A very post-everything kind of text. And it recalls something that had been said about Kurt Vonnegut novels: It constantly goes off at an right angle to all expected directions. There even seems to be an overarching story towards which there are some hints at the very last pages. Still, not everything fits together, but there is a sequel and maybe things will fall in place. Anyhow, highly entertaining.
What is hard to digest however is the deeply misanthropic undercurrent. All personage is either mistreated, abused and enslaved and accepts this as the expedient status quo or is sadistic or monolithicly evil, most commonly all at once. This seems to be the only message and idea of the author which he wants to convey. The constant repetition of "man is evil" evokes in the reader the desire to learn the WHY or HOW TO BETTER. This the author does not offer and thus (and in spite of some good laughs) one feels somewhat empty when the last page is turned.
I read a lot of SciFi and fantasy for more years than I like to count, and Smallworld was one of the few books that really gave me the feeling to read something new and inventive.
I was a bit irritated by the episodal structure at first, but once you accept that fact and read on you will find the book intruiging, strange and full of excitement and humour. It is somehow weird, but in a very good way. And hey, if you read scifi, and are not a pure technology buff, you want weird and fantastic, don't you? This book was free, but I will definitely spend money for its sequel, even though the story leaves this cute, life-threatening "planet".
I don't understand the good and very good critics of this book. It wasn't funny at all! If you laugh about names like "Reborn in Jesus" or "Little-Pitch-Not-Thy-Tent-Towards-Sodom", it may be a book for you. Ok, it was free, but it was one of the few books were I regeretted spending time on it.
The context is REALLY nice: Neutron-core asteroid, AI robots, pirates, tax collectors. But that doesn't help. I have to admit English is not my main language.