Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

 Last year in preparation for the Amazon Prime adaptation, I read this for the third time and it clicked for me in a way it hadn’t on the first two passes.I’d always liked the conceit: the antichrist is switched at birth and when he comes into his powers things go awry, but it didn’t quite land for me. I was still a fairly devout Christian or close enough to that viewpoint that, despite being a good enough sport by that time to be able to take a joke, I was, like The Ringer’s Brian Phillips*, a little too close to the source material to fully appreciate the absurdity of some of the book’s action. Last year, though, it really clicked into place. I loved the series as well; I couldn’t imagine a better adaptation. On this fourth pass, prompted by an online book club, I still really loved it.

An angel, Aziraphale, and his opposite number, the demon Crowley (formerly Crawley) are charged with representing their representative sides in the battle for the souls of humanity. But they form an odd friendship over the centuries and the lines between good and evil are blurred. When Crowley is tasked with switching out the Antichrist for the son of an American diplomat the two hilariously and half-heartedly try to woo him to their sides as he grows. But then when the actual antichrist hits puberty and events are set into motion they realize the aforementioned baby swap and have to deal with the consequences. The actual Antchrist is a boy named Adam; he and his friends (the Them, in the parlance of their annoyed neighbors) hold the key to how things play out. The cast of characters is wide and varied, and every one is a delight. I especially liked the courier who delivered the news of the impending apocalypse to the four horsemen of the same and Agnes Nutter the witch whose book handed down among her ancestors drives much of the plot. And I just love that there’s a character named Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer.

Good Omens is a very good blend of Pratchett and Gaiman’s styles. I’ve heard people who are fans of one over the other complain that it’s not like their solo work, but I think the mix works well. It is a humanist book; it asks the question, if certain religious people weren’t so concerned with apocalypse and justice in the afterlife, would they work harder for justice in this one? But despite that philosophical underpinning it is primarily  a hilarious action comedy/fantasy story, and the chronicle of a centuries long friendship. 

Highly Recommended 

Rereads And Everything Else 2020 14/35


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