Review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Oh Good Omens, how much do I love thee? I love thee as though thou were a vassal of water and I were a lonely wanderer in the desert, or as though thou were a sugary donut and I a fat child. Know that I would do aught to preserve thy existence as I love thee more than aught else in the frickin’ world.

There was a bit of a mix-up when the Antichrist was born, due in part to the machinations of Crowley, who did not so much fall as saunter downwards, and in part to the mysterious ways as manifested in the form of a part-time rare book dealer, an angel named Aziraphale. Like top agents everywhere, they’ve long had more in common with each other than the sides they represent, or the conflict they are nominally engaged in. The only person who knows how it will all end is Agnes Nutter, a witch whose prophecies all come true, if one can only manage to decipher them.
So, the Antichrist has been born and uh… lost. Both Heaven and Hell know that the end is nigh and are using their representatives on Earth, Aziraphale and Crowley, to manipulate the situation so their side can be victorious in the Final Battle. Except neither Aziraphale or Crowley particularly want the world to end. All the good musicians are in hell, and Aziraphale dreads the concept of sitting around in Heaven listening to nothing but Elgar. Crowley loves his 1926 Bentley, that has one owner from new (him) and doesn’t want to lose all the work he did for Hell creating the M1 and mobile phones. So eventually, the pair think that perhaps it might be better after all if the World continued to, well… exist.
There isn’t a single part of this book that isn’t ridiculously clever. Even the insignificant parts have lengthy and hilarious footnotes. It’s set in the modern day, unlike a lot of fantasy novels, so we can relate to a lot of the humour. It’s definitely not a comedy novel though – it’s much more subtle, more mature that that. The humour never gets in the way of the plot, so it doesn’t trip over its own feet trying to be funny.
Demons aren’t bound by physics. If you take the long view, the universe is just something small and round, like those water-filled balls which produce a miniature snowstorm when you shake them*. For those of angel stock or demon breed, size, and shape, and composition, are simply options.
*Although, unless the ineffable plan is a lot more ineffable than it’s given credit for, it does not have a giant plastic snowman at the bottom.
However, it wouldn’t be half the masterpiece is is without Aziraphale and Crowley. They bounce off and support each other wonderfully. Although on opposite ‘teams,’ they’ve known each other for millennia and so bonded out of mutual respect and loneliness. I’ve never seen such amazingly-crafted characters in any other piece of fiction – while they both obviously emerged from their respective sides, thousands of years on Earth has mellowed them out. Hilarity ensues, especially when each side suspects the other of being responsible for a particular grievance, like traffic wardens.

Crowley put the Bentley in gear. Then he remembered something. He snapped his fingers. The wheel clamps disappeared.
   “Let’s have lunch,” he said. “I owe you one from, when was it…”
   “Paris, 1793,” said Aziraphale.
   “Oh, yes. The Reign of Terror. Was that one of yours, or one of ours?”
   “Wasn’t it yours?”
   “Can’t recall. It was quite a good restaurant, though.”
   As they drove past an astonished traffic warden his notebook spontaneously combusted, to Crowley’s amazement.
   “I’m pretty certain I didn’t mean to do that,” he said.
   Aziraphale blushed.
   “That was me,” he said, “I had always thought your people invented them.”
   “Did you? We thought they were yours.”
   Crowley stared at the smoke in the rearview mirror.
   “Come on,” he said. “Let’s do the Ritz.”
 
Sorry. I could pretty much sit here and post quotes at you all day, but then you wouldn’t have the fun of discovering them for yourself. Which I highly recommend you do, by the way. Even the minor characters are amusing – Famine, of Apocalyptic Horseman fame, is responsible for introduction of fast food, diet crazes and insta-meals all over the globe and constantly visits McDonalds restaurants to gleefully examine his handiwork for himself.
 
It does have a fairly formal tone though, and frequently discusses theology issues, albeit in an accessible and humorous way. It suggests that perhaps God and his demonic counterpart aren’t as infallible as they’re supposed to be and that even their plans can go awry. I wouldn’t say it’s likely to offend anyone as it’s very tongue-in-cheek, but be ready to consider that maybe God’s plans are only ineffable because he isn’t quite sure what’s going on himself!
 
My only complaint is that the ending is a little slow. It’s not bad exactly, far from it, but it doesn’t seem to keep up to the fast-paced style of the rest of the book. I’m not really sure how I’d have changed it myself but it seems to very nearly cross the border into Twee And Cheesy Land.

Dark light is not actually an oxymoron. It’s the colour past ultra-violet. The technical term for it is infra-black. It can be seen quite easily under experimental conditions. To perform the experiment simply select a healthy brick wall, with a good runup, and, lowering your head, charge.
 
The colour that flashes in bursts behind your eyes, behind the pain, just before you die, is infra-black.

I’ve read works of both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, but I’d be hard pressed to liken this to any of their other books. It’s clear that the positive literary aspects of both authors are showcased in Good Omens. It’s more formal than Terry Pratchett’s usual works and funnier than Neil Gaiman’s. I wish more than anything that they’d teamed up again and written at least one more novel because this is, and always will be, one of my absolute favourite novels.

Comments

  1. Hannah says:

    And I NEED to read this. I've had a borrowed copy on my shelf since last Summer (though I really want my own copy but it was kinda shoved into my hands, haha) and I read the first couple of pages and omg I want to read it but again with time. 😐 Can't wait for the tv series though!

    1. Hanna says:

      You haven't read it? Oh Hannah. Get it read this year for your Pratchett challenge 🙂

      There's a TV series? Ohh no. I HATE it when they RUIN books with god-awful TV series. They NEVER get it right. The first draft of this had a lot of swearing in, but I edited it out and just used a lot of capital letters instead, but you get the idea.

    2. Hannah says:

      No, I know! I'm so bad, right? I do plan to though.
      And yup, it was announced last year. I love seeing how they do it, it's always interesting!

  2. andreamantis says:

    I love this book, too! It was my pick for my book club a year or two ago and it went over really well. I love Crowley – my favorite part was when he was talking about his plants and threatening them! And when Aziraphale gets a stain on his shirt and Crowley tells him to magic it away and Aziraphale says something like, "Yes, but I'll know it was there!" Such a funny book. I'm ashamed to say that I've never read anything else by either author, but I plan to remedy that sometime soon!

    1. Hanna says:

      Good Omens is a brilliant idea for a book club choice, I bet it was such fun talking about it!

      Haha, those are some of my favourite parts too. I liked how every tape left in a car longer than a fortnight automatically morphs into a Best of Queen tape. Too true!

      I've read everything Terry Pratchett has written, but very little of Gaiman. I have one of his books on request from the library though. Couldn't resist any longer after reading this 🙂

  3. I've never actually reviewed this book as I find it difficult to get past "OH WOW THIS BOOK IS SO AMAZING AND FUNNY AND BRILLIANT AND PRATCHETTY AND GAIMANESQUE AND WOW…!"

    Love it.

    1. Hanna says:

      I know! To be perfectly honest, I pretty much only reviewed it so I could a) use it for my Pratchett challenge and b) post a crap-load of quotes 🙂

      It was so hard thinking of something to write when all I wanted to do was take a photo of me licking the book and calling it a review.

  4. This book is pure genius, I always take it on holiday with me. People look at me funny when I sit on the beach/sun lounger/by the pool sniggering, but I don't care!

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