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Discworld #13

Small Gods

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'Just because you can't explain it, doesn't mean it's a miracle.'

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was: 'Hey, you!' This is the Discworld, after all, and religion is a controversial business. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one's presence felt. So it's certainly not helpful to be reduced to appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone's book.

In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast: for the Great God Om, Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least the only One available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please...

400 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Terry Pratchett

614 books41.3k followers
Born Terence David John Pratchett, Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987, he turned to writing full time.

There are over 40 books in the Discworld series, of which four are written for children. The first of these, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal.

A non-Discworld book, Good Omens, his 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman, has been a longtime bestseller and was reissued in hardcover by William Morrow in early 2006 (it is also available as a mass market paperback - Harper Torch, 2006 - and trade paperback - Harper Paperbacks, 2006).

In 2008, Harper Children's published Terry's standalone non-Discworld YA novel, Nation. Terry published Snuff in October 2011.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” in 1998, and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Warwick in 1999, the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003, the University of Bristol in 2004, Buckinghamshire New University in 2008, the University of Dublin in 2008, Bradford University in 2009, the University of Winchester in 2009, and The Open University in 2013 for his contribution to Public Service.

In Dec. of 2007, Pratchett disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On 18 Feb, 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

He was awarded the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2010.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on 12th March 2015.

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Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews973 followers
November 29, 2008
This was the first Pratchett book I read, and I'm glad of it. While it has the humor and satire that is inherent in all of the Discworld books, it also has something else - something to say. It was evident, even from the first time I read this book, that Pratchett had put some real heavy thinking into it.

This book is, as the title suggests, about gods. Where do they come from? Where do they go? What keeps them moving? Ordinarily, gods don't like this sort of question. People who think are not what gods look for in followers. Gods want people who believe. That's where their power comes from. Gods with many believers are stong, great gods. Armies of priests and worshipers attend to their every needs, the sacrifices are plentiful and their dominion is vast. A great God wants for nothing.

A god with no believers, however, is a small god, a mindless thought blistering through the firmament, searching with single-minded fervor for one thing: a believer.

What happens, then, when a Great God finds out that, while he wasn't looking, he lost all of his believers? That's the thrust of this tale, the story of the Great God Om and how he became a tortoise for three years. It's about the difference between what is real and what is believed in, and how much difference that can make at times. It's about fundamental and trivial truths, and how to tell them apart. It's about eagles and tortoises and how much they need each other.

Above all, it's something of, in my opinion, a statement of faith. Many people ask me if I am religious, and I tell them no. That's partly due to this book and the thinking that it made me do. Spiritual? Sure. Religious? No.

This is, as I said, the story of the Great God Om, who discovered, about 300 feet above the ground, that he had been a tortoise for the last three years. Before this mid-air revelation he had been just chewing at melons and wondering where the next lettuce patch was. Suddenly, all the self-awareness of a Great God was put into his head, as well as the knowledge that he was probably about to die. Om had intended to manifest as a bull or a pillar of fire - something much more majestic and Godly - but for some reason, that hadn't worked. He had become a tortoise.

Now, in the presence of Brutha, a novice in the Church of the Great God Om, the god remembers who he was, and discovers that he's in a lot of trouble.

The Church of the Great God Om. There's something to talk about. Many people believe, upon reading it, that it's an allegory for the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. The Omnian Church permits no heresy. It permits no sin, no disbelief. Violating the precepts of Om and His Prophets can lead to death, in a lingering and painful manner. The Quisition cannot be wrong, for was it not Om Himself who put suspicion into their minds? It's a tactic that has been used by many religions over the years, often to justify acts that they know their god would not approve of.

I don't believe that Pratchett was trying to take a stab at the Catholics in this book. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that the Omnians and the Catholics bear a few points of similarity. A rigid hierarchy, for example. A penchant at one point or another for extracting confessions by any means necessary is another. It's all very efficient and effective.

There's a problem, though, as is pointed out by Brutha late in the book: if you beat a donkey with a stick long enough, the stick becomes all that the donkey believes in. At that point, neither gods nor believers benefit. The only people benefiting are those wielding the stick. Instead of becoming a tool for inspiration, the church becomes a tool for terror. People do not obey their god out of love - they obey their church out of fear.

This is the kind of church that could produce the Deacon Vorbis, head of the Exquisitors. He is one of those men who would turn the world on its back, just to see what would happen. He is everything that is wrong with the Church and, unfortunately, it seems that he is in line to be the Eighth Prophet.

In other words, Omnia is not a nice place to live. Its church is vast, its god is small, and neighboring nations want to take it down a few pegs. It's up to Brutha and his God to change the course of history.

As I said, there was a lot of thought put into this novel, as well as Pratchett's usual hidden research. For example, Brutha is called a "Great dumb ox" by his classmates, due to his size and apparent lack of intellect. The same epithet was thrown at Thomas Aquinas by his classmates, and he was canonized less than a century after his death. Like Aquinas, Brutha is not dumb. He is simply slow and careful in how he thinks, and his measured pace leads him far more surely to the truth than the hot-headed and passionate men who march with him.

Some people read this book as an attack on religion. Others see it as a defense of personal faith. I think Terry had a story to tell, and perhaps a point to make. The beauty of books such as these is that they can be whatever you want them to be. For me, it came as a kind of defense of gods. Humans, the book suggests, need gods. Now there is a growing atheist community out there who disagree with that idea, and I can definitely see where they're coming from. As I've said many times, I'm not entirely sold on the god idea yet. But the gods that are rampant in the Discworld aren't the kinds of gods that the atheists and the true believers fight over - the omnipotent creator of Everything. They are gods who are controlled by humans, who exist with humans in a kind of co-dependent relationship. Humans need gods, and gods need humans. In its way, this kind of theology makes gods more... realistic to me. I can't say for sure whether a god or gods exist, but if they did, I think I could live with this kind of arrangement.

What this book definitely is, in any case, is good. Very good. If you haven't read it, do so. If you have read it, do yourself a favor and read it again.

"Around the Godde there forms a Shelle of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priestes and Authority, until at Laste the Godde Dies.
Ande this maye notte be noticed."
- from the writings of the philosopher Abraxis, Small Gods
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,847 followers
August 2, 2020
It´s one of Pratchett´s best works, retelling what has happened, happens, and will happen as soon as faith goes mad, uncontrolled, and vicious, tries to expand it´s sphere of influence and doesn´t care about the foundations and rules, contradicting its own commandments.

