Mar 30, 2010

[Books] Small Gods

Small GodsContinuing my week Holy Week theme of entries, today we're venturing to the Discworld for our literary religious fix. What better place to go to for spiritual enlightenment than the divinely-blessed Disworld. Well, by blessed I mean it's overflowing with gods, deities, and other spiritually-inclined individuals. And don't even get me started on the arcane beings like the witches, the wizards and the brownies and the like. The list goes on and on and on.

I love the concepts that define the Discworld. Terry Pratchett did an amazing job of defining the lost set of "rules" that help explain how things work in this crazy, kooky world. One of the most interesting aspects of the Disc in connection with our Holy Week musings is how belief truly shapes their gods. This is not a new concept and we've seen it in other storylines, book series and even movie franchises but he really takes things quite literally in terms of their effects on the gods.

And this is the book that really brings that point home for in a a most creative way.

Cover of "Small Gods (Discworld)"Cover of Small Gods (Discworld)

Small Gods is the 13th novel in the Discworld series. It's not part of any of the usual story arcs like The City Watch or The Witches and is one of those now rarer standalone novels that contribute to the universe but don't overly connect to the others all that significantly.

The great god Om is often referenced in many Discworld novels given his priesthood appears to be pretty much everywhere. He's one of the most popular gods on the Disc and in a world powered by belief, you'd think that this would mean he's one of the stronger gods indeed. He believed the same thing and yet when the great god Om manifests in the world in preparation for the coming of his eighth prophet, he finds himself trapped in the form of a small, lowly tortoise.

It turns out that while there are many people who count themselves as subscribers to his church, very few people actually believe in him anymore and thus the diminishing of his power. Now he's left with Brutha, the only Omnian priest who seems to be able to hear him speak in his tortoise form. The two of them have to find a way to restore him to power and still locate the eighth prophet of Om.

I found this book rather interesting and highly entertaining given it is actually told from the perspective of a God. We've been privy to the thoughts and debates of the gods as the sort of background players who make things happen in the end. This is the first time that the divine figure is actually the protagonist of sorts and thus we're brought along for the ride as Om tries to recover his divine rights while at the same time exploring his roots and origins.

It's a nice look at this specific aspect of the Discworld universe, one that is often relegated to a notion of comedic ridicule on the side as evidenced by what the priests get into. Plus it was a classic opportunity for Pratchett to parody and satire some of our own religious organizations and some of the strange things they get themselves into.

Plus Brutha is a naturally likable character given how he was designed. He's not your typical sanctimonious priest of Om and thus you know he's important. Plus he actually believes in Om and there's the bonus that he has near perfect memory so yeah, the whole thing comes together. The two make for a great pair and they get to explore the Disc in their own unique way as a sort of spiritual journey of their own kind. But this is the Discworld after all so you know it's not going to be anything like what you're used to based on most other stories.

Small Gods may not be the greatest Discworld novel but it's still a good one and it deserves 3.5 gods-made-reptile out of a possible 5.

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