Terry Pratchett – Small Gods

Yes, it’s time for another entry in the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon. And this is where it gets serious. Well, it’s still laugh out loud and get funny looks on the bus funny, but it’s also very serious. This one’s about religion, about gods and where they come from and where they go.

Omnia is a small country run by the Church of the Great God Om. Unlike all those nasty heathens in places like Ephebe, the Omnians believe that the world is a sphere floating in space, and all that stuff about a disc sitting on elephants who are standing on an unusually large turtle is nothing but vile heresy. Of course, this being the Discworld, they’re not entirely right about that, but that’s never stopped them invading other countries to, err, share their wisdom, and err, persuading people when they persist in believing in the wrong things. The persuasion is carried out by the Quisition, whose inquisitors do all the traditional stretching, cutting, burning and the like, and whose exquisitors do the questioning. The head of the Quisition is a man called Vorbis, who is not the kind of chap you want to get on the wrong side of. Not that he’s got a right side, come to think of it.

At the lower end of the Church, indeed about as low as you can get, is Brutha. A novice who seems fated to remain at a lowly status for all his life. Not actually stupid, but awkward, though equipped with a perfect memory.

Brutha’s life changes when a voice speaks to him while he’s gardening. The voice claims to be the Great God Om himself, and comes from a battered one-eyed tortoise. Oddly, nobody else can hear the voice, which is strange, because you’d think that in the heart of the Church of the Great God Om, there’d be loads of true believers who would know their god’s voice when they hear it…

And so an adventure begins, which takes Brutha through numerous torments, not least having to spend a lot of time with Vorbis. But it’s also the story of Om, who’s in the lowly form of a tortoise because there isn’t enough belief to allow him to take a grander form, let alone do any decent smiting. He knows what’s going on, but he’s not about to reveal that to his one true believer:

“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.”

Quite. As the story develops, we get to know more about the people involved. For instance,

Vorbis had a terrible memory for names. He knew every one

He goes very calm if he’s kept waiting

During a visit to Ephebe, we meet a load of philosophers, last seen in Pyramids, and still arguing a lot, and democratically electing their Tyrant on a regular basis.

Candidates for the Tyrantship were elected by the placing of black or white balls in various urns, thus giving rise to a well-known comment about politics.

Later, when much has changed[1], the atheist Sergeant Simony[2] argues with the Great God Om:

Don’t think you can get around me by existing!

And Brutha ends up being something special. He wants the Quisition brought to an end, and he wants it done the hard way:

“You want me to kill all the inquisitors? Right!”
“No. That’s the easy way. I want as few deaths as possible.”

And his best line comes right at the end, but you’ll have to read that for yourself, so there.

I’ll just leave you with one of Terry’s lovely bits of dodgy Latin:

Some attempt to answer this was made by the religious philosopher Koomi of Smale in his book Ego-Video Liber Deorum, which translates into the vernacular roughly as Gods: A Spotter’s Guide.

Readers of sufficient age might suspect that a more accurate translation would be the I-Spy Book of Gods, of course.

Oh, and as I was mentally plotting what to say about this book, I spotted Om in Tesco’s, and he followed me home:



Camera: X100S
Aperture: ƒ/4
Shutter speed: 1/30s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 800
Taken: 26 May, 2013

He hasn’t started talking to me yet, though. Maybe I should offer him some lettuce?

Om's head

Om’s head

Camera: X100S
Aperture: ƒ/4
Shutter speed: 1/17s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 800
Taken: 26 May, 2013

[1] Details omitted for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet
[2] It takes a brave man to be an atheist on the Discworld, the gods hate that kind of thing…

One thought on “Terry Pratchett – Small Gods

  1. Pingback: The Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon | Losing it

Comments are closed.