The idea of the manifested power of belief, imagination, and prayers is an often seen trope in fantasy and sci-fi, in this case, defined by the simple formula of more believers, more power. But it can go many directions, for instance, mind viruses and plagues infecting other faiths systems, programming errors turning the persons mad, fractions trying to manipulate to get the most beliefs, different ways of psi-magic and fantasy systems to control, harvest, and use the power for peace and war, combining it with technology, etc.

It´s great how the deity That´s certainly what happens at any stage of human evolution, no matter if stone age, now, or in 10.000 years (yea, or possibly utopia if one asks you, optimists), confronted with benevolent aliens or other dimensional superbeings, humans just can´t do otherwise than fail, suck, and ruin everything good, that´s just how they roll.

The grain of realism rice can be seen in controlled and released emotions. Mindfulness and thought control are as strong as pure love or hate and something completely controlled by pure willpower through long training, nothing directly related to the average wetware. Time will show the interconnections, possibly adding physics to the mix right next to biology and medicine.

Inquisition with its bigotry has hardly seen a better revelation than in it´s satirized form, Vorbis is the perfect reflection of one the darkest times in human history. Pratchett dealt with witch hunting and superstition in a similar way in some of his works, used exaggeration, slapstick, comedy, philosophy, deep thoughts, and especially introspections, inner monologues, and dialogues to present embarrassing elements of social systems.

Many religious themes are outsourced to side characters and especially Omnia, while he keeps dealing with political, sociological, philosophical, social, economic,... topics in the main series. He uses polytheism to create many variants of fun gods, implying the strangeness of quarrels about the sovereignty of interpretations of teachings and holy texts and many other illogicalities of anything from small cults to institutionalized religions, see for instance flat Discworld and „yet the turtle moves."

Small gods is a marvelous parody about religion, an eyeopening masterpiece, and one of the best examples of the power for positive change by a fusion of laughter, deep thoughts, and critical investigation.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:

This one is added to all Pratchettian reviews:
The idea of the dissected motifs rocks, highlighting the main real world inspirational elements of fiction and satire is something usually done with so called higher literature, but a much more interesting field in readable literature, as it offers the joy of reading, subtle criticism, and feeling smart all together.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
264 reviews3,933 followers
May 13, 2022
Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.

In a series with hits and misses, this one is a world series winning grand slam

While I am a big fan of Discworld, this book is probably my favorite book of them all. And this was a big shock to me as this series is famous for having recurring storylines, yet this book is a standalone with no recurring characters in any of the books. In practically every way, this book is a masterpiece. I actually went out and bought several copies of this book to give to friends and family who haven't read it before.

Not only is this book absolutely hilarious, but the plot is genuinely thought provoking and deeply insightful. Whether you are religious or not, I guarantee you will appreciate the religious themes that exist in this book. Even just reading the first few pages will get you a huge smile on your face and keep you hooked.

If you haven't read a Discworld book before, this is probably the very best book to get an introduction to the series since you don't have to have any prior knowledge of any of the books to get into, and you also don't have to commit yourself to reading several books since this is a standalone.

Bravo Terry Prachett!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
January 21, 2020
One of Pratchett’s best Discworld novels.

Pratchett delivers a brilliant parody of religion in this early (the 13th) standalone. In the land of Omnia, the great god Om is worshiped and all who don’t are subject to the Quisition – a satire of the political/theological Inquisition. His high priest Vorbis controls all with fear of holy retribution.

But is it Om or his religion that controls?

The great god Om has a problem. Historically taking the shape of animals like bulls or majestic predators, he finds himself stuck in the shape of a tortoise. Seems no one actually believes in him. The citizens of Omnia are more fearful of his autocratic sect that him as a god.

While Neil Gaiman explored this theme better in his archetypal novel American Gods, Pratchett also has some fun with the idea that a god exists because of the number of people who believe. In Small Gods, only lowly novice Brutha truly believes in Om and Pratchett fashions a story around the strange relationship between the two.

Featuring Pratchett’s signature humor and superb writing, Discworld fans will also enjoy time with Lu-Tze, The Librarian, Death, very likable protagonist Brutha and the introduction of the Diogenes like philosopher Didactylos. This scathing satire on religion is one of his darker Discworld outings but also one of his best.

Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews330 followers
August 11, 2018
Bulgarian review below/Ревюто на български е по-долу
“Yes. Yes, of course.”
Death nodded.

It makes you contemplate so many things. Beyond religion too. There were so many passages when I was musing ‘It’s like this thought has sprung out of my head but it’s written a hundred times better than I would have said it’.

The book is a splendid metaphor for religion. All gods are small until you believe in them. Until you are the one that allows them to grow. God is not some vague anthropomorphic manifestation, it’s not an incarnation of all your fears and the absolution of all your sins, and it’s not the institution that pretends it toils in the name of His glory. It’s not even the small turtle which have suddenly lost all its followers. You are God. No, you are not ordinary. You are as grand as you believe. And you are capable of as much as you believe. End of story.


– Да, да, разбира се.
Смърт кимна.

Кара те да се замисляш за твърде много неща. И извън религията. На толкова места се удивлявах „Това все едно е моя мисъл, но е написано стотици пъти по-добре, отколкото бих го казала аз“.

Книгата е великолепна метафора на религията. Всички боговете са малки, докато не повярваш в тях. Докато не им позволиш ти самият да пораснат. Бог не е някакво смътно антропоморфно проявление, не е инкарнацията на всичките ти страхове и опрощението на всичките ти грехове, не е и институцията, която умело се прави, че неуморно работи в Негова възхвала. Не е дори малката костенурка, която ненадейно е изгубила последователите си. Бог си ти. Не, ти не си обикновен. Ти си толкова, колкото вярваш. И можеш толкова, колкото вярваш. Точка.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,706 reviews25k followers
January 8, 2022
This is another of my rereads of a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett and let me tell you it was an absolute joy to return to the flat planet on the back of four elephants on a giant turtle. The author goes to town on this parody and satire on religion, and our history and contemporary present, achieved through a stylish, yet oddly profound and humorous perspective, to diffuse the tensions that can arise with a controversial subject which we are so often advised to avoid like the plague. Everyone has their beliefs with a multitude of gods competing against each other for believers, the more you have, the greater your power. So if you are the great God Om, reduced to a small god manifesting as a little tortoise, let's just say you are not going to be making much of a impression with Brutha making for a wonderful protagonist as Om's only believer. This is marvellous fantasy storytelling that takes in bigotry, the use of fear and terror through the likes of the inquisition, to ensure religious adherence, the conflicts, and problems of organised religion.

