Good Omens

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a joyous, hilarious and smart collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, somewhat of a love child, somewhat of a cult classic, written over 25 years ago.  Due to a completely understandable and well-meaning misunderstanding, the Antichrist has been misplaced and may or may not be currently raised as a 11 year old boy growing up in Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire.  According to the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, the world will end next Saturday, just before dinner.  And his presence will be required.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing while the world goes mad and everything seems to be going according to the Divine Plan.  Of course, the Divine Plan is ineffable, and there’s free will and all that, so things can get a little confused.  A fast-living demon Crowley and his partner-in-crime/enemy/best friend/colleague/leader of the other side the Angel Aziraphale are surprised and perhaps a little bummed at this news.  They’d both got used to Earth’s mortals having lived there for so long, since The Beginning, and have grown a bit fond of the lifestyle.  The Rapture is coming, and with a sigh, they suppose they have to some work.

The voices are indistinguishable throughout – there is no obvious line between Gaiman and Pratchett’s narration or characters – and learning about their collaboration style you can see why.  Since meeting, they always knew they wanted to work together and one day, before the internet just to entertain themselves, they began sending stuff back and forth to make each other laugh.  They edited, they added, they kept going, until Good Omens emerged.

Only recently Gaiman announced that he had been instructed via posthumous letter from Pratchett to complete a television adaptation of Good Omens and all of the fan boys and girls rejoiced.  There seems to be this clean, easy love of this work.  It is just so smart, so layered, wickedly funny without any real cruelty.  You can make a rude or naughty joke without meanness, and with their back and forth, Gaiman and Pratchett have done just that.

With such wit and humour, the writing just completely hits the mark, the story rolling along, keeping you guessing, and just reminding you how out of control absolutely everything is:


“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

A kind of affection also permeates the writing.  You can tell both Gaiman and Pratchett love this world, this story, this collaboration, and the sharing.  Essentially it’s a harmless tale, there is nothing necessarily groundbreaking or revelatory here, but it is infused with such passion and joy and absurdity and pleasure that it is infectious, it becomes fabulous to read.

Gaiman and Pratchett obviously love writing, and sharing stories, and poking fun at the world.  It’s a pleasure to spend time with them.  The story also intelligent and layered, so when you combine that strong theoretical underpinning or planning with this zest for storytelling, you do come out with a really good book.  Good Omens is definitely that.

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