Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Dave Martin
Reviewed by Dave Martin
Summary: A collaboration of two literary giants of the fantasy world which works far better than you might expect. Gaiman's dark influnence perfectly balances Pratchett's humour.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: September 1991
Publisher: Corgi Adult
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552137030

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In England the Antichrist is about to be born. Unfortunately, thanks to a couple of bumbling Satanic Midwives, the Antichrist has a new name. Adam knows nothing of the evil thing he is to become. As Heaven and Hell prepare for Armageddon, their two demonic and angelic representatives on Earth decide they are quite keen on the world as it is. Of course, they are in favour of Armageddon, "in general terms" but then where would they have lunch?

"Good Omens" is a hilarious dark fantasy created by the collaboration of two literary giants in the form of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Pratchett is best known for his Discworld stories, fantasy parodies set on a world that is vastly different and yet similar to our own. Gaiman, on the other hand writes with a much darker style and his novels both graphic (The Sandman Series) and otherwise (Anansi Boys) are more horror/fantasy based. A strange combination.

Yet "Good Omens" really works. As a reader of both authors, I can say with no hesitation that this is different to, and in many ways better than, anything they have written separately. The combination of Pratchett's humour, wit and observation and Gaiman's dark atmosphere, settings and characters combines in a horror/humour hybrid novel that has it all.Gaiman's writing style dominates proceedings throughout. Thus, the novel has an undoubtedly dark foreboding of the Armageddon to come. This is tempered by Pratchett's various asides and footnotes. The mix gives the reader a world of war and famine in which a demon finds that whenever he puts a tape into his car it is always, "J. S. Bach's Mass in B Minor, vocals by F. Mercury."

"Good Omens" is a novel that is something of a situation comedy. The predicament of Aziraphale and Crowley, an Angel and Demon who of course want Armageddon, but are just not quite ready for it yet is what makes this novel such a success. Their observations on humanity's strengths and failings are what make this novel such an engaging read. Crowley is a particularly poignant character as the fallen Angel who has very little to do as humanity does it to themselves. He insists that he rarely has to act but merely point people in the right direction and is most pleased by the creation of the M1 motorway and of course, "He'd been particularly pleased with Manchester."

This is a novel that is pleasing due its ridiculous yet imaginative cast of characters including an ageing twentieth century Witch finder General and a demon dog who cannot resist chasing his own tail and licking people. These are undoubtedly Pratchett creations yet Gaiman's intervention gives them darker, more rounded personalities. Furthermore, Gaiman's dark influences also mean some unpredictable plot twists and unsavoury actions from the characters. For example, what do you think would happen if office workers who have gone paint balling were given real guns? This is not a cast of heroes and villains and we are at times uncomfortable about who we are rooting for.

Although I have talked a lot about the dark influence of Gaiman throughout, this does not mean you will not find yourself crying with laughter at times too. Gaiman has undoubtedly reined in Pratchett's one-liners and memorable quotes but there are still enough in evidence to cripple even the most hardened soul. Only in a Pratchett novel could the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse be accompanied by their sidekicks, "Grievous Bodily Harm, Cruelty To Animals and Things Not Working Properly Even After You've Given Them A Good Thumping".

Surprisingly, for a collaborative effort, "Good Omens" writing flows to such an extent that you can read this in one sitting. Its pleasing fundamental Britishness combined with a strong, structured plot peppered with humour and observation make this the best crossover apocalyptic fantasy novel you are ever likely to read. I would recommend this to fans of fantasy and horror but most of all I would recommend this to anyone who loves bloody good writing as they will enjoy something truly unique in a much-maligned genre. You might also enjoy Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson.

Booklists.jpg Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is in the Top Ten Adult Books That Teens Should Read.

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Yartek said:

Yup, it's a cast-iron classic and the Pratchett/Gaiman fusion works surprisingly well. I keep hearing rumours about Terry Gilliam directing an adaptation of it, which I would dearly love to be true.

Kate said:

With each reading, I get a little more out of this book - especially the Omen references (some more subtle than others).