Pratchett creates a host of characters that represent people and our relationship with religion, done with thought and hope, a thoroughly laugh out loud experience. One of the best Discworld novels that illustrate just how good the author is when he is at the top of his game. Many thanks to the publisher.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews44 followers
March 11, 2021
Small Gods (Discworld, #13), Terry Pratchett

The Great God Om tries to manifest himself once more in the world, as the time of his eighth prophet is nigh. He is surprised, however, when he finds himself in the body of a tortoise, stripped of his divine powers.

In the gardens of Omnia's capital he addresses the novice Brutha, the only one able to hear his voice. Om has a hard time convincing the boy of his godliness, as Brutha is convinced that Om can do anything he wants, and would not want to appear as a tortoise.

Brutha is gifted with an eidetic memory and is therefore chosen by Vorbis, the head of the Quisition, to come along on a diplomatic mission to Ephebe.

However, Brutha is also considered unintelligent, since he never learned to read, and rarely thinks for himself.

This begins to change after Brutha discovers Ephebe's philosophers; the idea of people entertaining ideas they're not certain they believe or even understand, let alone starting fistfights over them, is an entirely new concept to him. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه مارس سال 2020میلادی

عنوان: ایزدان خُرد؛ نویسنده: تری پرچت؛ مترجمها: سمیه کرمی، میلاد فرشته نژاد؛ کتاب ای.بوک است، موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20م

خدایان کوچک (ایزدان خُرد)، عنوان کتابی خیال‌پردازانه، نوشته ی «تری پرچت»، نویسندهٔ «بریتانیایی» است؛ «خدایان کوچک»، سیزدهمین کتاب از سری «دیسک‌ورلد (دنیای » است؛ دنیایی را خیال کنید گرد، همچون یک سینی گرد، که بر پشت یک «لاک‌پشت عظیم ‌الجثه (آتوئین کبیر)» که در کیهان، برای خودش می‌گردد؛ عنوان سری کتاب‌ها دلالت به همین کیفیت دارد؛ در این دنیا میلیون‌ها، بلکه میلیاردها موجود هستند، که خودشان را خدا می‌نامند؛ توانایی این «خدایان»، تجسم آنها، و تمام وجود آنها، به تعداد پرستندگان، و ژرفای باور آنها، بستگی دارد؛ هستند خدایانی، که پرستش آنها دیگر رواج ندارد، و هیچ شده ‌اند؛ «اُم»، ایزد اصلی یک امپراتوری مذهبی (همچو کلیساهای سده های میانی میلادی و مجهز به مدرنترین شیوه ‌های انکیزاسیون)، با دو میلیون جمعیت، که ناگهان خود را به صورت سنگ‌پشتی یک‌چشم می‌بیند؛ چون در تمام امپراتوری، تنها یک نفر واقعاً به او ایمان دارد

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Adrian.
570 reviews210 followers
February 11, 2020
So this is book 13 in my continuing monthly saga of reading all the Discworld novels. And what a good entry in the saga this was.

(As an aside i am a little behind in my reading timetable, as I was meant to finish this in January. My challenge shows me ahead, but that is only because I listened to a number of Agatha Christie dramatisations whilst my wife and I were decorating (painting) inside the house.)

Anyway back to "Small Gods". This is in someway slightly different to most of the other Discworld novels I have read so far (in my humble opinion). Most (all ?) of the previous reads have involved some sort of parody of Earth culture in some fashion or another. This, whilst all about religion which is of course a major part of Earth's culture, doesn't really parody at all, which may be a good thing 😊

This book is based on the wonderful premiss that a God is (blah - the end of the spoiler piece)

I generally have a penchant for DEATH, the character that is, as well as the Witches, and even Rincewind, but even without all of them (ok DEATH has about a dozen lines in a cameo appearance) I really enjoyed this novel, to the extent that it is going to make choosing my book of the month difficult as I've read two, thoroughly enjoyed two, hmmm.

Ok enough of a review I'm falling even further behind, its nearly the middle of Feb and I've read 1 and a half books, agh !!!
Profile Image for Lena.
199 reviews90 followers
November 14, 2022
Funny and witty as expected, but also has great social parody. It's hard to laugh at religion and church, but Pratchett makes it so brilliantly, that it's impossible to be offended (if of course you're not one of those fanatics he mocks). Despite the happy end, the book leaves bittersweet aftertaste: even 30 years after first publication you can recognize a lot of its characters just watching the news.
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
603 reviews259 followers
October 29, 2022
The high and mighty Om, has been stuck as a tortoise for over three years now. Considering that a god's strength lies in the number of its believers, this is not a normal occurrence for Om. After all, the country is full of zealous believers at His disposal. They're devout enough to wage war in His name. At the same time, they seem to have trouble hearing His request for more lettuce leaves... except for Brutha, the most simple-minded of them all.

In dire need of protection from non-believing eagles, our tiny little Om-as-a-tortoise will take what He can get, where He can get it.

Ancient library

Small Gods was not particularly high up on my Discworld (re)read list: more like a task to be ticked off, on the way to more interesting books. Something that I could see being useful to open other people's eyes about organized religion.

I, for one, have already done the
-"fervent little believer, who worries that the Almighty has seen her wish to do her (long put off) chores on Sundays"
or the
- "spiteful atheist who will strive to insert twice as many mean-spirited remarks as anyone else into all her interactions with the devout"
only to become an
- "occasional eye-roller and constant exasperated sigher".
...and I did it all in heels.
Oh OK, they were wedges, but my point (ha!) stands. I've done it already, felt sufficiently ashamed of it, and it was now time to turn to more practical pursuits.

walking in heels

But then little by little, the characters started to grow on me, and I suddenly found myself so hooked that I devoured the whole book within a day!

While the Quisition department's tortures, the mindless religious bigotry, and power hungry coups d'état all left me in various states of disgust, when the narrative perspective would switch to Brutha, I was ready to swing my metaphorical pom-poms his way. Brutha's simple-minded yet thoughtful way of believing was so touching, especially because I was expecting him to do a 180 character change with each of his fervently held beliefs that came crashing down.

Waving pompoms

Having recently finished a children's book whose "love thy enemies" message left me utterly nonplussed, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself earnestly hoping that Brutha's kindness would eventually pay off, even though I would've been happy to have the main antagonist drop dead at any moment.

