Tonyblack wrote: poohcarrot wrote:
So if you had to pick one main theme, what would it be?
You hit the Sphinx and the Pyramids on the head, Tony. If the book is "about" anything it's about Egypt. I've now re-read the book 2 2/3rds times (couldn't stand any more), and while I must say that it's a bit better than I thought originally, not only is it not my favorite book, it's certainly in my least favorite five.
Pooh, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that possibly the book depends too much on an "English sense of humor" (and on knowledge of English TV, English political structure and the like for non-Brits to "get" a lot of the jokes. And if you find Monty Python funny, then I guess you'd like this book. I find Monty Python boring and endless slapstick. Consequently, I find You B**strd mildly amusing as a mathematician, though I can see absolutely no reason for Pratchett to have done that. It doesn't contribute to anything that I can see.
I think (upon re-reading) that this is a kind of further development of the kind of novel he started with and got better at. He plays with ideas of time and pyramids, with stagnation, to some degree with religion, with a kind of religious dictatorship run by a 7000year old priest who doesn't dare let anything change. But he develops all of these ideas much more fully (and in MY HUMBLE OPINION) much better in Small Gods, Thief of Time, Monstrous Regiment, Thud,
and Carpe Jugulum
I quite agree with Doughnut, that one can hardly take the obvious parody of the Master of the Assassin's Guild's justification of their existence as an attack on religion. As Tony suggested, it's a satirization of the English Public School System--seeing itself as the ones who are the only people qualified to run the country.
The part of the book that does provide a kind of attack on theocracy as a form of government comes (p. 61) with the opening description of Dios .
"Dios, First Minister and High priest among high priests, wasn't a naturally religious man. It wasn't a desirable quality in a high priest, it affected your judgement, made you unsound.
Start believing in things and the whole thing became a farce."
And on the next page, Pratchett could be thought to be taking a swipe at the Catholic Church before the Reformation--with the insistence on the importance of rituals.
But Dios has been ruling the country (as First Minister) and as we later find out since it's founding by having "puppet kings" in golden masks. he Actually Dios rules the country in the ways that are to his personal taste and advantage. And he brainwashes his country extremely successfully to believe in God/Kings and other Gods. But I don't think this makes it an attack on religion. Does the name Stalin ring any bells? And does a system of government which develops something akin to a religious belief in a political theory of government which justifies anything in the name of "The State" and uses that quasi-religious fervor it justify the failure of the government to deal with the real problems of the USSR ring a bell for anyone. Given the date when Pyramids
was written (with the collapse of the USSR), one could, I think, suggest that the book is really an attack on political dictatorships which generally clothe themselves in some sort of quasi-religious status. Actually, I think it's a mishmash of ideas that Pratchett will develop much better in later books, but an attack on religion, it ain't.
I've got lots more to say, but this will do for a first go.