by Terry Pratchett
“Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.”
** This particular blog post is being hosted by my husband, an avid reader and supreme lover of Terry Pratchett. Any and all content is in his own words and as such, belongs to him.**
Good afternoon. Terry Pratchett was a master writer.
There are a few definitions of what it means to be a “master” floating around. A common one is to spend 10,000 hours at a craft. Considering he has over 50 published books, one could surmise he reached that level. To me, his work is a living embodiment of a quote that I can’t quite find anywhere regarding Mozart, or Bach, or Beethoven. Let’s go with Mozart, and let’s paraphrase the quote to read as “I didn’t compose music, as much as the music flowed through me.” The Discworld is a fantasy world that is portrayed to his readers less as a world that Pratchett created, but rather a world that flowed through him to us. A world that’s flat (a disc if you will), supported by four elephants, riding along on a turtle that swims through space. One that on its surface is very different from ours, but dig a little deeper and you find its exactly like ours. A world that speeds up, slows down, keeps the pages turning, digs into our psyche, while always suggesting not to take things too seriously.
The Discworld series is a very diverse set of fantasy novels. Illustrated by dozens of books, filled with several different story lines. There’s one about wizards, including an inept every-man wizard named Rincewind. There are stories about a great group of witches, fighting for witchcraft, equal rights, and often themselves. A line about the police force in the largest city, Ankh-Morpork, and the troubles they go through to maintain the correct amount of murder, thievery and so on, is conducted by the guilds of assassins, thieves, merchants, et al. One story line, which is a personal favourite, is about the character Death. He generally makes an appearance in every story, ushering characters into their version of the great beyond, but occasionally he plays a starring role. One enjoyable example was when he was “let go” of his duties, and hilarity ensued. There are a few one-off stories that don’t have a multi book arch, and Small Gods is one of them. The only similarity with some of the other one-offs, and perhaps why I enjoy it so much is that it takes place in a desert.
A theocracy placed in a desert will always hold a special place in my heart. For I grew up in a land that has provisionally allowed females to drive. It’ll become official in the Spring of 2018. Being married to a strong, independent woman, hearing of women not being able to drive is farcical. To the point of amusement, which is perhaps why I enjoy Pratchett novels so much. Satire at its finest. At one point in Small Gods, our protagonist, antagonist, and their God incarnated in their world as a turtle, are visiting Ephebe. A land loosely related to Athens. Their form of government is unique on the Discworld…
All over the world there were rulers with titles like the Exalted, the Supreme, and Lord High Something or Other. Only in one small country was the ruler elected by the people, who could remove him whenever they wanted-and they called him the Tyrant.
The Ephebians believe that every man should have the vote. (Provided that he wasn’t poor, foreign, nor disqualified by reason of being mad, frivolous, or a woman). Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible, and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary (Ephebian). And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.
This book isn’t even about the Tyrant, and the land of Ephebe plays a small part in the tale. But this is Pratchett; he’ll sprinkle his stories with tangential paragraphs describing the seemingly ridiculous nature of the Discworld, which of course, remind ourselves of our world. In case you were wondering, this book was written in 1992, and here we are in 2017, with tyrants in charge and women provisionally being allowed to drive.
The story itself is simple enough. Omnia, is a land with one God, one religion, and one set of rules dictated by the religious hierarchy. One that has “inquisitors” that report to “exquisitors” and everyone gets along. A citizen of Omnia has complete freedom to choose their way of life. The only caveat is disagreement with the religion could lead to your way of life being shortened via death through torture. It’s a fun place.
Then one day the God of Omnia, Om, decides to visit his people in bull form, or perhaps eagle, or swan, or other apex animal. However, he shows up as a turtle, because in the Discworld, the power of Gods is dictated by the belief their followers provide. The problem for the God Om, is that his followers have taken to believing the rules, and the fear, rather than the actual God. All but one follower, a simple fellow named Brutha. The story follows Brutha’s acceptance that his God is speaking to him, as well as Om’s acceptance that the only person he can speak to is an idiot. Invariably, Brutha and Om (remember, in Turtle form), gets wrapped up in the schemes of the religious hierarchy (a man named Vorbis). They journey to Ephebe (that has democracy, philosophers, infidels, and plenty of Gods), journey across the sea, walk through the desert, and generally have many troubles. It’s fantastic.
If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, biting satire, and most of all, excellent writing, I strongly recommend any Terry Pratchett book. This is my personal favorite (so far), because it speaks to my past, and provides telling commentary on topics that we as a society take entirely too seriously – religion, and politics. It’s all very serious, and very important, but so is living, and taking a step back to see what’s going on and enjoy life. Not only for us, the followers, but also for our God(s).