Score: 4.8/5 stars

I have to admit that I did end up skimming through some of the more philosophical passages, in favor of the more action-packed scenes, but all in all I can't say I was ever bored. As a matter of fact I even cried at the climactic moment, which is highly unusual for me.

not crying

P.S. Fans of Carpe Jugulum should definitely read this, in order to have a better understanding of the legends surrounding the prophet Brutha.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,015 reviews3,434 followers
June 28, 2018
One of the Discworld novels that doesn't belong to any character sub-series, Small Gods is nevertheless one of the best ones I've read so far.

Terry Pratchett was a humanist. That is to say, he wasn't religious. He apparently distinguished between religion (as in: religious institutions such as The Church) and faith (as in: what people believe in their own hearts and minds) and was especially critical of the former. I'm much the same. Personally, I find religion silly, period. It has had its place in the evolution of mankind, surely, but not nowadays. And yet ... look around.
I keep hearing people talk about "all the good" this or that person or institution is doing for religious reasons and maybe some are, but they are not the norm and many do it for ulterior reasons anyway (e.g. wanting to get recognition for what they are doing or being afraid of some form of hell or whatever).

This and more are points Sir Terry is addressing in this book as well.

We meet Brutha, a novice in the temple of the Great God Om. The problem? Well, for starters, Brutha might be honest to a fault and have an impeccable memory but he also just wants peace - which he is unlikely to get to enjoy since he's been chosen as the new Prophet. And then there is the tiny problem of The Great God Om, who is speaking to Brutha, currently being trapped in the body of a cute little tortoise.

In a world full of gods and saints and whatnot, with almost everyone believing something else, they have to find a way to restore Om to His Former Glory and, possibly, make things a little better in Brutha's home country and some neighbouring ones as well.

Authoritarian systems, the Discworld version of the Inquisition, gods, saints, demons, lions, eagles, philosophers, priests and some mysterious monks safeguarding history. The reader gets a wide cast of characters that are all tragically funny and always spot-on when it comes to condemning (wilfull) ignorance and promoting free will.

Pratchett nails it with his snarky and bone-dry observations on religious upbringing (I should know because despite being an atheist/humanist, I was born into a Roman Catholic family). In his signature funny and light way, he shows how these oppressive systems work (often so that those trapped in them don't even realize it). Moreover, he makes valid points such as that either you do nice / good things because you want to and because it's the right thing to do or you shouldn't bother. However, despite all that, the book is never preachy (see what I did there? ;P) or boring. On the contrary, the mad romp through several hitherto unseen countries on the disc was delightful and fast-paced and I was constantly laughing about the clumsiness and bad luck of Om and Brutha.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
August 10, 2018
Winning in Heaven

Pratchett at his theological best: there are many gods, varying in size and power depending on the numbers who believe in them. The obvious theological/economic issue which then arises is 'How does a small god survive?' Stiff competition calls for creative solutions.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,029 reviews2,385 followers
March 13, 2015
The trouble with being a god is that you've got no one to pray to.

What good is being a god when you're stuck in the body of a lowly tortoise, and your only follower is an uneducated melon-hoer?

Yep, it sucks to be Om.

Now, imagine poor Brutha's disappointment. One day he's quietly minding his melons, the next he's on some wild adventure with a smart ass tortoise who insists he's a god, even though THIS god is NOTHING like the prophets said he would be! For one thing, he doesn't have horns; for another, this so-called god can't even remember MEETING the prophets.

The Prophet Hashimi!"
"Never met the man!"
"Oh? Oh? So I suppose you didn't give him the Book of Creation, then?"
"What Book of Creation?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"Then who gave it to him?"
"I don't know! Perhaps he wrote it himself!"

Whoa! A blasphemous god! You don't meet one of those every day!

These little exchanges between Om and Brutha are priceless.

"Opened my eyes...my eye...and I was a tortoise."
"How should I know? I don't know!" lied the tortoise.
"But you...you're omnicognisant," said Brutha.
"That doesn't mean I know everything."
Brutha bit his lip. "Um. Yes. It does."

I've always had a fondness for characters who are forced to hold conversations with entities that no one else can see. Hilarity frequently ensues, as everyone else assumes you're talking to yourself, and therefore, just a bit batty. (Does anyone besides me remember My Partner the Ghost?)

This is not Pratchett's funniest book, but there's still a lot to love here. Just about everyone and every thing is mocked, and that's always good for us all.

I'll let Brutha have the final word.

"You know, I used to think I was stupid, and then I met philosophers."

Amen, Brother Brutha.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
June 29, 2018
I'm upping my ranking from a four to a five just because this tickled me much better the second time around. :)

Re-read from about 15 years ago, and somehow more satisfying now than it was then. Why? Om... I don't know... :) Flying turtles kinda rock my world.

This is a total Moses coming out of the desert kind of tale, only the GREAT GOD OM is a tiny turtle with only one believer and the kid is kinda hopeless, but a god's gotta do what a god's gotta do. Get Believers. On DISCWORLD.

So yeah, it's kindof a mess, traveling from the city of believers who don't believe in anything, to the city of philosophers who believe in ignorance, to the deep desert where there are a bunch of destitute almost-ex-gods who've seen much, much better days.

The humor is the best part. Of course. I mean, it IS Pratchett.

So glad I got to re-read this one in particular. Religion has a really huge target painted on its back. And people. Especially people. :)
Profile Image for Ivan.
434 reviews284 followers
June 19, 2017
My second read and I like it even more.

This extremely cleaver religious satire is one of the top Pratchett's work as organized religion becomes target of his wit and cynicism.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,847 reviews398 followers
September 12, 2018
"It's not my fault if people misuse the--"
"It is. It has to be! If you muck up people's minds just because you want them to believe in you, what they do is all your fault."

Fun, fun, fun.

I loved the premise of what happens to small gods; gods that either lose their followers or only had a few to begin with? Om is such a god with only one believer left. Ignominy and the dire consequences of losing one's last devotee leads to much elbow shoving and jockeying.

But no tortoise had ever been a god, and knew the unwritten motto of the Quisition: Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum.

This tickled me silly. Absolutely irreverent and utterly amusing.

VI. This is Religion, Boy. Not Comparison Bloody Shopping! You Shall Not Subject Your God to Market Forces!

My thanks to BlackOxford's enticing review and question answering. My first Pratchett, and definitely not my last.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books748 followers
December 17, 2019
This one really pulled together. I was enjoying but not loving it, and then the end was just...perfect.

