Yash Recommends: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

GoodOmens-Soft-2000

Mass Market Paperback, 367 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Ace
Source: Borrowed Yash’s copy

Yash’s choice for me was Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, two authors I only have a passing familiarity with. I had tried to read Good Omens back when I was a youngster but lacked the mental faculties to fully appreciate the humour and wit present in the book and had given up before I reached the 100th page. I was willing to try again and went into the book with an open mind, ready for whatever lay in wait for me.

“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
― Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

And boy, was I in for a treat. See, I’m a capricious reader. I like my tropes but I also like to be intellectually challenged. The fact that Gaiman and Pratchett take liberties with religious mythos/definition of angels and demons tickled my fancy. They subvert the idea of that good and bad are strictly separate categories and posit that there is a grey area most people fall in. But before that, here’s the official synopsis:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch(the world’s only completelyaccurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

So you have a group of kids called the Them among them a grubby, smelly almost 11 (or eleven, details are missing) year old boy, Adam Young, who is the Antichrist, not that he is aware of it. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Conquest, and Death) are gathering and a hell hound has been sent to find his master (the Antichrist with the express purpose of helping him end the world as we know it). The story focuses mainly on an angel called Aziraphale and a demon called Crowley who have decidedly conflicted feelings where the end of the world is concerned because after spending millenia on earth, they have realized they like humans and like the imagination and creativity of human beings particularly where their art is concerned. Crowley is an aficionado of old cars and Aziraphale loves books; they have even discovered that the distance both of them have cultivated between themselves and their masters have led to warmer feelings for each other than is probably allowed. They are friends and enjoy each other’s company on different occasions. So to say they are not looking forward to the apocalypse is well…probably an understatement. There are a lot more characters such as Agnes Nutter’s granddaughter, Anathema Device, a witch, and the witch-hunter-in-training,Newton Pulsier, Shadwell, the head witch-hunter and many more.

“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
― Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

The trouble comes when the wrong baby is given to the wrong parents–that is, the Antichrist is handed off to people he was not meant for and ends up growing in the British countryside, making friends, creating trouble, and just being a child.  And when the time comes for the Apocalypse, well, things get a bit complicated.

I found the novel funny and the prose sly. The authors poke fun at human beings and their beliefs but in a far gentler way than I had expected them to. I can see why Yash likes the book so much and honestly, I want to linger in the world Pratchett and Gaiman created. Why isn’t there a movie? Is there a movie? If you’re easily offended and do not want people taking creative liberties with religious stuff, then you may want to avoid this but if you want to be amused and entertained by excellent storytelling, give this one a go. Good Omens is not something you read in one go but rather savour over the course of many days. The book made me feel both sad to be human and happy to be human. I did wish at times that the cast was a bit smaller but ultimately, the effect of using many different eyes through which to view the same story made it a whole lot more universal than it would have been otherwise and I appreciated that.

Thanks Yash!

“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”
― Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

  • This book sounds really good! I’m glad you enjoyed it, especially if it was one you weren’t sure you were going to like before. Definitely going to have to check it out. Great review!

    • It was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  • It’s not my favourite Pratchett book, (I haven’t read much Gaiman), but I still really enjoyed this book.

    • I haven’t really read too many from either authors but I enjoyed this one. I definitely want to try more Pratchett at some point.

      • I recommend him. He’s one of my favourite authors. He gets better later in the series, imo.

        I read the he said he discovered plot when he wrote Mort which was fourth in the Discworld series.

        • Ha, I just may start with that one then.

          • A lot of them you can read out of order. There are a few that have to be read in order.

            What genre/books do you like to read?

            • I like female protagonists and my default genre is fantasy though I read just about everything except romance and westerns.

              • You may want to start with either The Wee free men or Equal rites then. Both have strong female protagonists.

  • Yash

    No movie sadly, but there is a radio play. I need it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knt4h/episodes/guide