By Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
I’ve read some of Neil Gaiman’s work such as The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them, so upon hearing that Good Omens was being made into a TV show, I had to read it first. I was intrigued by the fact that this was a collaborative effort with Terry Pratchett, who I’d heard lots of good things about but never got round to reading any of his work. The show has become eagerly awaited by people across the world and the book is considered a cult classic, so I went in with high expectations.
Unfortunately, those expectations for me weren’t quite met.
Set in England, Good Omens is about an upcoming Armageddon, the end of the world, which was prophesied by the witch Agnes Nutter and signaled by the birth of the Antichrist. However, the son of Satan seems to be misplaced, growing up in a little country village with a normal family. Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, must find him before it’s too late and stop the world ending, as they’ve grown quite a liking to their place in England.
The characters of Aziraphale and Crowley were my favourite part about this book as they are so clearly developed and have extreme personalities, working so well together despite their differences. Aziraphale is more anxious and concerned about doing the right thing, whereas Crowley is sarcastic with a mean streak, though this is threatened by his need to stop the end of the world. They are unlikely friends, though they would not admit this. I also liked Adam, the Antichrist, a young boy who quite innocently spends time with his group of friends unaware of who he really is. Their conversations were exactly what conversations between children are like, and it was nice to see that difference between the older characters and them.
“I bet you don’t have to be Spanish to be the Spanish Inquisition,” said Adam. “I bet it’s like Scottish eggs or American hamburgers. It just has to look Spanish. We’ve just got to make it look Spanish. Then everyone would know it’s the Spanish Inquisition.”
Speaking of the dialogue, I really liked the literary device of dialectal speech when certain characters would talk. It can be confusing at times trying to work out what they’re trying to say, but often it makes it easier for me to imagine their accent and the way they would speak, similar to Hagrid in Harry Potter for example. It gave a better voice and personality to the characters.
Another aspect of the book I liked was the way the authors thought outside the box for descriptions, which is where some of the humour would come in. My favourite line of description was describing the clouds as tagliatelle swirling in a pot because it’s so unusual yet so visual. I also love that any tape Crowley plays in his car would turn into a Best of Queen album! It’s so strange that it makes you laugh because no other author would think of a little detail so peculiar but funny. It’s not in your face humour, but subtle and witty. There’s no denying both Gaiman and Pratchett are very good writers, as you can see from the quotes I’ve inserted throughout this post.
Cars, in theory, give you a terrifically fast method of traveling from place to place. Traffic jams, on the other hand, give you a terrific opportunity to stay still.
However, the writing structure and the plot was something I struggled with. Within each chapter there would be a lot of chapter breaks which would switch between different characters. Switching between characters isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I was happy to see the various perspectives, but there were way too many and it happened too often. A lot of the time there would be a chapter break, it would have a single paragraph or even a sentence from another character, then it would switch back. I really didn’t see much of a point in this.
Also, it would often go to characters who we hadn’t been introduced to before and then we’d never hear from them again for the rest of the book, so was there much need for them to be inserted? This wasn’t something that happened once but many, many times. We already had the main characters and story lines of Aziraphale and Crowley, Adam and his friends, the witchfinders and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which was enough in itself. So to then have others thrown in for a page or two, even less at times, was too much for me.
There was a tearing sound. Death’s robe split and his wings unfolded. Angel’s wings. But not of feathers. They were wings of night, wings that were shapes cut through the matter of creation into the darkness underneath, in which a few distant lights glimmered, lights that may have been stars or may have been something entirely else.
The plot seemed to slowly plod on which is why it took so long for me to finish this book, then finally when the time came for the world to end it was extremely anticlimactic and nothing really happened. I found it difficult a lot of the time too to envision what was going on, which was a shame because some of the description could be so good, and it made it harder for me to want to carry on reading. The humour too is very particular; there were times I didn’t get the joke at all, which I think is because it came out in 1990 and I’m too young to understand. I hate to corner a book into an audience but I think it’s definitely for an older age range, though of course other people may enjoy it too. That being said, I did chuckle because the character interactions are funny and there are witty descriptions throughout. There were just too many times where jokes went over my head and knowing them would have made the book more enjoyable.
There would be other summers, but there would never be one like this. Ever again.
Better make the most of it, then.
Overall, I was quite disappointed after looking forward to reading it and expecting big things, which is an issue I often have with hyped up books or films. I just think it wasn’t the right writing style for me and it is very particular in who would enjoy it, though I do appreciate both authors’ writing talent. However, I do like the characters and the premise, so I will be watching the show as I’d love to see a visual representation to perhaps make me enjoy the story more and return to the book another time. I also think Michael Sheen and David Tennant are the perfect choice for Azriphale and Crowley! I feel terrible and might be attacked for criticising such loved writers, but I have to give this a 2 out of 5 stars. I personally found it hard to get through, though I’m sure there are many out there who really enjoyed it.