Orbology!

Tonight we continue the Small Gods bookclub, as James K recaps the second section of the book. Mike S recapped the first section here. The complete list of sections can be found here. If you’re reading a different edition, post a comment giving its first and last pages, and I’ll add it to the spreadsheet. If you must comment on anything past what we’ve read so far (the first two sections), please rot13 it to avoid spoilers. If you’d like to volunteer to recap future sections, please say so.

That’s all the boilerplate stuff. Let’s get started.

Section 2

From Fear is strange soil. to Most gods find it hard to walk and think at the same time.

What are Freedom Fries made of? The potatoes of defiance!

We open with a mysterious group of dissidents. They meet cloaked and hooded, in one of the numerous caves below The Citadel. We are not told who they are exactly, but there are hints that they are soldiers, or at least many of them are. The symbol of their order is a highly stylised image of a turtle.

They are worried about Vorbis. This is unsurprising, since I’m worried about Vorbis and I don’t have to live with him. They discuss Vorbis’s plans – they believe he will travel to Ephebe to stop “the truth”. They agree Vorbis must die, but he must be in Om, so that everyone sees him fall. They draw lots and the “winner” will have to travel to Ephebe to save their “master” Didactylos. Only once he is in Om and the truth be spread to the masses. And what truth is this? The Turtle Moves.

The key to understanding Pratchett’s work is that he operates in layers. Many of the jokes and references are straightforward, while others are only easily appreciated by those with the requisite background be it in the fantasy genre, politics, science, literature or philosophy. The key to getting the reference is a (probably apocryphal) story about Galileo. It is said that when he signed the church-mandated repudiation of his belief in the theory of heliocentrism he said “and yet it moves”. Combined with the meeting with Vorbis from last time, its clear that  Pratchett is laying the groundwork for a parallel between the shape of the world controversy in this book and the Galileo Affair.

Meanwhile, we find the formerly-great god Om is a similar mood to when we last saw him. He continues to attempt to curse, smite and wax wroth upon various minor flora and fauna, with limited success. Brutha arrives with Brother Nhumrod, but this fails to improve matters. Om rants and raves (and fails to curse a little), but not only in Nhumrod unmoved, he can’t even hear Om. Nhumrod has some experience with hearing voices, so he suggests Brutha ignore what the voices tell him, and Nhumrod decides the best thing to do with the tortoise is to send it to the kitchens. After all, they make excellent soup.

Also how the mighty have fallen. Om is upside down in a basket ready to be used to make soup. This leaves him in a worse position than a turtle would be in because he knows what’s coming. But it’s Burtha to the rescue, and the tortoise god is safe once more. But Burtha is highly sceptical that Om is in fact Om. This leads into a discussion of Omnianism. Om claims to have met the first prophet, but didn’t do much more than show off to him. He also has no idea about Omnianism as a religion, claiming to have nothing to do with its impressive list of commandments. Has he forgotten, or is there something else at work here? Finally, just as Brutha was about to give up on the whole thing Om manifests a very small thunderbolt.

Cut to a couple of soldiers gingerly discussing the subject of holy war, and while doing so encounter one of the fundamental coordination problems faced by anonymous secret societies. It would seem the holy soldiers of Om (or two of them at least) are less keen on the idea of holy war than the sort of people who can view the glory of war from a safe distance.

Burtha needs time to think, so he hoes some beans. Clearly the tortoise has power, but at the same time the idea of the Great God Om being a nearly-powerless tortoise is utterly ridiculous. Burtha asks Om what’s up, but he pleads ignorance (an ignorance that is not entirely genuine). But we do learn Om has been trapped in this form for 3 years (he was aiming for the form of a bull). Just as Brutha is on the verge of giving up again, Om tells him about an argument Brutha had with his grandmother when he was 13, leading Brutha to have a bit of a breakdown.

Which is just the right moment for Vorbis to walk in on them as part of one of his random wanderings through The Citadel. Burtha’s behaviour puzzles him, but one look at Vorbis makes Burtha faint away. Vorbis engages in a little tortoise torture before getting Burtha some help.

While Burtha recovers, Nhumrod and Vorbis have a talk about Burtha. The boy is dim, but eager, illiterate but has a perfect memory. Vorbis finds this very interesting …

Om is till busy roasting to death in the sun, and it would be a true death for Om in his weakend state, but happily a little History Monk ex Machina puts him back on his feet again.

A quick aside, and one Sergeant Simony has been chosen by the Turtle Posse to go to Ephebe.

Burtha is told Vorbis wants to talk to him, but he probably isn’t going to be tortured to death, so that’s nice.

Om wanders the Citadel, looking for the guy in charge in the hope that he can be heard by him at least, but his wanderings lead him to where the Quisition does its work. This leaves Om badly shaken, and he decides he needs time to think.

Tune in next week for section 3 – from “Anyone could go the the Place of Lamentation” to “Fri’it set out”.

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4 thoughts on “Orbology!

  1. Awesome recap.

    One fun reference: Nhumrod describes Brutha to Vorbis as a “dumb ox”, which was also what his classmates called Thomas Aquinas.

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