Hot. So. Hot. And so, a book about Armageddon, which, from what I’ve read, seems like it will have a lot of burning and fire and other hot things. It’s Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Do the synopsis mambo!
According to the virtually unknown prophecies of a 17th century witch, one Agnes Nutter, the world is about to end. Very, very soon. In fact, before the week is out. And the thing that sets Agnes apart from other prophets is that she is never wrong. According to her, the end begins with the Antichrist. The problem is, he’s been ‘misplaced’ in a bungled version of those which-cup-is-the-pebble-under games that con-men are always playing in cartoons. (The baby Antichrist is the pebble, in case that was unclear.) The other problem is that not everyone is eager for the End of Days. A demon named Crowley and an angel named Azirphale, unlikely friends who have spent millennia on Earth, have become rather fond of humanity over that time, and they are determined to put off the apocalypse, at least for a little while. They didn’t realize that they’d have to contend with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a witchfinder army, Agnes Nutter’s great-great-etc. granddaughter, and the Antichrist himself, an eleven-year-old boy named Adam with a pet hellhound named Dog and a fiercely loyal gang of friends.
Okay, if you couldn’t tell, this is an exceptionally difficult book to summarize.
I loved this book. It was AMAZING. I mean, of course it was, right? It’s written by two masters of fantasy. It’s quite fluid for a novel with two authors, too. I found it impossible, at least upon a first reading, to determine which parts were written by Gaiman alone, which by only Pratchett, and which by the two together. The language itself is delightful, the written equivalent of a toasty fireplace on a cold night. It’s the embodiment of that dry, subtle, slightly twisted, weirdly proper humour that is quintessentially British. Think Douglas Adams. Think awesome.
And it’s hilarious. I laughed out loud many times while reading this, annoying any friends, family, and felines in the vicinity.
Crowley and Azirphale are without a doubt my favourite characters. Their friendship was delightful and funny and oddly relatable. It may be because of my well-known weakness for bromances (*cough* Kolya and Lev *cough*), but I would do terrible, terrible things to read more about the reluctantly well-meaning demon and the morally ambiguous misanthrope angel.
My only complaint about Good Omens is that there were a few points at which the story dragged. A few people I spoke to who knew the story also mentioned the beginning being a little confusing, which I must agree with. These are minor issues, though, and don’t really detract from the hilarity, clever and innovative storytelling, surprisingly thoughtful characterizations, and overall quality of the book.
Some words of caution before my amazing book review skills send you running to the nearest bookstore (or library, if you’re one of those people who clings the crumbling relics of a bygone age and prefers to live in denial) to bag a copy of this classic example of fantasy-humour. You should definitely have watched The Omen at least once (which, let’s be honest, you should watch at least ten times in your life because it has Gregory freaking Peck and also THE ANTICHRIST. In Italy. With Rottweilers and spooky archaeology. COME ON!). (And for God’s sake make sure you don’t watch the remake with inexplicably attractive and fellow Gogol Bordello groupie Liev Schreiber, because why?) I would also recommend having seen Rosemary’s Baby, and you should have a basic knowledge of Christianity. Or, you know, you could just google the religiousy stuff. “Luckily” I had four years of Catholic high school religion classes to help me with the actual Armageddon stuff. See, I knew that crap really interesting stuff would be good for something one day.
But if you love great stories, witty writing, demon-angel bromances, and the majestic nation of Great Britain, then do yourself a favour and READ THIS BOOK.
Best line(s): “Azirphale collected books. If he were totally honest with himself he would have to have admitted that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them. He was not unusual in this. In order to maintain his cover as a typical second-hand bookseller, he used every means short of physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours – he was incredibly good at it.” (p. 58)
Or basically, this:
Rating: Four and a half out of five bookstore-owning angels. Or we can make that half-angel a demon, if that makes you feel better. Does that math work? Are there any theological mathematicians who can tell me if one demon equals half an angel? No? Okay, so… four and half out of five ancient books of completely true prophecies. Better?