Good Omens from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good OmensTerry Pratchett is the funniest of authors and Neil Gaiman seems to be one of the coolest of people, so I’ve no idea why I didn’t read their co-authored Good Omens long ago…but I finally have, and it was wonderful!  And right on time for Once Upon a Time.

I realized after I opened the first page that I had almost no idea what this one was actually about.  Because, I mean, Pratchett and Gaiman–who cares what the plot is?  But in case you’re curious (and to add coherence to the rest of this review), I’ll give you an overview.

The book centers in large part around Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and an angel, respectively, though the two have more in common than you might think.  Both have been on Earth for the past 6,000 years and have developed a solid working relationship in the process.  When the Antichrist is born, heralding the end of the world in eleven years, Crowley and Aziraphale both realize that they find Earth far more interesting than either Heaven or Hell, and set about to prevent the end of the world.

Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are gathering, the last of the Army of Witchhunters is vigorously and ineptly pursuing his calling, and Anathema Device (witch) is following dictates set down by her ancestor in the Book, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.  And the Antichrist turns out to be a very nice young man.

The plot doesn’t even begin to do justice to the madness and hilarity of this book.  I don’t think there’s any way to discuss it very coherently, so perhaps a few representative examples…  Every cassette tape left in Crowley’s car for more than a week or so turns into something by Queen.  The Four Horsemen ride to the Apocalypse on motor bikes, accompanied by four more conventional Hell’s Angels, arguing about what horrible thing they want to be (including “People Covered in Fish,” for instance).  When the Antichrist (whose name, by the way, is Adam) starts latching onto some wild, part New Age, part urban legend concepts that he doesn’t quite understand, Atlantis rises and Tibetan monks start popping up out of holes everywhere.

The book is incredibly clever too.  Take the Four Horsemen–Famine goes around spreading his particular evil through fad diets and nutritionless fast food.  Pollution has replaced Pestilence, after penicillin was invented and Pestilence retired in a huff.  War makes a living first as an arms dealer and then as a war correspondent–who always gets to places just before war breaks out.  And Death, well…he’s not quite as funny as the Discworld Death, but he does speak in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

This book is all the more remarkable for being about a battle between angels and demons, drawing heavily from the Book of Revelations and occasionally Genesis, and pulls it off without being proselytizing or judgmental.  I wouldn’t recommend this as a source for theology, but it’s never offensive either–and I’m a practicing Catholic who found The Da Vinci Code deeply bothersome (for a number of reasons, scholarship as much as anything).

I could keep rambling on about this, but just take my word for it–it’s hilarious.  If you like either of these authors or think you might, then read it.  I mean, there’s a book-loving angel, a demon who “did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards,” a whole lot of footnotes, and Death.  And according to Wikipedia, once upon a time someone thought about casting Johnny Depp as Crowley, and now I so want to see that movie made!

Authors’ Sites: http://terrypratchettbooks.com/ and http://neilgaiman.com/

Other reviews:
Charley R’s Leaning Tower of Plot
Amidst the Meadow of Mind
Books, Writing, Tea
Death, Books and Tea (trend?)
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

About cherylmahoney

I'm a book review blogger and Fantasy writer. I have published three novels, The Wanderers; The Storyteller and Her Sisters; and The People the Fairies Forget. All can be found on Amazon as an ebook and paperback. In my day job, I'm the Marketing Specialist for Yolo Hospice. Find me on Twitter (@MarvelousTales) and GoodReads (MarvelousTales).
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22 Responses to Good Omens from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

  1. Rachel says:

    I found this book hilarious too. 🙂 I, also, am a practicing Catholic, but I don’t find books like this offensive. I didn’t find Da Vinci Code offensive, either. It was fiction. He made the story up. It bothered me that so many people thought that he was spouting out historical truths rather than a fictional history / conspiracy theory, but that annoyance was aimed more at the ignorant masses who worshiped the book as Truth rather than at Dan Brown himself.

    • It’s true the Da Vinci Code is classified as fiction…but I felt there was so much mingling of fact, theory and fiction that it got justifiably confusing, for people with little knowledge of church history or scripture scholarship. Some nice endnotes saying THIS is history, THIS is not, would have totally settled my Dan Brown issues.

  2. Priya says:

    Great review. I love all the things you’ve mentioned, as well as others including Dog, the rather un-houndish Hellhound; though I admit I was a bit disappointed by Death, considering he’s my favourite Discworld character. Good Omens is one of the books I just never get tired of re-reading!

    • Ah, Dog was fun too! I especially enjoyed his initial transformation, and how he tries to figure out his new identity. I enjoyed Death here, although he wasn’t played as strongly for humor as he often is in Discworld. Sometimes his Discworld cameos are my favorite parts of the book!

  3. lynnsbooks says:

    I read this a while ago and it didn’t totally blow me away. I thought the story was really excellent, I can’t deny the wit and LOL moments but there was just something that didn’t keep my attention. I think maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or perhapsI didn’t quite love the collaboration between the two. I wonder if I should give it another change at some point.
    Lynn 😀

  4. I really should reread this book at some point. For all the reasons you mention and that others have brought up in the comments. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! (And that movie idea sounds awesome. <3)

  5. kamo says:

    I read this ages ago, and it’s a joy. I wouldn’t dismiss the theology completely out of hand, as a Brit who lived in London for five years the claim that the M25 is the work of a demon is one of the more persuasive arguments I’ve heard for the existence of hell, heaven, and all the rest 😉

    How old is this book now? Do you feel it was showing it’s age at all? I really should go back to it at some point, even though it’s already one of the few books I’ve ever read more than once.

    I’ll also note that I, too, found The Da Vinci Code deeply bothersome, or at least the few pages of it I managed to read…

    • You may have a point about the traffic system… 🙂

      I don’t know how old Good Omens is–I have a vague impression it’s about twenty years old, but I don’t really know. That probably answers your question about whether it shows its age! I would say no–the presence of cell phones might have changed a few plot points and Crowley had audio cassettes in his car…but those are tiny things and I don’t think those points, or anything else, made it feel particularly dated.

  6. dianem57 says:

    I could see this as a movie – and it wouldn’t be the first time Johnny Depp played a demonic character. (Sweeney Todd comes to mind.)

  7. I’m glad to hear your enjoyed Good Omens Cheryl. I really liked it too and I’m not a huge of Neil Gaiman. I thought the partnership between Pratchett and Gaiman was great. As I thought Pratchett made Gaiman funnier, and Gaiman made Pratchett edgier 😛

  8. Matthew Ridenour says:

    I really want to read this. I’ve heard great and interesting things about it.

  9. Christina says:

    Ooh, glad to read your review of this! I’m also a practicing Catholic and therefore generally stay far, far away from books that deal with angels and demons and all that. But I do already own Good Omens, because like you said, Gaiman and Pratchett! So I’m glad to know I won’t need to avert my eyes. 🙂

    • I think it’ll probably be fine. It’s not always complimentary towards the angels, but it’s such clear satire that I didn’t feel like it was really trying to say anything directly theological. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts, though!

  10. Pingback: Good Omens from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman | ChristianBookBarn.com

  11. i like both of these authors but have somehow never read this book. i can see now that it needs to go to the top of my “to buy” list. thx!

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