with one last quote. This is the opening page of the book– if you like this, I guarentee you’ll enjoy just about anything Terry Pratchett has written, including this book.
“Now consider the tortoise and the eagle.
“And then there is the eagle. A creature of the air and high places, whose horizons go all the way to the edge of the world. Eyesight keen enough to spot the rustle of some small and squeaky creature half a mile away. All power, all control. Lightning death on wings. Talons and claws enough to make a meal of anything smaller than it is and at least take a hurried snack out of anything bigger.
“And yet the eagle will sit for hours on the crag and survey the kingdoms of the world until it spots a distant movement and then it will focus, focus, focus on the small shell wobbling among the bushes down there on the desert. And it will leap� And a minute later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five hundred feet about it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the eagle.
“And then the eagle lets go.
“And almost always the tortoise plunges to its death. Everyone knows why the tortoise does this. Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off. No one knows why the eagle does this. There’s good eating on a tortoise but, considering the effort involved, there’s much better eating on practically anything else. It’s simply the delight of eagles to torment tortoises.
But of course, what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very crude form of natural selection.
One day a tortoise will learn how to fly.”
If you enjoy this Discworld novel than I’d suggest you seek out the whole set. Other favourites of mine include “Interesting Times”, “Mort”, “Reaper Man” and “Soul Music”. I’d also recommend “The Discworld Companion” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs.
Terry Pratchett also wrote a Novel with Neil Gaimen called “Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” It’s a modern classic dealing with the apocalypse in a highly amusing manner.
– Dylon Whyte