Book 10: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

January 9, 2009 at 1:34 am (Review) (, , , , )

Good Omens is a book about the coming apocalypse written by two people. It could very easily be a total disaster. The tone could be so easily be uneven or awkward to read but it never is. It flows clearly and is very easy to read. The best compliment I can pay it is that you are never concious of it being written by two writers.

It concerns the battle between good and evil on a cosmic and local level. Moving between the machinations of Heaven and Hell and the machinations of those on earth deftly. We are drawn in to the story with an angel (Azirphale) and a demon (Crowley). They are just the tip of quite a sprawling cast of characters that includes the descendant of Agnes Nutter Prophetess, Apocalyptic Horsepersons, a few witchfinders and the Antichrist. As anyone familiar with one or both of the authors’ works would expect the characters are drawn with intellegence and wit. No character ever seems rote or one note. The good are not quite as good as they seem and the bad are not necessarily all that bad. Sometimes the underlining of how people tend to be more grey than black and white can be overdone. I would have liked them to give us all a bit more credit in terms of understanding the motivation of some of the characters.

Good Omens could so easily be a cliche. It manages though to avoid most of the pitfalls of the apocalypse tale, the worst being falling in to a by numbers telling of good battles evil, apocalypse does or does not go ahead, some hero saves the day  and we all live happily ever after. In the case of  Good Omens I’m not sure that there is a hero really or that the day was necessarily saved which for me is part of it’s brilliance. The ambiguity I was hoping for in terms of character is better realised in terms of the story.

The story is frequently laugh out loud funny. I would not recommend reading in a public place because apparently snorting coffee all over yourself is a difficult look to pull off with out looking monumentally stupid or deranged. Deadpan observations about the absurdity of people and life abound and Good Omens would be worth the read for these alone but it’s also worth the read to see a writing experiment go well. It’s not quite a as good as the best Gaiman or Pratchett but it’s still pretty good.

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