A moment of silence for Sir Terry Pratchett, who taught us not to fear Death. Go read his last story.
When I was a teenager, I absolutely loved Les Miserables. I read a condensed version of the book when I was fourteen, heard the musical for the first time at sixteen, saw the play for my eighteenth birthday, and read the full version between seventeen and nineteen. I read the full version in the original French during my first year in China, when I was twenty.
When I was seventeen, my friend James Chen told me about a book called Night Watch. It was a fantasy send-up of Les Mis, he said. And that was the first time I ever read Terry Pratchett. To this day, Night Watch is probably my favorite of the Discworld books (because I like humor, time travel, and French revolutions).
I kept reading, mostly as I could pick up books through the library or used bookstores. I read Men at Arms and didn’t get it, I read Guards, Guards! and did. I loved Jingo and Hogfather and Mort.
But most of all, besides Night Watch, I love Small Gods.
I picked up Small Gods in the oldest bookstore in Hong Kong, during my six-week exile in the summer and fall of 2011. Small Gods is …different. Sir Terry loved clever protagonists, brilliant but unappreciated people, usually cynical (Mort, Sam Vimes, Susan, Moist). Brutha is the exact opposite. Brutha is simple in ways that not even Carrot is simple. He’s an uncomplicated believer in Om who happens to have a perfect memory. His belief and his simplicity power the entire story.
I like Small Gods because it talks about the power of belief, of how institutions corrupt, of what kind of man Brutha is and what kind of man Vorbis is, and what they represent for religion, power, and institutions. But I love it because Sir Terry so obviously wasn’t Brutha, and wanted to write him anyway. Because Sir Terry struggled to write this protagonist who was so unlike his other protagonists and so unlike himself. And he succeeded.
Goodnight, Sir Terry. I hope Death said ‘thank you’ for making him less scary to the rest of us.