|Another Book Review
By Sheik Sebir
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
DiscWorld is a flat world that rests on four Elephants, who in turn stand on a turtle, is an odd and mysterious world, much like our own. Behold a Novice hoeing weeds in a garden. Lording Over this peon are several Brothers, Deacons, Sisters, Acolytes, and Iams. His God's name is OM - as in OMnipotent, OMniscient, and OMnipresent, etc. Om, Himself, has a wee problem and he's Chosen this poor wretch,.. er wannabe saint,.. into helping Himself solve His problem. Om has been incarnated as a small turtle, instead of the mighty bronzed Bull His worshippers expect - and Everyone knows that "turtles make good eatin'". A god's power on DiscWorld, and possibly other places as well, comes from the Belief of those who follow, and in all the great cities of Omnia, Om has just one true believer left. Whose to Blame for this State of Affairs ?? Mebbe its the fault of the Quisition, whose zealots search for Deviance of the Word of Om; mebbe its the Church ureaucracy, which imprisons the God in a series of walls called Dogmas, Theologia, Catechisms, and Hierarchy, and slowly kills him off by suffocation; or mebbe it's Fate! (Something no self respecting god would admit to)
So, in order not to go where gods end up when they lose their flock, Om seeks to raise up the Expected Eighth Prophet - preferably before he ends up as turtle soup. The Prophet-To-Be Brutha also has a small problem He's the only person in Omnia who really believes in OM and, as the only True Believer, he's the only person who can hear the Great God Om's Voice - well, not to mention his Unbelieving Superiors. Om as much to say about Godding It, most of which would entitle Him to a visit by His Own "Quisition" for "Heresy" if He weren't the God Himself. On DiscWorld the gods are quite real, and there are millions of would be godlings looking for even just one follower. Om Himself started out that way before He found His First Prophet, a shepard, and got Ambition.
Gods don't have to be too smart on DiscWorld, and there are other places besides Omnia to hang out a shingle. For example, even a Goddess whose main Concern is her hair can get priestesses who can formulate great tomes containing complex Systems of Ritual and Thought. Omnia has been at war with Ephebe, and Brutha is dragged along on a journey to sign the Peace - a good indication that Omnia has either lost the War, or its Horde of fanatics are planting caches across the Great Desert, with each troop dying after they planted one Way Station that would supply the next wave of troups following behind to lay the next one further on, to lay an ambush of the Peace Process. Naw, They couldn't be that fanatical, could They ?
Ephebe is very different form Omnia, and has a Pantheon of many Gods and Goddesses, something Brutha has never seen, of course. Om then reveals that His best Prophets made up the "Word of Om" themselves, and that He had little to do with the process. That's what you get form choosing shepards instead of goatherders as Prophets - Sheep are driven, goats are lead. Ephebe worships Petulia, the goddess of Negotiable Affection among others, and there's even a God of Lettuce - Here the small gods find a need and fill it - Market Capitalism at its very best. Om is always thinking up new Suggestions such as; "Thou Shalt Not subject Thy God To The Free Market" seems to fit here. There are also some absent minded Philosophers who do much of what passes for thinking in Ephebe. What's a Philosopher? Om Says that a Philosopher is "Someone bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting." Most of them are very busy thinking about the Universe, when they're not doing other people's thinking for them, for a fee of course, - they're absent minded -not stupid. But Philosophers aren't totally useless, 99 out of 100 ideas they come up with are duds -- "but the 100th one (or so) is generally a humdinger"...
After many twists of Fate, Brutha brings the hated Quisitor Vorbis out of the Great Desert only to find that the old schemer has declared himself to be the 8th Prophet ! Om gets another "ride" by the eagle (Eagles like turtles on the 'half shell') and arrives in time to do a miracle to ge His believers back. Brutha becoes the Cenobriarch (head dude?), the Law is Erased, the gods in the Heavens have decided that some worshipers are better than none, and intervene in a war they once eagarly wanted; Death has a few things to say...; and "The Turtle Moves" Cosmology isn't heretical anymore.
This book is worth 5 Pentacles - it's thought provoking, satirical, and funny, even when one's own beliefs are scewered. Besides, it's sure to cause a great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Demeses of the True Christian, if they even SF....