24/09/2005

Small Gods

This was one of Terry Pratchett's earlier books, and not really one of my favourites - but they're all worth re-reading every so often, and one like this is good for half an hour every evening for a week or so.

It's an interesting premise: that there are many gods, whose power is determined by the number of people who believe in them. It fits well with the Discworld, that flat disc which is carried on the back of four elephants standing on a turtle. And, indeed, this 'fact' that readers are aware of is considered a heresy by the religious elite of Omnia, where the great god Om is considered all-powerful, and the world considered to be a globe. Unfortunately there are so many rules and regulations, and so many punishments, that the 'Quisition' is in charge of the country, and very few people actually believe in Om.

The book is about Brutha, a very naive novice with a photographic memory, who may be the last remaining believer in Om. The god appears to him in the form of a turtle, and then accompanies him on a trip to Ephebe, land of many gods, with the rather horrible Vorbis who likes to torture people.

There's a sort of personal pilgrimage for Brutha, a more straightforward plot than is usual for Pratchet, and a lot of satirical references to the damage that religions have done over the years, and a few amusing one-liners.

No doubt some Christians would be offended by this book (and indeed those of other religions) but I don't see why we shouldn't laugh at ourselves, and see the many problems that some supposedly religious folk have created over the years. There's a clear contrast between true faith and legalism, even if the 'real' gods are caricatured and rather silly, and much to think about.

So... good for a light read; a stand-alone Discworld novel which doesn't include any characters who appear elsewhere (other than Death, and a variation on Dibbler the salesman). Quite amusing in places and worth having in any Discworld collection. But not one of the very best.

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