Small Gods (Discworld Series #13)

Small Gods (Discworld Series #13)

by Terry Pratchett

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061092176
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/28/2003
Series: Discworld Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)
Lexile: 640L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Terry Pratchett's novels have sold more than eighty-five million (give or take a few million) copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II made Pratchett a knight in recognition of his "services to literature." Sir Terry lives in England with his wife.


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Date of Birth:

April 28, 1948

Place of Birth:

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England


Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Now consider the tortoise and the eagle.

The tortoise is a ground-living creature. It is impossible to live nearer the ground without being under it. Its horizons are a few inches away. It has about as good a turn of speed as you need to hunt down a lettuce. It has survived while the rest of evolution flowed past it by being, on the whole, no threat to anyone and too much trouble to eat.

And then there is the eagle. A creature of the air and high places, whose horizons go all the way to the edge of the world. Eyesight keen enough to spot the rustle of some small and squeaky creature half a mile away. All power, all control. Lightning death on wings. Talons and claws enough to make a meal of anything smaller than it is and at least take a hurried snack out of anything bigger.

And yet the eagle will sit for hours on the crag and survey the kingdoms of the world until it spots a distant movement and then it will focus, focus, focus on the small shell wobbling among the bushes down there on the desert. And it will leap . . .

And a minute later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five hundred feet above it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the eagle.

And then the eagle lets go.

And almost always the tortoise plunges to its death. Everyone knows why the tortoise does this. Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off. No one knows why the eagle does this. There's good eating on a tortoise but, considering the effort involved, there's much better eating on practically anything else. It'ssimply the delight of eagles to torment tortoises.

But of course, what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very crude form of natural selection.

One day a tortoise will learn how to fly.

The story takes place in desert lands, in shades of umber and orange. When it begins and ends is more problematical, but at least one of its beginnings took place above the snowline, thousands of miles away in the mountains around the Hub.*

One of the recurring philosophical questions is:

"Does a failing tree in the forest make a sound when there is no one to hear?"

Which says something about the nature of philosophers, because there is always someone in a forest. It may only be a badger, wondering what that cracking noise was, or a squirrel a bit puzzled by all the scenery going upwards, but someone. At the very least, if it was deep enough in the forest, millions of small gods would have heard it.

Things just happen, one after another. They don't care who knows. But history . . . ah, history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it's not history. It's just . . . well, things happening one after another.

And, of course, it has to be controlled. Otherwise it might turn into anything. Because history, contrary to popular theories, is kings and dates and battles. And these things have to happen at the right time. This is difficult. In a chaotic universe there are too many things to go wrong. It's too easy for a general's horse to lose a shoe at the wrong time, or for someone to mishear an order, or for the carrier of the vital message to be waylaid by some men with sticks and a cash flow problem. Then there are wild stories, parasitic growths on the tree of history, trying to bend it their way.

So history has its caretakers.

They live . . . well, in the nature of things they live wherever they are sent, but their spiritual home is in a hidden valley in the high Ramtops of the Discworld, where the books of history are kept.

These aren't books in which the events of the past are pinned like so many butterflies to a cork. These are the books from which history is derived. There are more than twenty thousand of them; each one is ten feet high, bound in lead, and the letters are so small that they have to be read with a magnifying glass.

When people say "It is writtenit is written here.

There are fewer metaphors around than people think.

Every month the abbot and two senior monks go into the cave where the books are kept. It used to be the duty of the abbot alone, but two other reliable monks were included after the unfortunate case of the 59th Abbot, who made a million dollars in small bets before his fellow monks caught up with him.

Besides, it's dangerous to go in alone. The sheer concentratedness of History, sleeting past soundlessly out into the world, can be overwhelming. Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

The 493rd Abbot folded his wrinkled hands and addressed Lu-Tze, one of his most senior monks. The clear air and untroubled life of the secret valley was such that all the monks were senior; besides, when you work with Time every day, some of it tends to rub off.

"The place is Omnia," said the abbot, "on the Klatchian coast."

"I remember," said Lu-Tze. "Young fellow called Ossory, wasn't there?"

"Things must be . . . carefully observed," said the abbot. "There are pressures. Free will, predestination . . . the power of symbols . . . turning-point . . . you know all about this."

"Haven't been to Omnia for, oh, must be seven hundred years," said Lu-Tze. "Dry place. Shouldn't think there's a ton of good soil in the whole country, either."

"Off you go, then," said the abbot.

"I shall take my mountains," said Lu-Tze. "The climate will be good for them."