A story of religion, politics, the nature of man, and why that nature means that we will always have religions and politics, even if they're unnecessary and even harmful. Told with wit, intelligence, and yes, grace, this encourages people to find reasons for living that are predicated on innate goodness, but understanding if you need a bit of a reminder from whatever your preferred belief system is.

A true delight. Also, as I finished the book, I felt my cold go away. Sure, also it's been 4 days since I got the cold, and that's its lifecycle, but as Pratchett says, even if you understand why a miracle happens, it can still be a miracle. So hallelujah for the curative properties of wonderful books.
Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,652 reviews215 followers
November 25, 2014
'If a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.'
Small Gods is the darkest book in this series so far. It is also ridiculously witty and funny if that makes any sense. It should for Terry Pratchett's fans.
He always pokes fun at one thing or another. I think by the end of the series there won't be anything left in this world to be laughed at. The main target of Small Gods is organized religion and it is hilarious. There is an occasional poke at philosophers (and atheists) too.
'“What’s a philosopher?” said Brutha. “Someone who’s bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting,” said a voice in his head.'
Still, you can't have a story about organized religion and Quisition with its torturing inquisitors and the exquisitors that supervise them, without darkness and, let me tell you, this book has got a truly terrible villain. If there weren't Om and his curses and threats, philosophers and some other characters, it wouldn't be as funny as it turned out to be. Even the ending is bittersweet because of him.

Omnia is a one-god country, it has Quisition to sort out the infidels and its army to sort out the rest of the world. As you may imagine, they can be very persuasive because 'guilt was the grease in which the wheels of the authority turned.' Vorbis is an exquisitor and one of the worst characters I've read. You see, he doesn't even have the twisted justification for torture such as pleasure. He would do certain things to another human being or an animal just to see how it behaves.
'Vorbis could humble himself in prayer in a way that made the posturings of power-mad emperors look subservient.'
And this man has just decided that Ephebe should get Omnia's religion - whether they want it or not.

Enter Great God Om whose greatest problem right now is that there is only one true believer left in Omnia. Brutha is a common young man with an uncommon memory and he gets a surprise when a tortoise appears in his garden. When it addresses him in his mind, Brutha thinks it's a demon. Soon, he realizes it is the Great God Om who isn't so great as Omnians thought. Gods need believers and he has only one.
Their encounter and the fact that Vorbis recognizes Brutha's memory as something he could use is the base plot of this book. There are so many memorable one-liners and paragraphs that it would be too much to put them in one review. Besides, it would be a shame not to read it.

One of the best things about this book is that it doesn't mock beliefs, but the way organized religion uses them for its own purposes.
I loved Om's musings and his interactions with Brutha. In the end even Om learned a simple truth: 'if you want thousands, you have to fight for one.' Vorbis, on the other hand, forgot one.
'Fear is strange soil. Mainly it grows obedience like corn, which grows in rows and makes weeding easy. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.'
Profile Image for Jokoloyo.
449 reviews273 followers
December 2, 2016
There are some single/non-series in Discworld novels, that not included in Watch, Rincewind, or other sub-series in Discworld. In my opinion Small Gods is the BEST single Discworld novel. With single novel, the character growth aspect is more significant than the series.

The main premise of this novel is the relationships between gods, believers, and organized religion. Oh yeah, with that kind of premise, you can find some philosophical witty and wise words here and there on novel.

My favourite aspect of this novel that made me rated this book as 5 star: conflicts between main protagonist and antagonist. Without much spoiler, in my opinion the conflict is unique, and as far as I know the author did not use similar plots in author's other stories.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews805 followers
May 7, 2019
“Words are the litmus paper of the mind. If you find yourself in the power of someone who will use the word “commence” in cold blood, go somewhere else very quickly. But if they say “Enter,” don’t stop to pack.”

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are always pleasant to return to every now and then. I am not a hardcore fan that would have already devoured all 40+ books by now, I am more of a casual fan that likes to dip into the series now and then; to soak up Sir Terry’s witticisms. Small Gods is one of the most popular Discworld books (I googled) generally included in fans’ top 5 and often placed at the top.

Another wonderful Discworld cover art by Josh Kirby (click image to enlarge)

Small Gods is basically only about one such god, called Om, and his single believer Brutha. Interestingly Om has plenty of worshippers and his own Omnian religion, the trouble is all but one of these worshipers really believe in him. As a god’s power is based on the number of believers, when Om manifests in the mortal realm he finds himself in the form of a tortoise with no godly powers and discovers that he only has one believer. Somehow Om must find more believers or be stuck in a tortoise body forever.

Small Gods is a delightful read, it is charming, funny and even somewhat profound. Pratchett sends up religions, and certain types of religious people, the zealots, the supposedly pious, the alleged true believers, etc. However, he does so in his usual witty, good-natured way; no reasonable person should be offended by this book. This book is more than just satire, Pratchett is inviting us to look at human nature, the self-interest and the oppression of others under the guise of organized religion; all in the name of a god they don’t believe in. This sounds terribly serious but Pratchett uses humour to convey his underlying themes. There is something comical going on in every page, the characters are magnificently drawn and develop, and the dialogue sparkles.

While the Discworld books are always funny, I think that an uninitiated reader should not expect them to be laugh-a-thon, side-splitting joke fests. This is not how these books work. Pratchett’s tends to rely more on witticism, clever satires and spoofing human nature. I have never met anyone who read Discworld books and do not like them, but then I have not met everybody in the world so I suppose such persons exist. Read Small Gods and avoid being one of them.

tortoise line
The Discworld series is mostly made up of sub-series, each one follows the adventures of a regular protagonist and their supporting characters. However, Small Gods is one of the rare “standalones” in the series, the main characters do not appear in another novel (as far as I know).

“Words are the litmus paper of the mind. If you find yourself in the power of someone who will use the word “commence” in cold blood, go somewhere else very quickly. But if they say “Enter,” don’t stop to pack”

“You couldn’t put off the inevitable. Because sooner or later, you reached the place when the inevitable just went and waited.”

“We get that in here some nights, when someone’s had a few. Cosmic speculation about whether gods really exist. Next thing, there’s a bolt of lightning through the roof with a note wrapped around it saying ‘Yes, we do’ and a pair of sandals with smoke coming out. That sort of thing, it takes all the interest out of metaphysical speculation.”
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
December 27, 2016

'Intellectually amused emotionally detached' best describes my relationship with T.Pratchett.

