It’s time for another favourite! I should probably point out that these favourites are not in any particular order – I mostly decide which one to introduce depending on the time of year and my own mood.
NEIL GAIMAN & TERRY PRATCHETT: GOOD OMENS
Published: May 1st 1990 Gollancz (UK) / Workman (US)
According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…
There’s a mix-up with the baby Anti-Christ.
There’s a demon driving a 1926 black Bentley.
There’s an angel who runs a rare books shop.
There’s a technically challenged Witchfinder Private.
There’s a professional descendant.
And there’s the Apocalypse.
Sir Terry Prachett was one of the first fantasy authors I read with a passion. I was perhaps twelve, when a friend of mine gave me Equal Rites and Hogfather and told me to give them a shot. She did not make a misjudgement – I did like Discworld, as soon as I got the hang of it (which I still maintain takes a couple of books). For a couple of years I read whatever translated Discworld novels I could find from the library, but all too soon I realised there were no more translations available. So, at the age of fourteen, I wandered to the English shelves at the bookstore and picked up Good Omens, mostly because I had read a lot about it online and because it said ‘Pratchett’ on the cover. My English was not good and I understood very little, and around page 80 I gave up.
Two years later, after I had started reading in English and, as a result, gotten better at it, I thought I would try again. It was one of the best thoughts I have had.
The blurb tells you the plot pretty much as simply as it is possible to put. It’s a difficult one to explain without giving away too much, and I’m not going to even try. What I can say about the book, however, is that it’s hilarious. It’s fairly easy to see which bits are probably Gaiman and which Pratchett, particularly if you’ve read both, but they work together splendidly. My particular favourite bits tend to be the discussions between the angel Aziraphale (former Guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden) and the demon Crowley (former Serpent in the Garden of Eden); after all, when you spend thousands of years with someone, a friendship tends to form, no matter what side you are on. I don’t think it’s possible to read their legendary Drunk Conversation with a straight face. Another favourite is a certain Rider of the Apocalypse who runs a diet and fast food company – his bits have some of my favourite quotes. (You can see I haven’t quoted anything. This is because they A) often require the whole setting to work or B) might spoil the fun reading them yourself provides.)
I’ve talked of this book so many times and to so many people I hardly know what more to say about it. I don’t think I know anyone who wouldn’t have liked it: some people like the light jokes Pratchett makes, and some the steadfast storytelling Gaiman is so good at. For me, this book combines the best of both. I still love Pratchett’s humour and parody (read Macbeth first and then pick up Wyrd Sisters – that was a lot of fun!), but the light heartedness is getting to be a little too light, as much as it pains me to admit it. This is why Good Omens is so perfect: it’s balanced, gripping, and incredibly funny.
On the cover of my copy there’s a recommendation from Time Out that sums it all up very neatly:
“Heaven to read, and you’ll laugh like hell”
Oh, and maybe I should warn you about it, because not everyone likes it – there are footnotes. Not in the scale of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but footnotes nonetheless. And they make me chuckle, too.
My poor copy is a little battered. I’ve tried to protect it by taping the corners and spine, and here’s to hoping it’ll last. (Might have to get a hardcover at some point in life.)
You need to read this. That’s all you need to know.