Small Gods is the first of those gaps. Actually I’ve read later Discworld books, but at the time this first came out – when I was still devouring each new Pratchett novel that came out in paper back – I wasn’t sure I wanted to see religion so effectively mocked as I was sure it would be. Weird huh?
Anyway I went back to it after – (checks) – 17 years (wow!).
Small Gods follows the story of Brutha a novice monk in a religion that worships the Great God Om, as he starts to hear the voice of his deity. He is somewhat surprised to find that Om takes the form of a small tortoise. What follows is a satire on religion and the usual romp around the colourful lanscape of the Discworld.
Discworld books in my experience fall into one of two categories. The first are very funny, very affecting and can be thought-provoking and even profound. The second are very funny, amiable and a little forgettable. Small Gods is one of the later kind – a chinese meal of a book – fun while it lasts but in a little while it’s left so little impact that you could easily have another.
What’s good about Small Gods is that it does effectively skewer the kinds of religion that deserve it without really attacking sincere faith. It has something interesting to say about institutional religion and how institutions take on a life of their own that can be oppressive and destructive of those involved in them. I also liked the character of Brutha. Pratchett’s good at creating likeable heroes who aren’t necessarily very smart or skillful or charming or charismatic but have … decency I guess.
What it shares with some of the weaker Discworld books is an inability to get to an ending – it’s not quite Lord of the Rings multiple endings drawn out but I did feel that it was basically done about 50 pages before the book actually ended.
7/10 – a weaker Discworld book which means still a fun, light read.
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