Okay, I know it was only a week or so ago that I reviewed Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel, Raising Steam, but I’ve read about half of the stories that have taken place on the Disc. It all started with The Wee Free Men and it soon became a literary love affair. So I’ve been all over the Disc out of order, but I’ve found that the most amazing thing about Discworld is that going in order isn’t exactly necessary. That’s the great part about building a full world.
But, if you’ve fallen in love with Ankh-Morpork, Moist Von Lipwig, CMOT Dibbler, Carrot, Angua, Rincewind, Gaspode, Death, Susan Sto Helit, Mort, Tiffany Aching, Granny Weatherwax, or Nanny Ogg, then Small Gods might not be the book for you. It’s the 13th book amid the forty available, but it’s the least like the Disc we all know and love.
The whole book is a mixed bag. While I’m glad Pratchett decided to tackle some of the lesser mentioned countries like Tsort, Omnia, and Ephebe, this is so far distant from the familiar Disc that it for the majority of the book I had to wonder if it’s even the same author. There’s some snark and some of the wit that has made Terry Pratchett such a household name, but it flat-lined until near the end.
The story follows Brutha, an older initiate in the Omnian Church. He’s getting older on and content to work in the garden for his whole life in the service of the Great God Om. And he’s also got a photographic memory.
But, his whole world takes a spin when a turtle lands out of the sky in his garden. The turtle even speaks, which should still be unusual in the Discworld. So far, I think it’s just Gaspode the Wonder Dog. Anyways, the turtle claims to be the Great God Om. Brutha already knows that this can’t be right, since Om always appeared as a bull or even a swan. Never a sad, one eyed turtle. But the turtle knows stuff that a turtle shouldn’t know, particularly about Brutha and his devout grandmother.
Then we get to see Vorbis, the head of the Quisition. He’s in charge of… aggressive penitence, and thoroughly enjoys the job. He’s so cunning that he doesn’t even need to lay a hand on someone to torture and correct. He’s chosen, along with a few bishops and the lowly Brutha, to act as diplomat to the foreign country of Ephebe, and he’s got plans that include Brutha’s ability to remember everything.
So, I’m not going to give away spoilers, but the book returns to the Pratchett vibe towards the end, which involves a turtle skydiving without a parachute from an eagle into the face of Vorbis and speaking the mighty words of the god, which include bugger, buggerbuggerbugger, Aaaugh, and ohnoohnoohnonono.
The best theme Terry Pratchett presents to us the readers is the idea of faith a church versus faith in the God. But, throw in the lack of voice and overall unfamiliarity of the book, I have to give this one 3 out of 5. It’s worth reading, but not necessarily because it’s representative of Terry Pratchett’s unique voice. I’d argue that it’s not even Discworld canon, though it uses a lot of the same places and some of the names.