Good Omens – Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: Review & Recommend | ELLIE LOVES

I have previously received PR products (free review copies) from Penguin, who own Transworld.

Another Saturday, another review. And this one is the last of the year! There won’t be a review next week, as it’ll be Boxing Day, but they will resume again in the new year. Until then, I hope you’ll be able to make do with the last of my 2020 Book Countdown posts, and I also have a Winter Favourites post coming up before the New Year! Today I’m reviewing a different book to the kinds of things I usually review. This one had been sat on my shelf for quite a while (like most of my books to be fair), and I thought I should finally get around to it. So today, I’m reviewing Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

Satire isn’t something I often read, and nor is fantasy, so this was pretty far out of my wheelhouse. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it’s a satirical telling of the arrival of the Apocalypse, complete with Heaven, Hell, and the Four Horsemen. In a hospital run by Satanic nuns, the Antichrist is born. Crowley (agent of Hell) and Aziraphale (agent of Heaven) are both charged with keeping an eye on the child as he grows up.

Throughout this book, there are a lot of jokes and references to not only the Bible, but to British history, which I enjoyed. The writing style really isn’t something I’m used to, as I tend to read books that have a much more serious writing style. Even down to the way the text was presented, it was different for me. It’s presented in a manner intended to mimic old texts, with ornate capital letters for the start of a new segment, and a font chosen to look old-fashioned for the title page and pages that separate the different sections of the book. While the writing style wasn’t something I would usually read, it was well done and made an enjoyable change to my usual reading. If you enjoy satirical writing, and writing imbued with humour down to the way it’s presented on the page, this is probably the kind of book you’ll enjoy. Many of the events that happen in this book are absolutely bizarre, combinations of Biblical characters with modern (or modern-ish: Good Omens was published in 1990, so some references are a bit outdated) pop culture.

At the centre of the book are Crowley, (somewhat reluctantly) fallen angel, and Aziraphale (non-fallen angel). The relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale is the focal point of the book in many regards, and is definitely the highlight of the book. As agents for opposing sides, Crowley and Aziraphale should rightly be enemies, but instead they strike up a reluctant friendship brought about by forced companionship. As the book progresses, the distinction between Heaven and Hell, good and bad, becomes more and more blurred. Both Crowley and Aziraphale have certain people or groups of people on their payrolls whom they thought were on their side, and neither are overly committed to their own side. Maybe good and bad aren’t so far apart after all?

The other characters in this book are plentiful, and many will be ones that anyone vaguely familiar with the Bible will recognise. The Four Horsemen (here Death, War, Famine and Pollution — a change even more apt in the 21st Century than it was in 1990) are represented by characters who prominently feature the appropriate colour assigned to the horsemen. Around them is found whatever destruction their particular brand is, so not to worry if (like me) you aren’t too well-versed on which horseman is represented by which colour. For reference, War is red, Famine is black, Pollution white, and Death pale. The Four Horsemen appear intermittently throughout the book, creating tension that builds up to the climax. The other major characters are primarily children: the three boys involved in the switching of babies that takes place in the opening scene all appear throughout the book, as do The Them, a gang led by one of the three boys. The characters are all really well-developed, even the more minor ones. Given that Good Omens clocks in at around 400 pages, and many of the characters aren’t introduced properly until halfway through, this is a real testament to Pratchett and Gaiman’s writing. Not that the quality of their writing should really be doubted given their career success, but they were both relatively new writers when Good Omens was published, which is to say, in their words

“In those days, Neil Gaiman was barely Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett was only just Terry Pratchett”.

Good Omens, The Facts. Pratchett & Gaiman.

The predictions in this book were also one of the highlights for me. Anyone who’s studied Renaissance period literature will likely be familiar with the prophecies, manifestos and pamphlets churned out around that time, by people both famous and forgotten. In Good Omens, one such forgotten witch/prophetess is invented: Agnes Nutter. Named after Alice Nutter (real witch, or at the least, real person hanged for being a witch), Agnes’ book of prophecies drives the narrative, yet also has the potential to drive the narrative off its course: her prophecies are always accurate, but often only comprehensible in retrospect.

Overall, this bizarre satire really grabbed me. I don’t know that I’ll ever really get into Pratchett or Gaiman, but this book is one I do appreciate. It’s irreverent, hilarious, and surprisingly insightful in its wit. While it does take a lot of liberties with the Biblical origins of a lot of its characters, there are some interesting elements carried over, hidden within the satire.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

One thought on “Good Omens – Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: Review & Recommend | ELLIE LOVES

  1. […] Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. 3.5 stars.This was really quite a way out of my wheelhouse, but I’m glad I gave it a go! It’s sort of fantasy, definitely satire, telling the story of the unlikely companionship between an angel and a fallen angel, both sent down to Earth to watch over the Antichrist as he grows up, and the Apocalypse draws ever nearer. Needless to say, it’s not the usual serious type of book I’d read, but if you’re looking for something irreverent and funny, give this a go! You can find my review here! […]

    Liked by 1 person

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