Mark Reads ‘Small Gods’: Part 16

In the sixteenth part of Small Gods, Brutha tries his hand at world building. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Well, for such a fantastical story, this is pretty realistic.


I feel a sense of poetry has been achieved by Vorbis’s end. It was terrifying to see how bold he got there in the end, and I’m now more positive than ever that, for the most part, he believed what he said. Deep down, maybe not. But at the very least, he believed that he’d get away with what he’d done. I say that because of this bit:

Vorbis waved his hand to the great facade of the temple. “Men built this. We built this,” he said. “And what did Om do? Om comes? Let him come! Let him judge between us!”

First of all, I can now fully appreciate the irony of him saying this because that’s precisely what Om does. Still, look at the arrogance! Look how certain he was! Ultimately, certainty is what undoes Vorbis. I think Pratchett was smart to give us the point of view of Vorbis in the Great Desert because it provided me with the exact amount of closure that I needed. I wanted to know that Vorbis was aware of what he’d done. He’d torment himself with the knowledge, but did he ever know?

Now he had to cross the desert. What could there be to fear–

The desert was what you believed.

Vorbis looked inside himself.

And went on looking.

He sagged to his knees.


“Don’t leave me! It’s so empty!”

So Vorbis didn’t truly believe in Om or God or anything of the sort. He believed in the emptiness of himself, and he’ll spend an eternity trying to cross a desert entirely by himself.


The Commandments

A unique opportunity is presented to the Omnians here: they get to meet the god they worship, and they get to figure out how they’ll worship him. Sort of? It’s very complicated, which I enjoyed about all of this. There’s no easy answer given to these people, and even when they want to take the easy way out, they’re immediately stopped by Brutha.

On the surface, it seems like a simple task. The Omnians have to come up with their commandments through Brutha. So, what sort of rules should a society have? What are basic principles that everyone should follow. A random person suggests forbidding murder, which seemed like a perfect idea to me. Except… it’s not, is it?

“It’s hard to explain,” said Brutha. “But I think it’s got something to do with how people should behave. I think… you should do things because they’re right. Not because gods say so. They might say something different another time.”

Whew, Brutha. We’re talking about Ethics now, aren’t we? Brutha is trying to prevent the same problems from reoccurring, and he knows if they rely on some sort of ironclad morality, then people will just twist it to their own needs. Again. And Brutha goes a step further: he demands that Om actually do something from time to time. Because the truth is that gods require people to believe in them or else they die, and that means this system has to be reciprocal in nature.

It’s a brilliant move, but I wish that Brutha’s other attempt at fixing everything went better.

Total War

Who had forgotten that every nation surrounding Omnia was coming for revenge? THIS GUY RIGHT HERE. I thought that the presentation of Vorbis’s body would be enough, but I understand why it’s not, not by a longshot. Vorbis and the Church did TERRIBLE things to these people and their nations, and there’s no evidence that without Vorbis, this won’t start all up again. Except that’s exactly what Brutha is trying to stop:

“You will probably defeat us. But not all of us. And then what will you do? Leave a garrison? Forever? And eventually a new generation will retaliate. Why you did this won’t mean anything to them. You’ll be the oppressors. They’ll fight. They might even win. And there’ll be another war. And one day people will say: why didn’t they sort it all out, back then? On the beach. Before it all started. Before all those people died. Now we have that chance. Aren’t we lucky?”

GODDAMN, BRUTHA. Watching this change come over him has been incredible, and I just respect him so much. It wasn’t enough just to get rid of Vorbis; Brutha wanted to change this entire part of the Discworld for the better, to stop the cycle of violence that had plagued these nations (and many others) since forever. He wanted to open up Omnia to other religions, to trade, to reduce the size of their army, and all of these are brilliant suggestions that would have made Omnia so much better. It’s just too bad that no one told Urn and Simony or anyone else not to charge the beach. WHOOPS. My gods, how the hell is that going to be resolved? I don’t think Brutha could stop either side from fighting, and then the whole cycle will begin again.

Lord. I’m scared.

The original text contains use of the words “stupid” and “mad.”

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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