Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Original Publication Date: 1990
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Obtained Via: Bought
View at the Traffic light:
There is a distinct hint of Armageddon in the air. According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (recorded, thankfully, in 1655, before she blew up her entire village and all its inhabitants, who had gathered to watch her burn), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse are revving up their mighty hogs and hitting the road, and the world’s last two remaining witch-finders are getting ready to fight the good fight, armed with awkwardly antiquated instructions and stick pins. Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. . . . Right. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan.
Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon — each of whom has lived among Earth’s mortals for many millennia and has grown rather fond of the lifestyle — are not particularly looking forward to the coming Rapture. If Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop it from happening, they’ve got to find and kill the Antichrist (which is a shame, as he’s a really nice kid). There’s just one glitch: someone seems to have misplaced him. . . .
If I round up a few of my favorite writers, pumped them with tons of food and drink, and then proceeded to tell them my life story, favorites, personal taste, and then asked them to write a book specifically to appeal to me, I think the final product would vaguely resemble Good Omens. I absolutely loved this book. I’ve read almost 100 books in 2014 so far, many of which gained that elusive five-stars, but Good Omens is my favorite. It’s hilarious, insightful, and more than anything–such a good story, the kind that I’ve been longing for. That doesn’t surprise me, since Neil Gaiman co-wrote this–I’ve always thought his biggest strength was as a storyteller. I’ve never read a book by Terry Pratchett before, but now I’m curious.
Good Omens is the story of how Armageddon was set to happen, and then some things took a most interesting turn in preparation for the day of judgement. Those “interesting” turns being that Crowley, a demon(or, as the book calls him, “An Angel who did not so much Fall as saunter vaguely downwards”), and Aziraphale(“An angel, and part-time rare book dealer”) realize that they actually like the earth pretty much as-is(and have some sort of grudging appreciation of each other, having more in common with each other than their respective bosses above and below). Oh, and then there’s that whole “misplaced Anti-Christ” thing.
Good Omens is simply charming. Despite the fact that so much of this book is situated around Armageddon and religious situations, the humor never turns means or offensive towards religion, all while remaining fun. I read a good chunk of the middle of this book in a coffee shop and I got a few looks when I laughed out loud at my book more than once. It’s dry and witty, and it works even better than it should:
Firstly, angels simply don’t dance. It’s one of the distinguishing characteristics that mark and angel. They may listen appreciatively to the music of the Spheres, but they don’t feel the urge to get down and boogie to it. So, none.
At least nearly none. Aziraphale had learned to gavotte in a discreet gentlemen’s club in Portland Place, in the late 1880s, and while he had initially taken to it like a duck to merchant banking, after awhile he had become quite good at it, and was quite put out when, some decades later, the gavotte went out of style for good.
And then there’s the characters. Crowley the demon, who though is described quite differently, I can’t help but to picture like this:
Either way, Crowley is fantastic. I think the part that sealed it was when the book described Crowley tending to his house plants and putting the “fear of Crowley” in them–by masquerading dead plants in front of them. Aziraphale the angel(and part time rare-book dealer) is a great contrast as well–they may be from different sides of the battle but in the end they’re not that different.
Which brings us to Adam, the anti-Christ. Since that unfortunate mix-up, Adam’s grown up as a regular boy–well, except for the things he can do. But he hasn’t been groomed for evil. So what does he turn out like, in the end? It’s played up for humor but also has this over-arching theme of what it really means to be human and to have free will.
It’s like you said the other day,” said Adam. “You grow up reading about pirates and cowboys and spacemen and stuff, and jus’ when you think the world’s all full of amazin’ things, they tell you it’s really all dead whales and chopped-down forests and nuclear waste hangin’ about for millions of years. ‘Snot worth growin’ up for, if you ask my opinion.”
Then there’s a whole host of other characters–the Satanic nun, the “Them”(Adam’s friends), the Horsemen of the Apocalypse(reimagined as motorcycle riders), the descendant of Agnes Nutter, who wrote the only accurate prophecies, and others. It’s a large cast to handle, and I did find myself at times wanting to spend time with other characters than the characters currently on the page. However, I never wanted that because any of the characters bored me–they were all so well imagined.
Good Omens starts with Adam’s birth, and then jumps forward to the almost end of the world. From there, we see how all the characters interact and play against each other to try and force the world to end–or in most of their cases, stop it from happening. I could never summarize exactly what happens here as there are just so many characters, but I thought the way they interacted and affected each other intriguing and kept the book from being too confusing.
Of course, between all the humor and adventure were the Big Questions about humanity, particularly when Crowley or Aziraphale were on the page:
It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
Hilarity and humanity–what more could you want from a story?
I really loved the witty humor and look at humanity in Good Omens, but what really sealed the deal for me putting this one in the “favorites” box was that it was just such a good story. It played on some standard ideas about the end of the world and then injected a new story that managed to be funny, a little irreverent, but never felt mean or harsh. Indeed, at times–when it wasn’t making me laugh–it was making some insightful points. 5/5 cupcakes.