By: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: November 28th, 2006 (first published 1990)
Format: Kindle E-Book
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate 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 . . .
I think this is the first exposure I had to either Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, and I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that Good Omens changed my life by introducing me to these giants of authors. The result of not one, but TWO brilliant minds and twisted senses of humor, it’s no surprise it’s an instant cult classic.
Even better, Neil Gaiman reported this past week that he’s adapting Good Omens into a TV Show, with approval from the late Terry Pratchett. In his blog, he wrote that he was about 72% done, which tickles me to no end. I can’t actually wait to see this crazy thing on the screen.
But anyways, back to the book.
Being raised amongst Southern Baptists, I had to especially giggle at how cleverly they subvert every single idea about the Apocalypse. The angel and the demon are drinking buddies who don’t really want the world to end. Famine, War and Pollution (instead of Plague) are wandering around with ordinary jobs, killing time (and sometimes people). There’s a girl descended from a seventeenth-century witch with a book of prophecy, and a Witchfinder Private trying desperately to avoid the actual ramifications of his job. And, to put the nail on the head, the Antichrist was switched at birth and was raised by a nice, normal family in a typical English village.
The humor is fantastic. Of course, reading Terry Pratchett on a Kindle is always disappointing, because Amazon automatically converts the footnotes to endnotes, and thus removes some of the humor. But now, having read extensively from both aspects of their writing, I can see which parts Pratchett wrote and which parts Gaiman did, somewhat.
Of course, it’s a bit more than humor. It’s saying, you don’t have to follow the path laid out for you. The Antichrist can turn around and say ‘nope, I don’t want an apocalypse today’. The Angel and Demon can work together. The Professional Descendant can choose whether to open the book of prophecy, and the Witchfinder can choose whether to burn a witch or fall in love with her. Where the legendary freedom of this age runs up against expectations and clear endings, it’s nice to think that for a minute you, too, can change–can do something other than what you were ‘meant’ to do.
I can’t say much about the characters, because somehow they’re both sketches and real people. The problem with writing a satirical book is that all of the characters are subverted stereotypes, which you can figure out instantly and then go forth picking the meaning out. But, somehow, Gaiman and Pratchett do manage to express a character in a few simple sentences, enough that you get the gist.
The plot, too, is obvious, and you can read a very similar version in the Book of Revelations. The real intelligence lies in how the authors subvert and change the original meaning, gently poking fun at the various elements and our response to them. Really, the only reason to read this book is to laugh until your sides hurt. But, in my opinion at least, that’s a damn good reason to read a book. Then I’d advise reading every single other Pratchett and Gaiman book out there (but that’s just me).
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.