Terry 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!