[Book Review] All gods should spend some time as tortoises

Meg’s Review: Small Gods

Terry Pratchett — Small Gods

By the Power of Om!Terry Pratchett is one of those untouchable authors. He’s like Grisham or King — so prolific that to pick up a random novel and attempt to review it is like a beating a really dead horse with a particularly ineffective necromancy stick. But here at The Canary Review, we are nothing if not obliviously obstinate. So here goes.

Discworld novels are notoriously difficult to summarize, but I shall endeavor to corral the basic premise of Small Gods:  in the process of attempting to transmute into a giant bull to do some smiting, The Great God Om finds himself in the form of a tortoise. And what’s worse, he can’t un-tortoise himself. And what’s even worse is that none of his believers in the entire land of Omnia can hear his commands/smites/pleas. And what’s even worse-worse is that when he does find an open ear, it’s in the form of Brutha, a bumbling priest-in-training. Together, Brutha and Om must find a way to save the small god from disappearing entirely, one reluctant way or another.

Pratchett has a great handle on the hilarious, stupid, sad, and wonderful bits and pieces that make up that ineffable phrase ‘human nature.’  With his usual aplomb, Small Gods embodies the best parts of Discworld mythos; the flash vignettes that the narrative weaves through contain a hundreds of little thoughts, subtle innuendoes and situational/literary jokes that all add up to a jaunty read with a sneak attack message.

If you have never read a Discworld novel, this is a great starter. The character of Brutha is wonderful, both in terms of character development and as a hero. The book is also one of the finest examples of Pratchett’s use of stealth philosophy. You go in for a fun read, but you come out learning something about the nature of things. Just what these things you learn seem to vary from reader to reader. I, for one, discovered that eagles are really bastards, and, perhaps more importantly, found myself reflecting on the meaning of faith and the passage of history.

I leave you with my favorite passage from the novel:

So history has its caretakers.

They live…well, in the nature of things they live wherever they are sent, but their spiritual home is in a hidden valley in the high Ramptops of the Discworld, where the books of history are kept.

These aren’t books in which the events of the past are pinned like so many butterflies to a cork. These are the books from which history is derived. There are more than twenty thousand of them; each one is ten feet high, bound in lead, and the letters are so small that they have to be read with a magnifying glass.

When people say “It is written…” it is written here.

There are fewer metaphors around than people think.

Read this book.

8 thoughts on “[Book Review] All gods should spend some time as tortoises

  1. Pratchet is on my “I’m ashamed I’ve never read them” list, together with Gaiman and King.
    Have” Mort” on the TBR and was thinking of starting with that. Every fan seems to have a different opinion of which is the best to start with.

    • I decided to just start at the beginning and read my way through, though there is absolutely no real reason to do so as they are hardly in chronological order!

      I really loved Mort and think it would be a perfectly fine one to start with. Anything that involves a lot of Death is a safe bet.

      My absolute favorite was Pyramids.

  2. I blush to admit I haven’t read Pratchett, mostly because he is associated with someone who left me with bad memories, through no fault of the poor author’s!

    I love how you summarised what is so awesome about Pratchett however 🙂 I had been wondering at his appeal.

    • Try reading “Good Omens.” Then it’s Pratchett AND Gaiman and you won’t have to have icky-taste feeling the whole time.

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