Guest Review! “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Today’s guest reviewer, Geoff Shupard, is an old friend from my first school, Wesley College. He works as a bartender, real estate agent, and high school lacrosse coach. More importantly, he is also a budding novelist. When he’s not working or writing, you can usually find him hunting for ducks with his dog, Strider—the topic of his current manuscript!

Title: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Authors: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 9780060853976
Pages: 400
Release Date: 1990
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary

The heroes of the book are met at the very beginning of humankind (as the Bible claims it to be). Aziraphale is the angel of the East Gate of Eden, and Crawly (later re-named Crowley, because “Crawly” just wasn’t him) is the very serpent who tempted mankind out of paradise. The two of them meet for the first time just after the Lord has issued his judgment upon Adam and Eve and cast them out of the garden.

Aziraphale is an angel who had been assigned to earth. Most angels might find this assignment less than desirable, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. Aziraphale becomes very fond of used books, particularly those pertaining to prophecies and theology, and runs an antique bookstore in Soho.

While he is always very courteous and polite, one questions his ultimate motives. There are times in the story when he seems to do nice things not out of his nature as an angel, but rather in spite of his demonic counterpart, Crowley. In the end, he proves himself to be, as the book summary says, a “pure angel.”

Opposite of Aziraphale, we find Crowley, who is a demon of hell. Naturally, being a demon means that he was once an angel who was cast out of heaven during Satan’s rebellion against God. Crowley, of course, didn’t fall so much as “saunter vaguely downwards.” Crowley has, since the beginning, questioned everything.

He also claims to be one of the pioneering thinkers in the development of television. His pristine 1926 Bentley has not had a full tank of gas in some years, and its radio plays nothing but Queen classics (even though he tries relentlessly for his classical music tapes to play their original scores, which, often to his dismay, is often replaced by “Bohemian Rhapsody”). As the book blurb puts it, Crowley is “hell’s most approachable demon.”

The Antichrist (Adam) is the leader of a gang of young hell-raisers (named the “Them”) in a small town in England. He is not aware of his status until the very end, and we see him both fighting and accepting his thoughts of destruction and power over the course of the story.

Anathema is a descendant of Agnes Nutter, a witch who wrote the most accurate prophecy of the end of the world known to man in middle-age England. Anathema is completely committed to seeing her ancestor’s prophecies through to the end, and seems quite comfortable in accepting the end of the world.

Shadwell is a witch hunter and Newt is his apprentice. Shadwell’s narrow-minded view of his job at a witch hunter almost costs him his place in the apocalypse. It is Newt (who became his apprentice upon responding to a newspaper classified ad) that plays a more major role in this story.

Aziraphale and Crowley have been informed, by their respective bosses, that the time for the apocalypse has come. The two of them decide that they have grown accustomed to—really, quite fond of—life on earth, and aren’t ready to see it come to an end just yet. Accordingly, they both do their part in raising the Antichrist.

They don’t influence him one way or the other, but they merely see to it that he is not fed only the negative, thus allowing his natural free will to take over. This confusion, they hope, will result in the postponement of the apocalypse while staying within the rules and not upsetting either side. (This is, of course, a very simple explanation of a very complex theory in the book, and I’m sure I may have gotten it wrong, but this is how I took it.)

Thanks to a convent of some not-too-bright, Satan-worshiping nuns, the Antichrist was switched at birth. Our two heroes begin to notice that something may be wrong when eleven-year -old Warlock (the presumed Antichrist) is not turning out quite the way they had expected. In fact, he seems like a regular child; there’s nothing supernatural about him at all—as Crowley infers, at age eleven he should have been bending the will of those around him to that of his own.

This is where the book really takes off on a fast-paced and clever adventure. Pratchett and Gaiman bring all of the characters and storylines together in the end very well. As one critic put it, “The apocalypse has never been funnier.”

Analysis

I have always been very interested in different takes on the incredibly complex world of theology, and Good Omens did not let me down.

There is not a person on this earth who has not wondered about the apocalypse. Whether you’re an atheist, or a stout-hearted believer in one of the thousands of religions on this earth, the idea of the end of the world has crossed your mind. In Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have taken this notion of paranoia and created something completely unexpected.

One of the intriguing things about this book is its seemingly infinite cast of characters; describing all of them would take as many pages as the book itself. We meet many more characters from hell who provide as many moments of hilarity when paired with the quick-witted and wise-cracking Crowley. Though these characters are used merely as foils for the two main characters, they add a very unique and delicious aspect to the story.

The main characters are all dynamic and very unique from each other. Many authors often get so wrapped up in making the story vivid and compelling that they forget to do the same with their characters, which results in a story with five or six of the same people. Pratchett and Gaiman are able to create such original characters that they add to the complexity and ever-expanding nature of the book.

The beginning of the story is quite simple: two angelic friends embark on a mission to prevent the apocalypse. As it progresses, the authors are able to open a huge world of the supernaturally hilarious through their broad cast of characters, only to bring it right back again at the end. The book almost feels like a maze with all of its twists and turns, and who doesn’t like the challenge of a good maze? Just when you think you’ve rounded a huge corner that’s going to lead you to the solution, BAM!! There are Pratchett and Gaiman to bring you right back to a theoretical dead end, at which time you must re-calculate your route and continue on your journey.

The complexity is the only thing that prevented me from giving it a fifth star in my rating. While this is something that most certainly added to the mystery and intrigue of the book for me, it may also be a turn-off for others. Personally, I enjoy a book that keeps me on my toes and forces me to keep up with many stories within the story; however, it may prove to be too intimidating or complex for readers who prefer simpler plots.

The saving grace for those readers is that these many facets never slow the action down. Each section is just as fast-paced as the next, and when you feel the disappointment of being led astray from one character’s plight and into another’s, the authors wrap you up in their new character’s journey just as easily.

The book is incredibly clever. If you’re looking for an entertaining journey through a theological forest as thick as the Amazon, then Good Omens is the book for you. Pratchett and Gaiman’s twisted view of the world, and the supernatural beings living in it, will keep you turning the pages for hours on end.

One response to “Guest Review! “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

  1. This was an interesting review and the book sounds really interesting, too. It doesn’t sound like a book that I would normally pick up to read, but I will think about it now. :-) It seems like the book tackles some interesting ideas, but still manages to entertain, which is great!

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