Small Gods is the thirteenth book in Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld series, and the second in the Gods subseries. I’ll be honest and say that I unabashedly love Pratchett, so you may take this entire review with a grain of sand.
Let’s first talk about the structure. Like any DiscWorld book, Small Gods has no chapters. It consists of sections of text broken by blank lines, which form a buffer between sections. This provides for a smooth flow of text and has the added benefit of having a more lifelike feel — real people don’t have their lives neatly broken into chapters, and neither to Pratchett’s characters.
The one thing I missed from Small Gods was the scarcity of the footnotes. Footnotes are another hallmark of Pratchett’s work, providing amusing asides about topics only tangentially related to the story. Earlier books had a plethora of them, and they were sometimes overwhelming, but at this point in the series, they’re too rare! More footnotes!
Small Gods is, unsurprisingly, about religion and belief. Pratchett skewers religion’s bureaucracy, showing how power becomes transferred from the god to the people in the church. Due to this fear of what people in power can do, believers stop truly believing and merely make the show of religion to avoid repercussions; true belief is an unbelievably rare thing.
Pratchett also provides an interesting undertone to the book in the exploration of character. At one point, the god Om says to his one believer, Brutha, “You can’t read a mind. You might as well try and read a river. But seeing the shape’s easy.” Pratchett makes the reader think about the underlying structure of a person. Are we predestined to be a certain way — smart or dumb, coy or honest? Are we fated to be who we are — and can our nature ever really change, even after a full life of experience? These are interesting questions.
I found Small Gods a delight to read. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys humorous fantasy that also makes you reflect on serious topics, you can’t go wrong picking this book.