"In the beginning was the Word.
The thirteenth book in the Discworld series, small gods sees novice monk Brutha stumble across a tortoise who claims to be the god Brutha has dedicated his life to worshiping. This leads Brutha to question the authority of the church as he learns that much of the laws he was raised to follow were created by the church and not the god.
I loved this book. Not only did it continue in the great tradition of the Discworld series, presenting unique characters and spot on parodies of well known situations, but this one ramped up the satire well past eleven.
The church of Om has much to tell us about the way religion is organised, the priests are stern and close minded and the worshipers are left to blindly follow their leadership, as for the gods themselves, they are presented as pompous, vain, more interested in maintaining their image than the wellbeing of their worshipers.
Though, while the book pokes fun at religion and makes some valid criticisms of its hierarchy, it never goes so far as to actively condemn it. In fact, just as many jokes are made about Atheism as are made about religion, in a world like the Discworld, where gods most definitely exist, Atheists are portrayed as incredibly foolish people (and ones with a definite need to install lightning rods on their homes).
It’s also worth pointing out that while Brutha learns of philosophy and uses the philosophers teachings to question his faith, ultimately he never loses it, instead, combining the best elements of both and preaching tolerance.
Aside from the spot on satire there’s a lot going on in this book, the parodies of ancient Greece and their penchant for philosophy and statues was very amusing as were the scenes in the dessert with the mad hermit St Ungulant.
The book also gives us Vorbis, probably the most sinister villain the discworld series has given us. The head of the Quisition, he is responsible for the torture of those who have lost their faith. The scenes where he demands a boat captain murder a manatee to prove he doesn’t hold any superstitions outside the church of Om is genuinely chilling, it’s well worth purchasing the book for him alone.
Small Gods is a brilliantly thought out, well researched piece of writing. The characters are great, the jokes hilarious and serious points presented without sounding preachy. Whether you’re new to the series or an old hand, you’ll love it. Pick it up.