Small Gods. Copyright © by Terry Pratchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Small Gods (Discworld Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Megan Treloar More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books. Period. It's Pratchett at his witty satirical, philosophical height. Belly laughs and brilliance. Read it. You won't regret it.
MidnightReign More than 1 year ago
I'm not going to ruin it by describing the plot or the characters in this review. Suffice it to say, this book goes into my mental file folder under "Greatest Books Ever", due to its combination of philosophy, comedy, and wordplay. Buy it, read it, enjoy it.
dmboyett More than 1 year ago
What I love about Terry Pratchett’s disc world series is you don’t have to read them in chronological order to enjoy them. Each book is a story unto itself but fitted into the context of that wonderfully quirky place called disc world. Of all those novels my favorite is Small Gods because to me even though it is a satire on conventional religion it is also profoundly theological. Reading it has given me a better understanding of my own religious tradition and its context in this complicated place we call Earth. I would recommend this book to anyone who believes in God, doesn’t believe in God, or addresses their prayers to Whom It May Concern.
seattle1985 More than 1 year ago
The first time I read this book I read through it quickly, and didn't really appreciate it. At that point it was one of my least favorites in the Discworld series. About 2 years later I decided to give it another try. I read it slower and really tried to absorb what was really being said. I can now say this has definitely moved up in my rankings to the top! This whole book( particularly the scene where Brutha is going through the desert and is being courted by all the lost small gods) really brings to mind themes Neil Gaiman later brings to full life in American Gods. (which I also loved!) One has to wonder if he maybe started getting the idea for it from Small Gods. (Terry Pratchett and Gaiman are good freinds, read Good Omens for proof!) Anyway, I would recommend this book to anyone, most definitely.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With lots of sarcasm and wit this book is easily one of my favorite discworld novels. Its a unique view of religion on the Discworld and really helps you to understand just why everyone on the Discworld acts the way they do. My only problem is that I wish Terry Pratchett would write more God books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On Discworld, a god comes into existance when it is believed in and loses power when it is not believed in. So what do sensible gods do? They live isolated from their subjects, tossing a few lightning bolts and play chess like games with them for entertainment. That is until one of them is left with one simple true believer in a corupt church. Condemed to roam the earth as a turtle, avoiding big birds that smash turtles on rocks, this god learns a lesson in how to be a god. Meanwhile Brutha learns that he is much more than one true believer. That he can make a difference. Funny satire with a point... One true believer can make a difference and restore sanity to both his church and his god.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where the Gods come from? Where do they go? What make them Gods and what determine, just how much Gods they are? Read the 'Small Gods' and you'll make a long step toward the answers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extended theological discussion enwrapt with metaphor with choice sarcasm thrown in for good measure. Those who read this may appreciate religion with a soft chuckle, then go on with their lives with a bigger bounce in their step.
iamiam on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Oddly unsatisfying, while still enjoyable. It seems to be making a point, but not quite well, and not altogether clearly. Perhaps because the setting is so foreign, the societal and cultural satire doesn't work quite as well as the Anhk-Moorepork tales do. "Pyramids" would, in theory, also not work for the same reason, but perhaps it works DESPITE that setting. All in all the plot and setting are so far removed from "the day-to-day" that it's tough to connect with the action, no matter how much the hero is likable. Perhaps its place in the series is better viewed from about Book #20 or later...?
polarbear123 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I suddenly thought after the first 30 pages or so that this would be the first Pratchett book I would not enjoy - somehow I had totally missed the thread of the storyline and didn't have a clue what was going on. I just couldn't grasp the plot at all. I stuck with it and ended up thinking that this was probably one of the better Pratchett books I have read - why? Well it is not so much the characters in this one, its the questions that the story forces you to ask yourself about religion and the nature of belief in general. A very thought provoking and surprisingly complex addition to the Discworld series.
debnance on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I defy anyone to read this book and not love it. Go ahead. Try it. It will wipe away the smug little faces we present to the world and replace them with faces swept away in hearty guffaws. A great book to read during the cold rainy days of last week.
Zathras86 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Possibly the best of the Discworld novels; I say possibly since I haven't actually read them all yet. But it's not everyday that you find a book that forces you to care about the characters and think about the philosophical implications of the plot at the same time that you're rolling around on the floor in tears of laughter. I find that humorous books don't usually stand up well to multiple readings, but this one certainly does.If you only read one Pratchett novel ever, read this one. The world at large tends to agree that it's the best introduction to the series, because it's hilariously funny but doesn't rely on characters or plot points introduced in previous books.
catherinestead on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The great god Om has come down in the world. A long way down. In fact, so far down that he his little legs have considerable trouble with stairs and ditches. In short, he is a tortoise. The only person who believes in him is the novice Brutha, and Brutha rather just wants to be left in peace to tend his melons and work on avoiding the inquisition. But both Om and the inquisition have other ideas. Om wants his believers back, and as for the inquisition, well, you just can't let people get away with saying the world is spherical.Terry Pratchett's satire on religion is not only very entertaining but also has a lot to say about the ways in which religious belief can become corrupted.
tundranocaps on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The middle is a bit boring, I do like the view of Discworld and its cosmology given here.
scroeser on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Brain candy! (Of the best sort...)
