the Little Red Reviewer

The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest

Posted on: October 8, 2018

The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest

Available Oct 10th, 2018

where I got it: received review copy (thanks!!)

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A number of years ago, I adored Francesca Forrest’s novel Pen Pal.  If you’ve never read an epistolary story, or think you don’t like epistolary stories, Pen Pal will prove to you that writing letters back and forth is THE BEST way to tell a story (ok, ok, that’s my opinion). So when I heard that she had a new novelette coming out, you KNEW I was going to do whatever it took to get my hands on a copy!

 

The Inconvenient God is approximately 10% what it says on the tin.  The back cover copy states that it is about an official from the Ministry of Divinity who is assigned the job of decommissioning a waning god.  She gets to the job site only to learn that something fishy is going on. That all happens in what feels like the first five pages of the book.

 

And that’s when the really good stuff starts!  None of which is mentioned on the back cover. So when you buy the book, ignore the back cover copy!  It tells you nothing about this amazing world, nothing about this culture that being forced to move into a future it isn’t quite ready for, nothing about how history is written by the winners or how easy it is for entire stories and histories to be lost.  To be honest, when I read the back cover copy, I thought this was going to be about an old sky beard who was a professor at a college, and the guy refused to retire even though he had dementia. Yeah, that is not at all what this story is about!!

Although Forrest keeps the worldbuilding graceful and light,  the Polity has sprawled as far as possible, absorbing whatever peoples it comes across, bringing “civilization”, including forcing universities to teach only in the common vernacular and  bringing all local gods under the auspices of the “divine expressions”. What all that means is that local languages, especially languages that were only spoken, have been forgotten because no one is allowed to speak them or attempt to write them down, and people live in daily fear of being told that their village’s local gods no longer exist, or ahem, are no longer needed.  (Did I just read a Culture book, from the point of view of people who are “welcomed” into The Culture??)

 

At Nando University, it’s time for their trickster god, Ohin, to be decommissioned. He’s become a sort of god of slackers and drop outs, and maybe if he’s decommissioned,  his slacker adherents will start going to class, stop being drunk all the time, and stop leaving empty bottles all over his shrine. And come on, no one really believes in Ohin,  people just want an excuse to drink and skip class! right?

 

Yeah. . . so Ohin’s not ready to go.   And he’s not what he says he is, either.

 

Do gods create us, or do we create gods?  Ohin has become what his adherents believe he is. The more they believe in a trickster god, the more he becomes a trickster who enjoys playing pranks. The more they want him to be a slacker and a drunkard, the more that’s what he becomes. Shaped by the beliefs of his adherents, Ohin can’t even remember who he was.

 

His followers aren’t at fault, they don’t know any better. All the mythology, all the storie, everything in the library tells them that this. Is. what. Ohin. Is. and you’d trust a library book, right? You’d trust your professor, right?

 

And  . . .  I’m not gonna tell you anymore, because spoilers.  Ah, now I see why the back cover copy vaguebooked so much!

 

More fun questions – when a god remembers their past, is this a good thing, or a bad thing?   This story is short, barely 70 pages, and it functions perfectly as a novelette. Paced just right,  Forrest focuses on the task at hand and the characters involved, without getting lost in the weeds of unnecessary politics or worldbuilding. She’s following Vonnegut’s writerly rule that Every sentence should move the story forward. That said, If she ever wanted to expand this into a full length novel, she’s got more than enough meaty questions to play with and a huge and varied world to play in.

 

Perfect for fans of Max Gladstones’ Craft sequence,  N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, or Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, The Inconvenient God touches on lost history, colonialism, the best (and worst) ways to chat with divinities, culture clash,  and how to enjoy the new without forgetting the old.  This is simply a fantastic little story from the first page to the last.  It was a joy to read,  and got me asking a lot of fun questions too!

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4 Responses to "The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest"

This sounds amazing. It’s not something I would have picked up on my own, but thanks to your review, I MUST READ it.

That’s why I like your blog so much. You introduce me to books I otherwise would not find.

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I hope you like it as much as I did! this is one of those wonderful stories isn’t about what it is about, and those are my favorite kind!

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Epistolary-told stories certainly have their champions and their nay-sayers. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the first epistolary story I read. I don’t look for books written in this fashion, but I don’t necessary dislike them. I appreciate your review of “The Inconvenient God” as I would not have found this book otherwise. I will give it a read.

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thank you for reminding me of Dracula! i haven’t read that in, i don’t know, maybe ten years? Certainly I was too young to appreciate it when I read it, I shall have to give it a reread one of these days.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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