I struggled with this one.
Much like Pyramids, this one is essentially religious satire. In addition, until the last 50 or so pages, it could have been set anywhere. There was one v. brief mention of the librarian from Unseen University rescuing scrolls from a fire, a couple of characters mentioned Ankh-Morpork... that was it.
The biggest issue, as with Pyramids, is the lack of a truly engaging protagonist. The MC in Pyramids was underutilized - he was a member of the Assassin's Guild yet let a priest railroad him in everything. The MC in this one - Brutha - seemed to have little potential beyond comic relief except that never occurred. He was simple, he obeyed without question...until he didn't and he wasn't. And I never quite saw how this occurred. Oh, I saw WHEN, but not how. I mean; I sort of get his increasing understanding of reality but not the sudden rebellion and certainly not his going from a Mongo-like character to a leader. Even with a photographic memory clogged with hundreds of scrolls, that's not going to make HIM smarter; just make him unable to focus for all the apparently useless trivia clogging his brain.
Small Gods stands on its own in the Discworld universe, at least when it comes to the story and the characters. It does of course continue to build on the “in jokes” that have been accumulating from the very first Discworld book. There are some references that I think would sail harmlessly over the head of anybody who hadn’t read the earlier books, but catching those references is part of the fun for me.
The story is based on the idea that there are lots and lots of “small gods” out there, with no influence or power, desperately trying to get the attention of a human who will believe in them. Once somebody believes in them, they start to gain power, which grows as they accumulate more true believers. This can also happen in reverse; if the believers diminish, then so does the god. The story focuses on a god by the name of Om, who has unexpectedly found himself in the form of a tortoise as his power is diminishing. Only a single boy by the name of Brutha truly believes in him and can hear his voice. Adventures ensue.
I really enjoyed the first half of the story, but I started to lose interest in the second half. I couldn’t really say why; it just seemed to get a little tedious for a while there. The humor in this book was great, though. It wasn’t quite on the same level as the books in the Witches subseries for me, but it was pretty close. The part about penguins being extremely confused birds because they only know how to fly under water completely cracked me up. I’m not sure what that says about my sense of humor. It’s a bit corny, I guess!
I thought this book had a little more meat on it in terms of covering some deeper themes. Several of the previous books have done that to some extent, but I thought it was more substantial in this book. As you might guess from the title and the premise, there are quite a few thoughts about the nature of religion, how it affects people, how it gains power, and how it’s used. There were also some thoughts about war and slavery.
So overall I enjoyed it, but I thought it dragged a bit in the middle. I enjoyed it enough to round my star rating up to 4 stars on Goodreads.
1) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
2) Mythology by Edith Hamilton
3) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
4) Whistle Stop by Philip White
5) Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
6) William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
7) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
8) Eric by Terry Pratchett
9) The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
10) William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
11) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
12) Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
13) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
14) William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
15) The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory
16) Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
17) The Once and Future King by T.H. White
18) Outlaws of the Atlantic by Marcus Rediker
19) Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
20) Witches Aboard by Terry Pratchett
21) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (re-read)
22) Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
23) We Don't Need Roads by Caseen Gaines
24) Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
25) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
26) Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
27) Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett *started*
28) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
29) Facing Justice by Diane & David Munson
30) The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
31) Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
32) Legends edited by Robert Silverberg (includes re-read of The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin
33) Confirming Justice by Diane & David Munson
34) The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
35) Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
36) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
37) The Rise of the Great Powers, 1648-1815 by Derek McKay
38) The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
39) Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
40) A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (re-read)
41) The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume One by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
42) The Art of War/The Prince/Instructions to His Generals by Sun Tzu/Niccolò Machiavelli/Frederick the Great (three-in-one book)
43) Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
44) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
45) The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume Two by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
46) A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich
47) Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
48) A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (re-read)
Bonus- The Poetry of Robert Frost (reading a few pages every few weeks)
The divine order of Discworld is put under the microscope by Terry Pratchett in “Small Gods” as we follow focus of Omnian religion, the Great God Om, and his only believer, Brutha. Pratchett takes on not only organized religion, but also atheism, philosophy, and how militaries find a new technology and turn it into a killing machine.
The main story of the book is about the once powerful Om, who once had thousands upon thousands of followers but now only has one, Brutha. Both Om and Brutha discover that while many claim to be worshipping Om, they don’t believe in him because their religious experience is basically the rituals of the Church. These rituals are alright to one Vorbis, Head of the Quisition (the Omnian version of the Inquisition). Vorbis thinks only fundamentally about religion and not belief, just like Brutha’s grandmother does which if he succeeds means that Om will find himself cast into the desert with other failed gods. All the while, many professed Omnians believe that their world is not a sphere circling the sun but a flat disc on top of four elephants standing on top of a turtle moving through space. These atheists have their own plans, especially after discovering the creator of their philosophy who seems to be put off by the whole semi-religious movement based on his writings of fact.
This Discworld installment does not seem as humorous has previous books, however because “Small Gods” is satire Pratchett’s humor is more finally tuned to suit the genre. Its only after you’ve read the book that you get the overall metaphysical discussion Pratchett has just had with you in a fun way.