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The Gods Trilogy
Terry Pratchett
Victor Gollancz, 758 pages

Josh Kirby
The Gods Trilogy
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
SF Site Review: Maskerade
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

If you've never encountered Pratchett's witty blend of fantastical satire and story, you'll find this collection an excellent entry point. The theme, of course, is gods and their worshippers, and if you can't laugh at religion, this collection may just teach you a few things about human and godly nature.

The hero of Pyramids is young Pteppic, newly minted assassin of that powerful Guild in infamous Ankh-Morpork, and heir to the throne of Djelibeybi, a 7,000 year old desert kingdom best known for -- you guessed it -- pyramids. (There are, in fact, so many pyramids in Djelibeybi that this single industry is bankrupting the country. Pyramids are expensive, and tradition -- as well as stern "maximum high priest" Dios -- insists that every king have one, with the finest trappings available, spare no expense, no matter that the astronomical pyramid deficit keeps the country a cultural and technological backwater.)

Summoned back after the death of his father, Pteppic hopes to bring some enlightenment to his entrenched homeland, including such Ankh-Morpork ideas as plumbing and feather beds. Unfortunately his plans are stymied by High Priest Dios. As official mouthpiece between Djelibeybi's god-king and the grovelling populace, Dios edits each of Pteppic's orders. Before Pteppic quite realizes what's happening, he's ordered construction of the biggest, most extreme pyramid ever -- a structure which will release mystical metaphysical forces the like of which have never been seen before. Animal-headed gods walking about, the dead rising up, and Djelibeybi itself swallowed by a pyramid-induced singularity, leading to eminent war between the nations on either side: that's an awful lot for a new king to deal with. Pteppic's assassin training is bound to come in handy, as will his innate common sense -- that hallmark of all Pratchett heroes and heroines.

The middle novel, Small Gods, considers deities from a rather more intimate angle. Sturdy young Brutha is an acolyte of the great Om, lord of the Earth -- which makes him less than convinced when a tortoise in the garden he's weeding claims to be the Great One. Deacon Vorbis, head of the dreaded Quisition (hypothetical motto: "You don't have to be pitilessly sadistic to work here, but it helps.") is even less convinced, but knows a good angle when he sees it. Brutha's photographic memory makes him a fine tool for gathering Quisition evidence against Vorbis' enemies -- including the eccentric country of Ephebe, where heretic philosophers have dared to announce the theory "De Chelonian Mobile": The Turtle Moves. (Some Ephebians, in direct opposition to the Omnian belief that the world is a ball in space orbited by the sun, would have the world a disk mounted on the back of a turtle slowly moving through space.) Ephebians have a different approach to gods, after all, as the tortoise Om explains:

"The Ephebians had gods the same way that other cities had rats... If enough people believe, you can be god of anything."
That power of belief -- and responsibility for it -- is the main theme of Small Gods. It creates gods and lends power to their followers; it can cause grief as well as good, all depending on how we use it. As Brutha finally proves, "every people gets the god they deserve."

Rounding out Pratchett's discourse on deities and belief, we have Hogfather: The winter holidays on the Discworld culminate, of course, on Hogswatch Eve, when the great Hogfather dons his red suit, climbs aboard his sleigh (pulled by eight magical hogs), and travels 'round the world delivering toys to good little children everywhere. This year, however, a mysterious group of humbugs called The Auditors have taken out a contract on the cheerful Fat Man through the Guild of Assassins. With the great man missing, either dead or in hiding, and the biggest holiday of the year in peril, Death steps in to save the day. Donning a fake white beard and a bright red Hogfather costume (with a pillow for stomach padding) over his skeletal form, trusty scythe in hand, Death sets to work managing the Hogfather's holiday chores -- and none of them are easy. It's Death versus Commercialization, mass marketing, and the waning innocence of children, with a few other choice targets thrown in. The scene where Death plays department store Hogfather in downtown Ankh-Morpork is worth the price alone. Through it all, Pratchett balances cynicism with good-hearted faith, managing a powerful close which just might reawaken the lost child-like sense of wonder of the most hardened adult.

Copyright © 2000 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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