The Bookshelf: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

The complete title of this 1990 book co-authored by two of the most prominent British science-fiction/fantasy writers of our generation is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Quite the mouthful. This fantastically witty and fun read takes on the lighter side of the apocalypse as described in Revelations, from… you know… the bible. A bit of a piss take on the film The Omen, as well as the good book itself.

The story begins with the birth of the Antichrist… and the bumbling Satanic nun, Sister Mary Loquacious who, with the “help” of one of our protagonists, Crowley (formerly Crawley… the serpent who tempted that Eve chick with the apple) screws up the switch of babies. Giving a quite lovely normal boy to the Satanic family (a U.S. diplomat of course) who will raise the child to bring about the end of times and naming this poor young boy Warlock… and inadvertently handing over the real Antichrist to a nice quiet family from Tadfield, England. Fast forward eleven years… as the four horsemen gather (in this case, the horses are motorcycles and Pestilence is now Pollution since 1936 when Pestilence retired after the invention of Penicillin), Crowley and his “friend” Aziraphale (the former Angel of the Garden of Eden… now a rare book dealer) realize Warlock is not the son of Satan… and if he is not… where is the real spawn of evil? And can they find him before the end?

Throughout this hilarious tale are various demons, angels, witchfinders (a very noble profession not quite in fashion these days) and witches… most notably Agnes Nutter, who in the 17th. century wrote the one and only accurate book of prophecies from then until the end of times. Unfortunately for us, the end of times happens to be this coming Saturday. The story weaves between Crowley and Aziraphale searching for the real Antichrist so they may stop the Apocalypse (they rather enjoy being on earth and have grown fond of both humans and each other), the four horsemen gathering (they finally all gather in a biker bar playing video trivia), Anathema Device, occultist, possessor of the only copy of Agnes Nutter’s book and descendant of said Nutter and the Them, a gang of four young kids in Tadfield, led by the charismatic and charming 11 year old Adam Young (guess who he is). As Clive Barker notes on a blurb on the cover… “The Apocalypse has never been funnier.” I couldn’t agree more.

Neil Gaiman (Coraline, The Sandman, Graveyard Book) and Terry Pratchett (Discworld) are simply two giants in the fantasy genre… and they happened to have wrote this book back when they were still, as they put it, “just” Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. According to the little bits they both wrote at the end of the novel, Gaiman had the original idea, got stuck. Called Terry, he didn’t know where to go. Little while later, he had an idea… so one took one part, the other another bit… over time they had the story fleshed out. I don’t believe I have ever read a book written by two people (and no, ghost writing doesn’t count… these are two real authors, not Sarah Palin)… and I can’t imagine this going as well as it did with any other authors. To have the same sense of absurd humor (very Pythonesque) and for both of them to be as completely steeped in mythology and biblical knowledge as they are must be a rarity. And the product is quite the rarity as well… a novel that is funny, intelligent, utterly stupid and heartwarming, completely irreverent with a wink and a nod to anyone who takes any of it seriously at all.

So overall, I highly recommend this book. Simply a great read with some fantastic twists and turns… and an uncommon book that is even a complete pleasure to read a second time. If existence is going to end this Saturday, I’m happy to know I devoured this tale before the end… I suggest you do the same.

Dominus Cheesey Poofs,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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