Mark Reads ‘Small Gods’: Part 9

In the ninth part of Small Gods, I DID NOT EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN SO SOON. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.



Seriously, he’s now one of my favorite characters. I mean!!!! Canonically disabled philosopher who utterly destroys Vorbis and risks his life doing so!!! HOW CAN I NOT LOVE HIM???? His style is so much fun because he’s a philosopher with a sense of humor and a willingness to poke fun at himself and what he does. He is in direct contrast to virtually every other philosopher we meet in Ephebe. (Which is part of the reason why Vorbis is so shocked by him at the end of the section, but I’ll touch on that more in a bit.) But what makes him so appealing to me is that he is not dogmatic. In that sense, he’s juxtaposed with people like Vorbis, Nhumrod, and even Brutha. He’s ready to challenge his own beliefs, to accept that he does not know anything absolutely, and to adapt to the knew things he learns about the world.

This absolutely horrifies Brutha, unsurprisingly. Brutha has lived a life of absolutes, of rigid rules and frameworks. He can’t even begin to comprehend how Didactylos even functions on a day-to-day basis without a vicious system to guide his every thought and action. Well, I should say that he is starting to understand what’s actually going on:

Now he knew why, when Vorbis spoke about Ephebe, his face was gray with hatred and his voice was tense as a wire. If there was no truth, what was there left? And these bumbling old men spent their time kicking away the pillars of the world, and they’d nothing to replace them with but uncertainty. And they were proud of this?

I wonder if Brutha will reach a point where he is proud to be like that, too.

The Truth

There are two major, major things that happen in this section that I expected to occur much further along in this book. But I now see why this had to happen right here. Brutha was at a point in his development where he needed a hard truth: he was the sole believer in Om, and the god that the Church and Vorbis prayed to? That wasn’t Om anymore, and it hadn’t been for a long time. The Church that Brutha has dedicated his every waking moment to is, as quoted by Om, a “shell of ceremonies and buildings and priests and authority.” It’s not about gods anymore or belief. It’s about structure. It’s about power.

And that makes Brutha’s role all the more clear to me: he’ll become Om’s prophet to help the Omnians believe in the real Om, not the sham of an idea that the Church pushes.

Of course, that’s going to be a whole lot harder than it sounds, and it already sounds impossible. We can blame Vorbis and his logical acrobatics for that. When Brutha begins to seriously question what he’s been taught, Vorbis busts out an absolutely absurd reason for justifying his version of the “truth”:

“And so it is with truth,” said Vorbis. “There are some things which appear to be the truth, which have all the hallmarks of truth, but which are not the real truth. The real truth must sometimes be protected by a labyrinth of lies.”

He turned to Brutha. “Do you understand me?”

“No, Lord Vorbis.”

“I mean, that which appears to our senses is not the fundamental truth. Things that are seen and heard and done by the flesh are mere shadows of a deeper reality. This is what you must understand as you progress in the Church.”

I know I’m repeating myself here, but you have no idea how real this is. Well, maybe you do. Maybe you were raised to view human bodies as flesh, like Vorbis describes them here, as if our bodies are a separate sentient being that controls our souls. It is something I was taught, too. I was raised to believe that my soul was in a constant war with the desires of my body, even when it came down to things like hunger and thirst. Those were weaknesses of the mind and the body, and I was supposed to fight them. Vorbis is knowingly lying to Brutha, though, and that really should have been a clue as to how manipulative he truly was. He knew what he was doing; he knew that Brutha was close to discovering that he was a fraud; and he pushed on anyway.

I’m just… I’m so fucked up.

The Siege

It’s really disturbing to me to get Brutha’s internal monologue during the labyrinth sequence because we can see how fear grips his so hard, he avoids standing up for himself. He pushes away his own understanding of reality to support Vorbis, and isn’t aware until it’s too late that he’s just helped Vorbis do the impossible. The darkness that pours into Ephebe is the darkness of Vorbis and his terrible, horrible dedication. It’s the darkness of denial. It’s the darkness of manipulation. And Brutha helped let it in.

In less than an hour, Ephebe is taken over by Vorbis’s men, and in the most supreme lie of all, we find out that he discovered a way for the Omnians to cross the desert and survive. Unsurprisingly? It took men dying to accomplish this. But they’re just collateral damage to Vorbis, you know? They’re a means to an end.

That’s why Didactylos makes me so happy. Amidst one of the most upsetting scenes imaginable, Didactylos uses humor and sarcasm to deliver a crushing emotional blow to Vorbis. Like Brutha and Vorbis, I was initially confused as to why Didactylos would discard his writing so easily and agree with Vorbis. The experience of realizing what he was actually saying, though? INCREDIBLE. I admit I’m worried that Vorbis will have the philosopher killed, but for the moment, I will savor this sweet, sweet victory.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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