Book 11: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

January 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm (Review) (, , , )

Small Gods was added to my list on the recommendation of lovely Pajabites. As ever their taste is impeccable. Small Gods carries on in the great tradition of immensely entertaining British Science Fiction/Fantasy. I have a vague recollection of reading one or two of the Discworld series when I was a young teenager and I never went back. I was an idiot.

I can only assume that I didn’t enjoy it then because I mostly didn’t get the joke, as a teenager I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the beauty of Pratchett’s theological and political positions. It takes an amazingly gifted writer to mock the ridiculousness of religious fundamentalists without ever picking on a particular theology. He argues for secular democracy with more humor, grace and power then any political philosopher I’m aware of. 

The hero of our tale is Brutha, a novice at a monastery who has little hope of ordination primarily because he appears to be not so bright. His character grows throughout the story in a way that outlines how people grow in life (all things going well). Going from total innocent to a person of understanding and with a marvellous illustration the hardship and confusion that often accompanies that growth. 

Interestingly Pratchett explore how our leaders or those who claim to know what is best are those that know least about what is good. He give a fascinating insight in to how the minds of those who seek to lead work. He is fierce in his criticism of the manipulative and deadpan in his description of where the alternative lies. He has the grace to see that the world is never perfect and the intelligence to see what the next best thing might be in light of these leader types. 

The nature of belief and what it can bring to the world is a major theme, unsurprisingly in a book called Small Gods. I found it astonishing that while Pratchett is sometimes fiercely critical of the idea of organised religion/a religious state and those that claim to be devout but it never feels like he’s passing judgement. It takes a master of tone to manage to do that.

I know that I have talked more here about ideas then character and story but there is no way that these ideas could be covered so well without the writing being up to scratch. The characters are full and interesting and the plot moves along apace. It’s just fantastic.

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