This book made me realise that despite my love for humour, humour by itself is not enough – I need an engaging story and characters I could care for as well. Unfortunately this story didn’t hook me in and I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. Whenever I left the book I had no urge to come back to it.

Humour on the other hand is brilliant! Clever witty cynical ironic – you name it. What it does to religion is both hilarious and very brave. And that’s coming from non-religious person from non-religious family with non-religious friends. Some brilliant ideas out there.

Since I had similar experience with the Good Omens - regretfully I have to admit that Pratchett’s writing is not for me.
I think I would enjoy him more in a short story format or perhaps reading in fragments along some other more gripping book.
Profile Image for Alfred Haplo.
286 reviews46 followers
January 30, 2021
Where does it begin? A simple question with complex answers, and they are all correct. Everything starts somewhere.

For the monk, Lu Tze, History began before his time and his task was to preserve it, more or less. For the God, Om, power began with a shepherd but real power had to be rebuilt from ground up… very closely from the ground. And for Brutha, the illiterate novice with the unquestioning belief? Questions began the day a tortoise appeared in the melon patch he was hoeing, but answers only found him when he began to search his heart. As for all the other believers, whether true faith ever began is a more philosophical question. The answer is simplest, for this newcomer to Discworld, for my story began with Small Gods.

Pick a time in Discworld and go back one hundred years to Omnia. Here, the religion of Om is king and The Word is the Law. The law is dictated by rituals, hierarchy, Books of Prophets and above all by Vorbis, the Exquisitor, whose word is religiously feared. After all, sheep follow where the shepherd goes, especially when prodded with a red hot iron staff and manacled at the ankles to one another. For one among them, Brutha, dumb as the ox, his blind faith would have meant a lifetime of subservience and placid calm behind walled gardens. But no, a tortoise had to drop from the sky and loudly declared himself Om as heard in the tiny voice of God in Brutha’s mind.

When God speaks to you, and you only, it can be only one of two reasons. Either you are mad, or everyone else is deaf. Metaphorically, of course. There is also, to Brutha and Om’s collective dismay, a far more remote, and much more heretical third reason - that God only has one true believer left to hear. From here on out, and not quite of their own volition, Brutha and Om embark on a journey of self-discovery across stormy seas to a foreign land, and return through the scorching desert. Novice and tortoise each bore a heavy burden on their backs, but with each step and from each other, man and God find enlightenment.

Small Gods is a brilliant satire on organized religion with its mighty tentacles a stranglehold on humanity and freedom. Doctrines, be it science or religion, even philosophy are poked fun at, not with the intent to ridicule, I don’t think, but to gently challenge ingrained convictions. Personally, I take no offense at what might be considered as polemic but I can understand if it ruffled some feathers. Especially if you are an eagle bitten on the leg by your food. It is shocking at first, and painful too, but everything can be rationalized.

Fear not, Small Gods is not all hellfire and brimstone (there was lightning aplenty, but no sulphur and DEATH did make cameos). It is Terry Pratchett, after all! Now, I cannot profess to knowing exactly what that means, since this is my first Pratchett, but I have it on good authority that he writes with a humorous turn of phrase, that is at once witty and cynical and warm. There is profound philosophical underpinning too, right beneath the comedic surface. The prose is accessible and even resembling beautiful at times, but it never takes itself too seriously unless it is seriously funny. Nothing I have read in Small Gods speaks to the contrary, so suffice to say, I am now a believer.

Where does a newly convert go from here? Why, to the future, of course! (This might be an opportune moment for The Librarian to appear again). Roughly one hundred years from now in Small Gods DiscWorld #13 to where it all really began with The Color of Magic, DiscWorld #1. See you there.
Profile Image for Jake Bishop.
287 reviews350 followers
May 19, 2022
Still no access to a computer, but enjoyed this quite a lot.

Comfortably my favorite of the first 3 discworld novels I have read

Profile Image for Vagner Stefanello.
119 reviews77 followers
June 18, 2016
Review in Portuguese from Desbravando Livros:

Sempre ouvia as pessoas falando muito bem da série Discworld, do renomado autor Terry Pratchett, e graças à editora Bertrand finalmente tive a chance de desbravar um livro dessa série (obrigado por cederem um exemplar de Pequenos Deuses). Como vocês devem ter visto por aí, Terry Pratchett faleceu recentemente, mais precisamente no dia 12 de março de 2015, o que foi um baque para todos os fãs de fantasia que admiravam o autor. Como forma de homenageá-lo e divulgar o trabalho da sua vida, trago para vocês a resenha de Pequenos Deuses, 13º livro de Discworld.

Já imaginaram que, de alguma maneira, pode existir uma maneira de seu Deus (ou deuses) se manifestar no lugar em que você vive? E se ele, pensando em descer do seu lugar sagrado na imponente forma de um touro, resolve aparecer e descobre que na verdade é uma mera tartaruga caolha? Como fazer com que todos os seus seguidores acreditem em você?

É com esse estilo ricamente engraçado e irreverente que Terry Pratchett parece ter conquistado a grande maioria dos seus leitores. Devo dizer que sou um desses novos leitores agora.

Somos apresentados a Brutha, um noviço da igreja omniana, cuja entidade superior é o Grande Deus Om, a tartaruga mencionada anteriormente. Munido de imensa ingenuidade e uma capacidade incrível de memória, Brutha simplesmente cuida de uma horta e certo dia avista uma tartaruga por lá. Uma tartaruga que fala com o noviço. Um deus na forma de uma tartaruga.

"Considere agora a tartaruga e a águia.
A tartaruga é uma criatura que vive no solo. É impossível viver mais perto do solo sem estar debaixo dele. Seu horizonte fica a meros centímetros de distância. Ela atinge toda a velocidade necessária para caçar uma alface. Para sobreviver, enquanto o restante da evolução a ultrapassava, bastou não representar ameaça a ninguém e dar muito trabalho para ser comida."

Eu dou risada quando penso nisso, é tudo simplesmente muito engraçado! ahuahuhauhua

A partir daí vemos a dupla entrando em uma enrascada das grandes. Brutha não acredita que o seu deus seja aquela tartaruga e Om não entende por que o noviço pensa assim. Afinal, o Grande Deus Om possui milhares de seguidores em toda Discworld. Ou seria Brutha o único deles?