isabelx on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The Great God Om, although currently the small god Om, ate a lettuce leaf.All my life, Brutha thought, I've known that the Great God Om - he made the holy horns sign in a fairly half-hearted way - was a . . . a . . . great big beard in the sky, or sometimes, when He comes down into the world, as a huge bull or a lion or . . . something big, anyway. Something you could look up to.Somehow a tortoise isn't the same. I'm trying hard . . . but it isn¿t the same. And hearing him talk about the SeptArchs as if they were just . . . just some mad old men . . . it's like a dream . . .Another great story from Terry Pratchett, this time about religious intolerance and the rise and fall of gods. It's a standalone novel, but both Death and the Death of Rats appear, as well as a probable relation of the Ankh-Morpork catering entrepreneur, Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler.
SimoneA on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Another funny Discworld book, that satirizes religion in a very witty way. Great fun if you are a Discworld fan.
jnicholson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
In which we learn how gods are made. Terry moves into the somewhatThis novel introduces all new characters, although it strikes me that Vorbis shares certain characteristics with the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork; the difference mainly being that Vorbis sees reality as he wishes it to be wherease the Patrician sees it as it is. Brutha makes an interesting transition, as does Om, and the unregarded gardener will return in future novels.
Aldrea_Alien on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Dense yet clever prophets, scary yet stupid inquisition, a god stuck as a tortoise and an eagle who really needs to find something else to eat. At the centre of this divine cyclone is the Great God Om. ^_^I really like Om. He¿s a guy who¿s used to being large and in charge in his part of the world, then he wakes up in the middle of an attempt to be made into lunch (eagle, enter stage left) to find himself as a tortoise. Which is just plain crazy as it is. Forget about people trying to eat him - apparently, ¿there¿s good eating on one of those¿ - but no one can hear him. Except for Brutha.Poor, poor Brutha. This fellow, who only wants to be left alone, can¿t seem to stop hearing Om. Both his amazing memory and the god put him in some rather sticky situations. The stickiest of all being trapped with Vorbis. The bad guy of this story.And what a very bad man he is. His demise, which was inevitable really, could¿ve happened any number of times and each time he lived, left me waiting for someone to do him in. The way it which he does die is quite laughable really. But satisfying. While I like bad guys to be bad, I love it even more when they get got.It was in the last few pages, between the banter of god and prophet and where what was to be a battle among human turned into a fight among the gods, that really had me liking this small god. Bit sad that there¿ll be no more of him conversing with Brutha though, I¿d been seeing them as pair right up until the end there.
love2laf on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Pratchett has a turn of mind that's a joy to read. Although this is fun, like all of the Discworld books, there is far more satire on the human condition than in previous books. This book is not for monotheists, but is perfect for the type of mind that appreciates Vonnegut.
cbrook on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Another very funny book with lots of zany characters
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Summary: Brutha is a uneducated novice in the Church of the Great God Om, without many ambitions (or deep thoughts, for that matter), and he is happy working in the gardens of the temple. One day, he hears a voice in his head - the voice of the Great God Om - and the voice says "Psst! Hey you!" For the Great God Om is currently in the form of a turtle - stuck in the form of a turtle, in fact - and he, like all gods, requires true belief in order to maintain his power... and substance. Brutha may be an unlikely prophet, but he's what Om's got to work with... but will a turtle and his believer really be enough to stop an incipient holy war?Review: Terry Pratchett's main premise in Small Gods - that gods are created by their believers, and not the other way around - is not a particularly new one, nor is his satirical take on organized religion particularly subtle. But man alive, does he take that premise and that satirical tone, and run to some damn funny places with it. Some of the running gags (everyone telling Brutha, upon seeing the turtle, "there's good eating on one of those") fell flat after a while, but others (Om's thoroughly ineffectual attempts to call down damnation and smiting on everyone who annoyed him, which was pretty much everyone) made me chuckle every time. There's also the usual complement of one-liners, which range from silly to quite sharply insightful, but always drily witty. The plot does meander a bit, and not all parts are always explained as thoroughly as they could be, or tie in as well as they should, but for the most part, things move along well enough, and the diversions are entertaining enough not to be too much of a detriment.I haven't read many of the Discworld books, and I thought Small Gods stood on its own just fine. I do know enough to appreciate the irony of Omnianism, the religion whose God is now stuck in the form of a turtle, considering Discworld to be round, and any mention of The Great Turtle to be the vilest heresy. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Probably not for religious folks who either don't see the foibles of their religion (or religion in general), or don't like people poking fun at those foibles, but for everyone else, Small Gods is an irreverent look at the power of belief.
gilag on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It's the Great God Om!
Narilka on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Ahh, Discworld! The simple lad Brutha wants nothing more in life than to tend the temple's melon garden. The Great God Om, on the other hand, has chosen Brutha to be his next prophet. This leads Brutha on a journey that changes his life and that of his city. We meet quite the cast of eclectic characters along the way as well as a few cameos from Ankh-MorporkWith Small Gods Terry Pratchett pokes fun at all things religious. From religious people themselves to their institutions and practices. Underneath it is also a story about faith/belief and what happens when that belief is replaced by simple routine. Yet again Pratchett weaves an irreverent satire and yet is able to hit deeper notes as only he can. Many parts of this book were laugh out loud funny. It is an excellent stand alone book, easily readable without any prior Discworld knowledge. I could see myself reading this one again in the future.
SandiLee on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Small Gods is pretty much one religion joke after another, which sounds awful, but it's written by Terry Pratchett, so it's wonderful.