A Discworld novel by celebrated British author Terry Pratchett. More or less a parody of the Roman Catholic Church dating from the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Tells the story of the great god Om, revered and worshipped by the entire country of Omnia, or at least he's supposed to, and his last great prophet Brutha.

Most of PTerry's Discworld novels have recurring characters, like the Wyrd Sisters or Rincewind or Death. This is one of the rare standalone books which actually occurs many centuries before the other novels even appear on the map. ("Future" Omnians have appeared in Ankh-Morpork in successive novels, so it's not entirely standalone. But none of the actual characters do.)

Terry Pratchett's 13'th Discworld novel.

Main/Reoccurring Characters:

Lu-Tze/Monks of History: Poses as a gardener throughout the story, ensures that history happens correctly.
Brutha: The protagonist, and most recently chosen prophet of the Great God Om. A lowly novice with an uncanny memory and rather black and white view of the world.

Deacon Vorbis: Cheif Exquisitor, the single antagonist (in rather rare form for Pratchett, who usually has some faceless group, demon, entity from the Dungeon Dimensions or whatnot as an antagonist). Vorbis is hatching a plan to take over the neighboring country of Ephebe, and has tricked Brutha into helping.

The Great God Om: The god of Omnia, or at least, he used to be. Between now and his last coming, it seems his followers believe more in the church of Om than in him, so when is 3000 year appearance is due, he, to his surprise, finds himself incarnated as a tortoise, a small god, with only one actual believer left; Brutha.

Cut-Me-Own-Hand-Off Dhblah: Not an especially important character, but a distant cousin of a familiar Ankh-Morpork Merchant...

Didactylos: A philosopher of Ephebe, one of many, and not one of the more popular ones. Put forth the idea that the Discworld is actually flat and round, Carried by four elephants, who, in turn stand on back of the great cosmic tortoise.

Urn: Didactylos's apprentice. Has a number of practical inventions of his own, including a curious device that makes a boat move using fire.

Published by HarperTorch
Copyright 1992, Terry and Lyn Pratchett
ISBN: 0-06-109217-7

Small Gods is one of the less hysterical and more profound of Pratchett's novels. The central theme, reprised from another angle in Hogfather, is belief and its necessity, to both humans, and gods.

In this book, Pratchett examines hypocrisy, providing us with a hierarchy who have no faith in the god that forms the lynchpin of their religion, but are absolutely committed to the trappings of the church and paralysed by their fear of the power wielded, and inevitably abused, by the head of the theocracy, Vorbis.

In the person and development of the character of Brutha he examines the simple, credulous faith of the uneducated and indoctrinated, and shows that constant and widespread questioning and challenge are necessary to mitigate misuse of power (whether by church or temporal government) and enable progress.

One of the most interesting elements of the book is the "Small Gods" of the title. These are beings who once held sway over nations, but have dwindled to shadows as belief in them has died; they can symbolise ideas and scientific tenets as easily as gods or religeous faith. It is to avoid becoming one of them that Om, the god at the centre of the church in the book, clings to Brutha.

The outcome is a man who is able to inspire and lead the country back to faith through his solid certainty in the existence of his god - but a gentler, less proscriptive and more human faith, influenced by the need of the god for its general acceptance, if he's to survive beyond Brutha's lifespan.

Small Gods is held to be one of Pratchett's most accomplished and significant works, and while it doesn't lack humour, the humour within it reinforces the (somewhat cynical) central message.

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