It was a gorgeous ad. I don’t remember the symbol on the back of the tortoise, but I remember the colors and how beautiful the image was, all swirly and spacey with lots of stars. I remember looking from the image to the blurb which described a story about a once powerful god that woke up one day to find he was a little tortoise.
And that’s all I needed to read.
But it wasn’t an insane quest or anything. Months went by. I hunted a bit here and there. Found the book (Small Gods by Terry Prachett) at a library. I read the first line.
“Now consider the tortoise and the eagle.”
By the time I finished that section, I knew I had something amazing, even life-changing, in my hands. I know. I don’t usually gush about books with that much enthusiasm. But the more I read, the more I realized Terry Prachett was saying things I’d always felt but had struggled to put into words. Not only that, I loved the black sands of Death’s realm and the idea that you see yourself there. You create your own heaven. You create your own hell.
When I finished, I felt as if I’d just been hit between the eyes. I didn’t read or write anything for a couple of days later. I thought about the eagle and the tortoise in my own scripture study, as well as the way Brutha had resolved his own spiritual conflicts.
The Last Unicorn was what got me writing fantasy, and I still love it very much. But Small Gods became my favorite fantasy book of all time.
Because I loved it so much, I bought it. I checked out other Terry Prachett books from the library.
And couldn’t get past the first page.
I kept looking for another scene as profound as the one I’d found in Small Gods. I wanted another conflict of the same scale as the one between religion, philosophy, and science. I wanted the same experience, and with each book I realized it wasn’t going to happen.
So I moved on to other authors.
I still re-read Small Gods every few years. It’s one of a handful of fiction that have that distinction. But I think it’s been long enough since that first amazing read that I won’t be looking for a second Small Gods in his fiction. I can just take it as it is. I hope so anyway.