Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Publication date: 01 May 1990
Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy
Length: 416 pages
Published by: Corgi, Transworld, Penguin Random House
Available at: Amazon.co.uk, Goodreads
My Rating: 5 out of 5
“Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.”
According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – the world’s only totally reliableguide to the future, written in 1655, before she exploded – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…
People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. This time though, the armies of Good and Evil really do appear to be massing. The four Bikers of the Apocalypse are hitting the road. But both the angels and demons – well, one fast-living demon and a somewhat fussy angel – would quite like the Rapture not to happen.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist…
This is book is a battered and well-loved paperback that I bought years ago. I think it might be the fifth copy I have purchased.
The last time I bought a copy of this book was around five years ago. I was about to start work on a theatre production with a renowned and highly respected sound designer. I was very nervous about meeting him. The first thing he said to me was “there aren’t many cues in this show, I hope you’ve got a good book.” I pulled Good Omens out of my bag, and said “I’m all set.” He grinned and we instantly bonded over our mutual love of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman books.
It’s just that kind of book; the kind where, if you meet someone who hasn’t read it, you’ll be compelled to lend it to them (that’ll be the last you see of it – they’ll keep it forever), and if they have read it you’ll instantly be friends for life.
As you’d expect from such a writing partnership, it combines Terry Pratchett’s ironic, witty, satirical and clever observations of the absurdity of humanity with Neil Gaiman’s special way of twisting the ordinary into the extraordinary, and putting words of profound wisdom into the mouths of babes. It’s impossible to identify which bits of the book is written by whom; the writing is a seamless blend of the two, and it works perfectly.
It starts with a stormy night and a plan to switch babies at a maternity ward. The forces of Good and Evil are meddling with human affairs, and it’s not clear what they hope to achieve or even whose side they are on.
Crowley and Aziraphale have their orders, but neither are sure if their bosses really know what they are doing. After four thousand years of being colleagues (sort of) they are more inclined to trust each other’s judgement.
Anathema Device lives her life by a book of Nice and Accurate Prophecies. You can’t blame her; it is frighteningly on point.
And then there’s Adam and the Them. In some ways they remind me of the kind of kids that you’d find in a Blyton story, but there’s something more real about them than that. In amongst the idyllic childhood is a mischievousness, and some canny views on the way the world should be.
Add in the four horseman (horsepeople?) of the apocalypse, and events quickly descend into delightful chaos.
There are so many moments in this book that I love, that make me smile, laugh out-loud, or murmur in agreement at a well-observed absurdity, that to list them would be to give away too much.
If you haven’t already read this book, what are you waiting for? Get a copy, and get reading. If you haven’t read it for a while, read it again. It’s an old friend worth catching up with time and time again. Either way, read and enjoy. And then tell me your favourite bit(s).