Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
Author: Terry Pratchett
Source: A much loved, battered paperback that I keep with me always.
There are some books that are nearly impossible to talk about. The silence that follows the reading of such books isn’t because they are bad books, or even worse, books that you feel nothing for, so in turn you have nothing to say. It’s quite the opposite in fact. There are books, that once read, are no longer just paper between, er- thicker paper. They become something else entirely. These books seek out the little empty places in your soul, places you don’t even know exist because they’ve never had anything fill them that you would miss if they were to up and leave it vacant. These books slide right into those little empty soul pockets, settle and suddenly, just like that, there’s a little more you. They become…books that move in. It makes them difficult books to talk about because, well, not many of us can accurately and eloquently express who we are. There in lies the problem. You can no longer make a distinction between yourself and the book.
Small Gods is one of those books, so please forgive me as I fumble inexpertly through this post.
It is once again time for an Omnian Prophet to appear. A prophet that will impart to the people the will and commandments of the Great God Om. There’s been a whole slew of prophets and they all amble up to the pulpit, like their prophetic predecessors, and decree a new set of rules that they swear were handed down to them by the Great God “Holy Horns” Om. It’s rather difficult to refute the prophet’s claim when the church fully backs the prophet and his commandments- most often at knife point. The Omnian church prides itself on the efficiency of The Quisition, a division of the church whose responsibility and privilege is to
“…they were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives (it’s not murder if you do it for a god).”
So the Omnians believe. They believe like their lives depend on it. Belief gives Om strength. The more belief, the stronger the God. So it comes as a great surprise to the Great God Om when he wakes up in the body of a mere turtle, with powers equal in size and strength of any small, shelled reptile. This shouldn’t be! He has many believers! Or he did. In his absence, the people haven’t stopped believing, oh no, the Church would never allow that. They believe. They believe in fear.
“Fear is a strange soil. It grows obedience like corn, which grow in straight lines to make weeding easier. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.”
I know I’ve talked about this before, but let’s just rehash. Pratchett writes what on the surface appear to be fantasy novels, stories about his made up Discworld and the people in them. And while they have a nice neat fantasy setting, each book is in fact, a very clever little satire on something the human race holds dear or more often than not, something we take for granted. They are a gentle little nudge, an OK of sorts, to question what we are told to believe. This little number does of course, poke fun at religion, one in particular but essentially all of them, and if you aren’t too tightly wound on the subject (and more so if you are) it contains a great deal of wisdom that outlines centuries worth of “what the fuck?” You’ll follow Brutha, Om’s chosen prophet as he faces the harsh realization that simply believing in something doesn’t make it truth and expecting the world to only see things as you and yours do, isn’t going to do much more than get more knives pointed at you. And I liked the little poke at Om, in which he is basically told that if he’s going to be God, and all these people are going to go to the trouble of believing in him (he gets something out of the deal too- he gets to exist) then he has a bit of a responsibility to his people, to uphold his end of the deal.
“It’s hard to explain,” said Brutha. “But I think it’s got something to do with how people should behave… you should do things because they’re right. Not because gods say so. They might say something different another time.”
But anyway. This is one of those books that move in for me. It’s with me always, shapes how I think and feel which in turn affects how I live. This isn’t exactly rare. After all, so many of us have our thoughts and feelings shaped by a book, and the book affects how we live. Just remember, there are lots of different books.