I’m surprised by the reactions “Small Gods” has on people. For my part, the first time I read I absolutely enjoyed it, and I can honestly say for me is the best stand-alone novel of Discworld and one of the most poignant and magnificently ideated.
On the other hand, when my mother read it for the first time, found it quite confusing (as some of you have also experienced). Nevertheless, these days we have both reread it and I have ended up telling her: “Didn’t I tell you?” She loved it and so did I!
Knowing how to deal with the thorny topic of religion and creating a master criticism out of it is very difficult, but I think only Pratchett could have done it so well. Moreover, as any other novel written by Sir Terry, it hides a lot more than it seems: I completely agree with you, James (when finishing the book my mother and I were crying with emotion).
This novel is full of pearls of wisdom, but these caught my eye over lots of other quotes:
“Fear is strange soil. Mainly it grows obedience like corn, which grows in rows and makes weeding easy. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.”
“Life in this world”, he said “is, as it were, a sojourn in a cave. What can we know of reality? For all we see of the true nature of existence is, shall we say, no more than bewildering and amusing shadows cast upon the inner wall of the cave by unseen blinding light of absolute truth, from which we may or may not deduce some glimmer of veracity, and we as troglodyte seekers of wisdom can only lift our voices to the unseen and say, humbly, ‘Go on, do Deformed Rabbit… it’s my favourite.’”
“Gods never need to be very bright when there are humans to be it for them.”
“Besides, the Ephebian garrison commander had declared somewhat nervously that slavery would henceforth be abolished, which infuriated slaves. What would be the point of saving up to become free if you couldn’t own slaves afterwards? Besides, how’d they eat?”
“‘Yes, lord,’ said Brutha. ‘But, lord, I cannot be a bishop, I cannot even…’
‘I assure you the job does not require much intelligence,’ said Vorbis. ‘If it did, bishops would not be able to do it.’”
“The central spire of Cori Celesti rises up from the mountains at the Hub, ten vertical miles of green ice and snow, topped by the turrets and domes of Dunmanifestin. There the Gods of the Discworld live. At the least, any god who is anybody. And it is strange that, although it takes years of effort and work scheming for a god to get there, once there they never seem to do a lot apart from drink too much and indulge in a little mild corruption. Many systems of government follow the same broad lines.”
But overall remember… Here and now we are alive!
The good judgement is in the little book
X-Clacks-Overhead - GNU Terry Pratchett