"O problema em ser um deus é que não se tem ninguém para quem orar." - Om

Não bastasse essa desconfiança inicial entre os dois, Brutha acaba envolvido em uma conspiração que pode e certamente resultará em uma tremenda guerra santa, ainda mais quando a frase "A Tartaruga se Move" começa a ser espalhada por aí. Muitos afirmam que o mundo não é uma esfera, mas sim uma tartaruga nadando pelo universo com quatro elefantes apoiados no seu caso, sendo que esses sustentam toda Discworld em uma forma plana, como se fosse um disco. Uma calúnia? Talvez, se não fosse pelo fato disso simplesmente ser real.

Pensem bem na genialidade do autor ao criar um mundo dessa maneira. Nunca vi algo assim antes!

Em determinado momento somos apresentados a Vorbis, o exquisidor da Quisição (sim, é assim mesmo que se escreve no livro), um homem capaz de mudar a mente de qualquer pessoa para pior. Sua capacidade de persuasão é imensa, sendo que todos temem esse homem quando passam perto dele. É o cara a ser temido! Um homem com a mente corrompida, que não acredita na Tartaruga que se Move e fará de tudo para eliminar qualquer um que pense em proferir tal blasfêmia.

Além disso, o cara é tão desprovido de emoções que é simplesmente capaz de virar uma tartaruga de cabeça para baixo e deixá-la sozinha no local, agonizando e implorando por ajuda. Que tipo de ser humano faria isso com o pobre animal, ainda mais ele sendo um deus?

Gostei bastante desse livro. Não está no meu TOP TOP de leituras, mas a narrativa é tão fluida e dinâmica que fica difícil largá-lo. A todo momento vemos piadas e referências a situações cotidianas da nossa vida, sempre colocadas de um modo que se encaixa na trama. O ponto principal pareceu ser a tentativa de uma pessoa/deus em se firmar numa posição ou local que lhe convenha, como é o caso de Om na busca por respostas, principalmente em como virou uma tartaruga e ficou assim por mais de três anos.

"Qualquer deus poderia começar pequeno. Qualquer deus poderia crescer em estatura quando seus fieís aumentassem. E decrescer à medida que diminuíssem. Era como um grande jogo de escadas e serpentes.
Deuses gostavam de jogos, desde que estivessem ganhando."

Os acontecimentos finais da obra são bem interessantes e alguns até meio imprevisíveis, principalmente a relação entre Vorbis e Brutha. Duas mentes diferentes podem caminhar para o mesmo destino às vezes, e aqui isso (talvez) irá acontecer.

Trabalhando bastante com referências a filósofos e religiões diversas, Pratchett mistura muito humor e ironia nesse livro, fazendo com que o leitor fique frequentemente se perdendo se as coisas em que acredita são reais mesmo ou apenas uma mera forma de enganar os outros.

"O medo é uma terra estranha. Nele, a obediência cresce como milho, em fileiras que facilitam a colheita. Mas, às vezes, nele crescem as batatas do desafio, que florescem no subsolo."

Repleto de diálogos extremamente bem-humorados e personagens muito cativantes, Pequenos Deuses é leitura obrigatória para quem quer dar muitas risadas e pensar nas coisas de uma maneira alternativa. Recomendadíssimo para todos os amantes da fantasia!
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews228 followers
June 28, 2018
Part of the Pratchett reread with the SpecFic Buddy Reads group. Yet another in an absolutely golden run of Discworld novels (Reaper Man, Witches Abroad, Small Gods, Lords and Ladies, Men at Arms ... the series never again has as many unreservedly brilliant books in a row).

A small country on the Circle Sea, Omnia is a religious theocracy dedicated to the worship of the great god Om and the whole country is eagerly awaiting the appearance of the next Prophet of Om. Meanwhile, the real people in power, mid-level officials in the Church, are waging war on various other of the countries around the Circle Sea. Brutha is a novice of the Omnian church working in the temple gardens one day when the great god Om begins talking to him. Only Om isn't so great: he's actually a tortoise whom only Brutha can hear. Brutha soon comes to the attention of the Church Quisition and the Head Exquisitor Vorbis, and gets involved in a mission to neighboring Ephebe and their "democracy" and weird relationship with philosophers.

Pratchett was a secular humanist and had quite a lot to say about religion through his life. Here is one of the more specific places that he addresses religion (Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is another, and in both cases he's got quite a lot to say, some of it negative. A lot of it really appreciative of the good works that religious organizations can perform, but there's also warnings about where and how their works can be turned to evil. And like a lot of Pratchett's writing, the difference comes down to the fundamental goodness of good people.

Ther's a lot in this book made of how Vorbis's true evil is how he can make others think like him, doing evil reflexively. Less is made of Brutha's influence, notably on Om in particular, working to make others think like him and be fundamentally decent.

One of the best books in the series in my opinion, and nothing about the reread has changed my thoughts on that.
Profile Image for Melindam.
663 reviews294 followers
June 16, 2021
Still far from my favourite Pratchett books, but I appreciated it more this time.

“His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink.”
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,540 reviews12.9k followers
March 1, 2014
Re-reading books from your childhood as an adult is always a bit risky. Sometimes the book holds up and it’s amazing, like somehow you’ve achieved time-travel - sometimes they don’t and that just plain sucks. So when the lovely new hardbacks of the beloved Discworld series began appearing late last year, I picked up some books I’d read a long time ago and subsequently forgotten all but a few scenes, characters and a line or two from. One of these was Small Gods which I remember liking but, having re-read it this week, I can unfortunately say that it’s an enormously boring Discworld book.

Set in the theocratic country of Om, Brutha is a novice monk in the order of Om until one day he hears a voice in his head - it’s his god, speaking to him, in the form of a little tortoise. Things have gone badly for Om, as fewer and fewer people choose to believe in him hence his lowly status. Only one believer remains: Brutha. The people now believe in the structure of the religion led by the head Quisitor, Vorbis, who has plans to expand the Omnian empire across the Disc - religious war is brewing and only a simple novice and his tortoise can stop it!

Terry Pratchett’s greatest strength with his Discworld series lies in the characters. Rincewind is arguably his greatest creation, Death and Vimes close seconds, and then you’ve got the witches like Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Lord Vetinari - the list goes on. It’s a helluva cast. Small Gods - besides the requisite cameos from Death - doesn’t have any great characters.

Brutha is a very dull character. He’s pleasant enough but he’s uncharismatic and doesn’t say or do much until the very end and even then it feels like Pratchett’s using him as his mouthpiece to put across his views on religion. Fine, but that doesn’t make him much of a character. Om reads like any number of smart-assed characters Pratchett’s written before like the Amazing Maurice.

