jmac Book Journal

jmac Book Journal

I try to always have one work of fiction on my plate, and I usually juggle one or more nonfiction volumes -- typically computer and random science or philosophy books -- at the same time. On this page, I'll give at least a nod to each one as I finish it (or give up on it).

I don't consider these full-on, qualified reviews, but just collections of thoughts I had after seeing each film.

I will avoid putting major spoilers in my entries on fictional works, writing only the sorts of things I don't mind reading about a pick before I pick it up, but I suspect my tolerance for plot point foreknowledge may be on high side, so please be careful.

Small Gods
by Terry Pratchett
Consumed: 12/19/99

I found this little blue paperback sitting atop my bookshelf during my search for the big black 'Again, Dangerous Visions' hardcover I'm working my way through. I seem to recall purchasing it in mid-1997 (two apartments ago) on a friend's recommendation, but tossing it aside from boredom a little later. But since the missing book held no mighty grip on me, as I last left it between two of its many short stories, I thought I'd zip through this one instead.

And this was a nice little break. I haven't read any other Pratchett but for 'Good Omens', a collaboration with Neil Gaiman, from which I took great delight some years ago. His style is very, very sugary -- mm, maybe the right word is chocolately. No, that's horrible. I want to say that Pratchett, it seems from the 1 1/2 books of his I've read, actually has rather complex characters living out valid plotlines in his fantasy land of Discworld, but chooses to present their stories in an unendingly light-hearted tone, suffuse with nonsubtle puns and running gags and dopey meta-humor. When I was much younger, I used to like comedy fantasy books of the kind Robert Aspirin wrote, featuring one-dimensional personalities having silly adventures, one thin book after another, or non-characters in pointy hats running about as delivery mechanisms for jokes the author thought up at his last D&D game. Pratchett is the opposite of this. Yeah.

Anyway, Small Gods: It's a pretty standard hero story, stretched to extremes. The bumpkinish boy destined for greatness is an utterly blank buffoon at the story's opening and rapidly bounces along to wisdom and leadership as he leaves home, does some stuff and then comes back. The villain is utterly Disneyesque, a freaky, bony-yet-charismatic dude (he'd be the one character with an upper-class British accent if this were actually made into an American animated film) who tries to corrupt the hero and gets inevitably squished for it at the end. Actually, now that I think of it, it rather much is Disney formula, right down to the wisecracking animal sidekick -- see, the story begins when the hero, a novice priest of a militant and expansionist religion, is caught in a mess when his god accidentally becomes incarnate in the body of an old tortoise, and only he can hear its voice, and now he needs -- ahh, well, you can see where it might go from there. Nobody sings, though; I'll give it that.

I found 'A,DV' next to my bed a couple of days ago, and have returned to eating through it, steadily.


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