Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wonderful Fantastic Great Omens

By now, you are all well-aware of my guilty love for Supernatural, a TV show about brothers hunting down evil things while dealing with the question of their seemingly pre-conceived fates as weapons of heaven and hell. This season, the show's fifth, has centered around the beginning of the Apocalypse. Trust me, I understand how ridiculous it all is (hence my guilty love), but I can't help but watch this show compulsively and constantly. Anyway, all the episode reviews and recaps I faithfully follow constantly compare the show to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's much-loved novel, Good Omens. I knew I had to read it, so when I began this "Year of Reading Neil Gaiman," I added it to the top of the list. Then, luckily, a lovely friend lent me her copy of the book. I am so very very glad she did.

Because here's the thing: During the six days it took me to read Good Omens, I was completely and totally obsessed with it. I love this book. If it doesn't make my Top Ten list at the end of the year, I can't even comprehend the kinds of wonderful books I'd be reading the rest of the year.

At first glance, Good Omens shouldn't be the kind of book I love. It's a funny version of the coming Apocalypse, after all. But I didn't count on Gaiman and Pratchett to do what they did. Full of fantastic and absurd characters, ridiculous yet understandable situations, and an actual (even somewhat complicated) plot, it did nothing but entertain. Towards the start of the book, the newborn Antichrist gets switched with another baby, going to the wrong family unbeknownst to heaven and hell. In the middle of all this, there's Crowley the demon and Aziraphale the angel, two beings who've been on Earth since The Beginning, and they are way too accustomed to their worldly lives to give up on it now. Their pact (one might even call it a friendship) allows them to keep Earth on an evel keel so that heaven and hell can't take over too quickly. They attempt to stop the Apocalypse from happening in the 11th year of the Antichrist (a very imaginative boy named Adam), but of course, things go awry.

Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen are on the loose, the "Nice and Accruate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch" are dead-on, and some poor schmuck named Newt finally gets laid. By the end, we've got a ton of characters (I personally thought Gaiman and Pratchett had created too many characters and it became confusing), but they all add to some perspective as to how this whole thing goes down.

But the book's real virtues lie in its humor and the awesomeness of Crowley and Aziraphale. The book is hands-down one of the funniest things I've ever read. I laughed out loud through the entire thing. One sampling: "Crowley was currently doing 110 mph somewhere east of Slough. Nothing about him looked particularly demonic, at least by classical standards. No horns, no wings. Admittedly, he was listening to a Best of Queen tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums." I think I laughed for five minutes straight after reading that. And then I read it aloud to my entire family, who also appreciated it a great deal. The whole book is a lot like that.

Crowley and Aziraphale are fantastic characters, the kind you want to be BFFs with in the real world. Crowley, always in sunglasses and driving an old Bentley, is the epitome of cool and modern. Aziraphale, a rare books dealer, makes a nice foil, all nerves and common sense and morality. The conversations the two of them have in the first half of the book made up my favorite passages. There's nothing I love more in a book than just hanging out with two cool people (well, in this case, not exactly human people). Really, I couldn't have asked for more than having these two as my guides in this F-ed up world.

Anyway, to sum up, Good Omens fulfilled all I can really want as a reader just by being a great read at a time when I really needed some cheering up. Thank you, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I will be singing the praises of your novel for a very long time.


  1. I might have to go find a copy of this book. Your description has made me curious and I will not rest!!!

  2. It's really good. Weird, but good.