Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Mass-market, 367 pages, 1990

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: A lovely woman in the States was nice enough to send me an entire box of books a few years ago, which included this one. It’s a title that seems to come up when people mention getting their feet wet before a full-fledged dive into the fantasy/sci-fi genres.

Synopsis: The Apocalypse is due on Saturday, but Crowley, one of Satan’s own sent to cause chaos on Earth, has somehow lost the Antichrist. Aziraphale, sent from Heaven, has developed an odd relationship with Crowley over the centuries, seeing as how they’re among the few non-humans around, which means he’s developed a bit of tolerance for Crowley’s bad behaviours while rubbing a bit of his goodness off on Crowley. And neither of them is quite sure that they want the human race to come to an end – heaven doesn’t have any rock music, after all, and they don’t quite see the point of fancy cars and cell phones in hell. But there’s not much you can do when faced with the will of God and Satan…is there?

Why you should read this book: Good Omens is a quick paced, laugh-filled farce packed with tongue-in-cheek word play. Gaiman and Pratchett work well together, zipping through fun cultural references, likeable characters, and somewhat ‘updated’ biblical references (the Four Horsemen zoom around on motorcycles). Smart in a casual kind of way, Good Omens should hold your attention if you’re looking for something off-beat and zany.

Why you should avoid this book: If you were expecting sci-fi, which you might, seeing as the spine of the book says “Science Fiction,” you’re out of luck – there’s no science involved here. Even the ‘fantasy’ label is a bit iffy. Obviously, a sense of humour about religion is required here, although everything is in good-natured fun, never ridiculing of Christianity. For the most part, a nice tone is struck, but once and a while the goofiness gets a bit ridiculous, and the casual style gets a bit sloppy.

Opening paragraph:

It was a nice day.
All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.

Fabulous quotes:

‘And do you recall an incident involving the switching of newborn babies?’ said Crowley.
Mary Hodges hesitated. When she did speak, it was as though memories that had been scabbed over were being disturbed for the first time in years.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘Is there any possibility that the switch could have gone wrong in some way?’
‘I do not know.’
Crowley thought for a bit. ‘You must have had records,’ he said. ‘There are always records. Everyone has records these days.’ He glanced proudly at Aziraphale. ‘It was one of my better ideas.’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Mary Hodges.
‘And where are they?’ said Aziraphale sweetly.
‘There was a fire just after the birth.’
Crowley groaned and threw his hands in the air. ‘That was Hastur, probably,’ he said. ‘It’s his style. Can you believe those guys? I bet he thought he was being really clever.’
‘Do you recall any details about the other child?’ said Aziraphale.
‘Yes.’
‘Please tell me.’
‘He had lovely little toesie-wosies.’

But Newt had stuck with it the past few weeks, because, well, horrified fascination had turned into horrified pity and then a sort of horrified affection. Shadwell had turned out to be about five feet high and wore clothes which, no matter what they actually were, always turned up in your short-term memory as an old mackintosh. The old man may have had all his own teeth, but only because no one else could possibly have wanted them; just one of them, placed under the pillow, would have made the Tooth Fairy hand in its wand.
He appeared to live entirely on sweet tea, condensed milk, hand-rolled cigarettes, and a sort of sullen internal energy. Shadwell had a Cause, which he followed with the full resources of his soul and his Pensioner’s Concessionary Travel Pass. He believed in it. It powered him like a turbine.

Also recommended: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut; The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket; Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde.

Also by these authors:
Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders; Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch; Interworld; Eternals; Mirrormask; The Last Temptation; Marvel 1602; The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish; Coraline; American Gods; Neverwhere; Stardust; Wolves in the Walls; Two Plays for Voices; The Sandman: Book of Dreams; The Sandman: Endless Nights; The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes; The Sandman: Fables & Reflections; The Sandman: The Wake; The Sandman: The Kindly Ones; The Sandman: World’s End; The Sandman: Brief Lives; The Sandman: A Game of You; The Sandman: The Doll’s House; The Sandman: Dream Country; Smoke and Mirrors.

Terry Pratchett: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch; Strata; The Last Continent; The Color of Magic; The Light Fantastic; Equal Rites; Carpe Jugulum; Mort; Sourcery; Wyrd Sisters; The Fifth Elephant; Pyramids; Guards! Guards!; The Truth; The Last Hero; The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents; Eric; Moving Pictures; Thief of Time; Reaper Man; Witches Abroad; Small Gods; Lords and Ladies; The Wee Free Men; Men at Arms; Soul Music; Monstrous Regiment; Night Watch; Hogfather; Interesting Times; Feet of Clay; Jingo; Maskerade; A Hat Full of Sky; Going Postal.

Authors’ websites: neilgaiman.com and terrypratchettbooks.com

Fun tidbit: At the time the book was written, Pratchett lived in England and Gaiman lived in America. Pratchett did most of the writing while they conversed over the telephone.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007


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