Book review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Corgi, 1991 )
The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655.
The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.
Put New York Times bestselling authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together . . . and all Hell breaks loose.
Hello, I’d like to share with you this most amazing book. I don’t even know where to begin, without running around shouting “AAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!” in a fit of ecstasy. If I could only ever pick one book to be my favourite, it would be this one. I. LOVE. IT.
On a dark and stormy night eleven years ago, the Antichrist was born. He was meant to be swapped with the new-born child of the American Cultural Attache, but Hell hadn’t quite counted on a second baby being born in the same place at the same time, and so there’s a bit of a mix-up … The Antichrist is raised by a couple of perfectly ordinary English parents in a small village in Oxfordshire.
Meanwhile, the forces of Heaven and Hell – or rather, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley – are doing their very best to make sure the Antichrist doesn’t automatically become, well, the Antichrist, by letting the American Cultural Attache’s son be equally influenced by either side. The two beings have grown a little attached to the world of humans, and are loathe to see it go so soon …
Eleven years later, it’s showtime. Agnes Nutter’s professional descendant, Anathema Device, has interpreted the prophecies to mean the End of Days is indeed nigh. In a shabby room somewhere in London, the Witchfinder Army (party of two) are on the march, and in Tadfield, Oxon, Adam Young and his friends are just beginning to realise what a remarkable place the world is.
The authors alone should make you go “oh hello”, at least if you like them. Together, they make a fantastic team. There are footnotes and DEATH, as readers of Pratchett will be very familiar with, and there are funny lines after funny lines. One of the ones I noticed this time around (yeah, I’ve read this book a number of times over the years) was the fantastic wording of how “the air had a left-over and reheated” feel to it. How brilliant is that? Not to mention being “as gay as a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide”.
The characterisation of Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell and his peculiar accent is excellent, and the modern take on the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is genius. For instance, Pestilence retired because of penicillin, but with him gone, Pollution appeared in his stead. And the M25 is not a work of the devil, but a work of someone on the Devil’s payroll. It’s actually the ancient sign of Odegra. Oh, I do wonder what Aziraphale and Crowley would make of the Internet. Who would take credit for it?
Good Omens is not just a book, it’s a phenomenon, an experience, and it’s funny as hell. I’d love to see it made into a miniseries or a film, and rumour has it some form of adaptation is in the making, set for 2013. Here’s to hoping!
If you like the thought of the Antichrist growing up as an ordinary British boy, with an angel and a fallen angel trying to make sure Armageddon doesn’t happen … this should be a lot of fun. There’s also witches, witchfinders, kids being kids, aliens being alien, and so on and so forth. Magnificent stuff. Can’t praise it highly enough.
5 out of 5 Tibetans.