Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – Good Omens

I should have re-read and reviewed this book as part of my Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon last year. But having got through all the Discworld books, the virtual pile[1] of unread new books was giving me sad looks, and I was obliged to start catching up with those. And then there’s the little matter of new books appearing all the time, which distract my attention even further. But all the publicity attached to the BBC Radio adaptation of Good Omens reminded me that it’s been a while[2] since I read it, and the Christmas break seemed like a good opportunity to right that wrong. Rather than carry my first edition (I think) hardback (definitely) with me, I invested in a new Kindle edition, which comes with a new introduction and extra bits at the end, so it was worth having.

Anyway, enough digression, and on with the book. It’s all about Armageddon: the end of the world, the Final Battle between Heaven and Hell, and how that all gets a wee bit disrupted thanks to a slight error in the baby-swapping department. Instead of being brought up as the son of an American diplomat, the Antichrist ends up in an English village, which by no coincidence at all is also home to a descendant of the remarkable witch Agnes Nutter, noted for making entirely accurate prophecies which can only be recognised as such after the events in question.

Much silliness and fun follows, mostly centred around the Angel Aziraphale and the Demon Crowley, who rather in the manner of opposing secret agents, have found over the last few thousand years that they have more in common with each other than with their respective management structures. Crowley, having spent a lot of time with humans, and having realised that left alone, they’ll do much nastier things to each other than all the demons of Hell can think up, has moved on to more subtle work

But demons like Ligur and Hastur wouldn’t understand. They’d never have thought up Welsh-language television, for example. Or value-added tax. Or Manchester.

There’s fun with the remains of the Witchfinder Army (run by both Aziraphale and Crowley) and even more fun with aliens:

You do know you could find yourself charged with being a dominant species while under the influence of impulse-driven consumerism, don’t you?

But the core of the book has to be the misplaced Antichrist Adam and his group of friends (known as the Them), who are quite blatantly inspired by Just William[3], and don’t act or speak like any real kids. Oh, and there’s a Hellhound, too.

But enough of my waffling – you need to read this, or maybe listen to the radio version, which is reportedly Rather Good, having been observed by Neil Gaiman.

The extra bits include an introduction about the unexpected popularity of the book, the definitive Facts about Good Omens, a bit by Terry about Neil and a bit by Neil about Terry[4].

One bit missing is the possibly apocryphal story that at some point not that long after the book was published, one or both of the authors came up with a title for the sequel that never happened: 664: The Neighbour of the Beast. I think somebody else may have used it by now…

And by a remarkable coincidence, I seem to have written 666 words, which is a good point to stop.

[1] I have a collection on my Kindle called “To read”. It’s got lots in it, rather like the piles of actual books I need to get around to.
[2]  Well, I certainly read it when it was published in 1990, and probably again a year or two later, so it’s probably been twenty years or more…
[3] Younger readers and furriners: a series of books about a group of kids who get into “adventures” and generally annoy all adults while having the best of intentions. Mostly.
[4] Those two might have been in the original edition, but I can’t check from here.