Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #170: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

tumblr_lusgh4XSgk1qhl1c8o1_1280Pratchett’s an author I more or less gave up on. Like with Gaiman, it wasn’t worth suffering the status quo of disappointment in case of that rare anomaly or two. Funny that both got my hopes up with the same book, AKA Good Omens, which the two of them co-wrote. With how perfectly Pratchett and Gaiman complete (and better) one another, I dare say I would advocate for Gaiman divorcing Amanda Palmer and marrying Pratchett. Neither has even approached a book of Good Omens caliber in their respective solo careers, and with their increasing age, and Pratchett’s mental deterioration, it’s doubtful either ever will. Gaiman, though, has come closest; The Graveyard Book is, admittedly, fantastic, yet it still can’t break into the same lofty stratosphere Good Omens resides in for me. The best Pratchett has to offer outside of Good Omens, on the other hand, is… I don’t know, the mildly-amusing, middle-of-the-road Hogfather? Can you see, then, why I was quicker to abandon him than his cohort, Gaiman?

With authors of their (supposed) caliber, however, it’s nigh on impossible to ever give up on them cold turkey like that. There’ll always be that nagging thought that maybe you simply haven’t found the right book yet. Every author has his or her share of misfires; Stephen King wrote the likes of The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonThe Colorado Kid, and Doctor Sleep, so why can’t I allow a similarly prolific author such as Pratchett more time, more books to win me over to his side? This is the attitude that convinced me to read Small Gods, held by nearly all of his fans to be one of his best. As per usual, Pratchett, known largely (primarily, you could argue) for his humor, fails to make me laugh or even to smile. In the spirit of honesty, I have to tell you that if I’m reading or watching something meant to humor me, and it fails entirely, it’s game over. Being funny doesn’t even necessarily have to be its main pursuit; if it makes repeated stabs at humor that leave me stone-faced, my patience for it will’ve been exhausted pretty quickly.

Even if I were feeling especially forgiving, I couldn’t credit him for much else. A god’s existence relying upon belief is something I’ve seen multiple times before, in American Gods, in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and probably in another book or two I just can’t happen to remember at the moment. Nor is skewering religion satirically something I’m not familiar with; Pratchett himself did it better, I feel, in Good Omens, and it wasn’t even as big a part of that work as it was of Small Gods. When you’re preaching to the choir, as Pratchett is here, seeing as I’m an agnostic who finds many aspects of religion, namely organized religion questionable and, yes, laughable, you’d think it’d take very little to get me to nod along. Quite the contrary. I’ve heard so much said about religion by this point in my life that my standards are higher. I’ve seen this all before, and it was funnier and more biting then than it is here. That leaves me with the characters, all of which I find unlikable, and the plot, which has never been Pratchett’s strong-suit, in my opinion.

So, all tolled, there’s not a thing I single positive I could key in on here. This isn’t necessarily because it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read, because it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a worse sin to be forgettable, which Small Gods, and almost all I’ve read of Pratchett’s body of work, is. It’s just another book of his that left me desperately in want of a laugh, or anything memorable for that matter. That all having been said, this doesn’t represent Pratchett’s last chance for me; I still have Unseen Academicals to read, and Lords and Ladies, if it ever gets down the line to me (it’s been “in transit” to the person above me in the hold queue for days). And my expectations are so astronomically low by this point that one of them could easily surprise me. If neither does, though, I think that’ll be it, that I’ll officially be done trying with Pratchett. I guess we’ll see.

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