Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman — a book review


Good Omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was published way back in 1990, which doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but really was. It was also the only collaboration between the authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Pratchett has since shuffled off this mortal coil, but Gaiman continues doing what he does.

I consider myself a fan of both authors. I’ve read several of Pratchett’s books over the years, both within and without his Discworld series. I have enjoyed his sense of humor, and even managed to learn things while reading his novels, in spite of my natural inclination to learn nothing and simply be entertained. I’ve read only one Gaiman book before this, American Gods, but he gets bonus points because I have now read it twice.

Full disclosure: I started reading Anansi Boys, but lost interest in it because it wasn’t American Gods. Short-sighted, maybe, but true. I still intend to read his Sandman stuff someday. Honest.

British guys who write funny stuff invariably get compared to Douglas Adams and the lads in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This is unfair to all of the principals involved in the comparison. I’m a huge fan of all the Hitchhiker’s novels (but especially the first three). Douglas Adams was a rare and unique talent, although even his stuff was being compared to the more surreal aspects of Python. In my opinion, Good Omens doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first three books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy cycle. It is probably on par with the last two and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But, again, that’s my opinion.

Which is not to say this isn’t a good read. I enjoyed it. It’s a rollicking good-time story about the End of the World and the Antichrist and witchfinders. There are angels and demons. Even the Metatron makes an appearance, and I pictured Alan Rickman in that role. There’s a lot of silly going on here. A lot.

Therein lies some of my problems with the novel. This is a story with the highest stakes of all time, but it never seems like it. I’m not saying that I want only doom and gloom in a novel about Armageddon. But, some would have been nice, for contrast.

In American Gods, Gaiman threw in some humorous stuff, but, taken as a whole, the subject matter was treated seriously. I would have liked to have read a bit more of this in Good Omens. The novel had all of the ingredients of a suspenseful, exciting story, but this never paid off because the stakes never felt real.

Aside from this one (minor) quibble, the book is still a good read. I understand why the novel has such a cult following. It’s almost as if the lads of Monty Python, in their prime, were reenacting the movie The Omen based on a script written by Douglas Adams, maybe a bit past his prime.

Today’s Report Card Grade: B+

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