Neither character is particularly interesting to follow. Brutha just wanders about without purpose as a follower until the final act and Om’s goal is to become all-powerful again so he can get back to being worshipped and live comfortably in the clouds. Neither are especially great motivations, and when they’re the motivations of a pair of bland characters, there’s very little for the reader to hold become invested in.

I won’t even go into Vorbis but suffice it to say he’s made from Pratchett’s go-to bad guy mould. He isn’t physically menacing but he uses his high intelligence and cruel nature to get what he wants, which is usually a selfish short-term goal.

The story itself isn’t very engaging either - Omnia goes to war, then it doesn’t. The bad guy rises then falls. People learn that religion is fine but don’t force people to believe in it if they don’t want to. Eh.

Pratchett’s known for his humour but it’s entirely absent here. The repeated “joke” is that random characters who meet Brutha and Om remark that “there’s good eating” on a tortoise, of course not knowing the tortoise is a god, and Om scowls - ooo! The other “joke” is that tortoises are afraid of eagles because they lift them up, drop them on to rocks, and eat them. I re-read Eric last year and laughed several times but didn’t laugh - or even smile - once at the lame attempts at comedy in Small Gods. I think Rincewind just lends himself to funnier situations than Brutha and Om.

I didn’t hate all of it. I liked that Pratchett riffed on Jesus wandering the desert with the scene where Brutha, Vorbis and Om wander the desert, creating his own parody of how famous religions’ stories/parables/myths start. I also liked that the Omnian religion preaches that the Earth is round and orbits the sun while the “truth” is that the world is flat like a disc and stands on the backs of four elephants standing atop a giant turtle moving through space - Pratchett giving a knowing wink to medieval ideas about our own planet.

I wish I could say that I read this with the zeal and love that I did when I was a kid but the truth is I trudged through it, often bored, and constantly flipping to the back to remind myself how many more pages I had to get through until it was over. Small Gods is a very bland, very dreary story that doesn’t say anything very original or interesting about religion despite Pratchett’s novels usually providing rich satire on our culture. But more importantly Small Gods fails to entertain on a basic level. I know Pratchett’s a great storyteller and I’ll always love the Discworld series but not Small Gods- it’s definitely one of his weakest books.
Profile Image for Stuart.
722 reviews272 followers
January 1, 2018
Terry Pratchett's DISCWORLD series has been incredibly popular for many decades, starting from The Colour of Magic in 1983 all the way to installment #41 The Shepherd's Crown, published posthumously in 2015. Apparently he sold over 80 million copies in 37 languages over that span (thanks Wikipedia), so I hardly need to bring it to the attention of other readers. Rather, I'm a bit embarrassed that I am so incredibly late to the party. I actually remember getting the first few books in the series in paperback in high school and really likely the incredibly busy and distinctive artwork of Josh Kirby on the cover of The Light Fantastic, and yet I never got around to reading it once I got to college.

So over 20 years later, having just moved to London this year, and needing something fun to read after going through herniated disc surgery, I decided it was time to give it a try. Having done some checks of reviews, I knew that #13, Small Gods, was a stand-alone that was not just fun and whimsical, but actually was also a very intelligent examination of personal faith, fanaticism, and the dogmatism of religious institutions that have taken the place of real faith, to the point that the gods themselves dwindle to just a whisper on the breeze for lack of true believers.

It is probably one of the most thoughtful examinations of what real belief is and the co-dependent nature of humans and gods. While it seems that humans invariably need gods to believe, according to Pratchett gods are equally dependent on human believers for survival, and their strength waxes and wanes depending on the number and fervor of their believers. Frankly, this explains the multitude of current and defunct religions of our world throughout human history FAR BETTER than any of those religions themselves do, as they cannot adequately explain how the world got by before their religion and prophets arose.

So with tongue firmly in cheek and almost every other line rich with British humor and irony, Pratchett tells the story of the Great God Om, who finds himself a tortoise falling from the sky after being snatched up by an eagle, and landing in the courtyard of a temple devoted to him. He finds himself in the care of the simple-minded novice Brutha, who as it turns out is the only person in the sprawling organization who actually believes in him. Brutha then gets swept up in a series of adventures with Vorbis the Exquisitor, a ruthless and power-hungry man who has complete belief in the rightness of his own actions and who revels in torturing and "cleansing" non-believers. The various discussions of Brutha and Vorbis as they travel different lands and get entangled in a rebellion and religious war are the means by which Pratchett can pose a series of very simple but profound discussions on what religious faith is, and how it differs from a fanatical observance of forms and structures, and how gods can dwindle to nothing just as their religious institutions grow to the heights of power. It's a lot of food for thought, but extremely entertaining throughout, which is quite an accomplishment. Brutha is such an innocent and pious man that it doesn't even occur to him to question his church strictures until he sees Vorbis in action, and of course his many discussions with the hilariously snappish and ill-tempered god Om, who is not at all happy to be trapped in a tortoise body, fighting off thoughts of lettuce and melons.

All told, it's a great entry point to the series, and now I have to figure out which books in the series to tackle next, either those focused on Rincewind, the witches, Death, the city watch, or the wizards. Lots to choose from, but I guess the simplest thing is to start at the beginning.
Profile Image for Pavle.
423 reviews141 followers
October 29, 2018
Ouh, kakva genijalština. Ako kažem još jednom „pametno i humano“ za Pračeta, mislim da bih počinio neku sortu zločina protiv čovečnosti ili makar pismenosti, te ću samo reći da je Brutina karakterizacija stvar čudesa (zašto? zato što sam mislio posle prvih pedeset strana da ću konačno naleteti na lošeg Pračeta, a onda je zasijala lampica iznad moje glavate lobanje i neke stvari su se namestile na svoje pravo mesto), a poslednjih nekoliko stranica romana Pračet u najfinijem izdanju.

Profile Image for Kerri.
987 reviews368 followers
December 18, 2021
“What have I always believed?
That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.”

The Internet connection is being uncooperative today, dropping out every few minutes, so I've abandoned the attempt to write this on the computer and am using the app on my phone. I find it trickier to type on a keypad, so this'll be even more brief than usual, and I'll return to it when I can.

Terry Pratchett continues to amaze me, as does the variation of the Discworld books. This one is a stand-alone, excellent, thought-provoking and incredibly funny. Another immediate favourite!

More reliable internet today, but I can't think of anything else to add after all, other than a quote or two!

“Fear is a strange soil. It grows obedience like corn, which grow in straight lines to make weeding easier. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.”

“Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that'd happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn't a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time...”
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