Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Review: Good Omens
After reading the entirety of the Discworld series I found myself with a distinctly Pratchett-shaped hole in my life. The Discworld books are my solace, my escape to a whimsical reality and a sure-fire cure for all worldly ills. What was I to do now that I had read them all? * While compiling an extensive catalogue of all my bookish possessions, as all bibliophiles are wont to do, I stumbled upon a hitherto unread copy of Good Omens co-authored by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. As I took it from the pile on my shelf I was overcome with joy, a heavenly light shone from above and angels rejoiced in song.** I had found my next read. Thank heavens/hells for a large TBR-mountain!
Good Omens is a story about the end of the world, but it’s not quite the Armageddon you might be expecting. For something based on an ineffable plan nothing seems to go quite as expected. Aside from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the hosts of Heaven and Hell, nobody else seems to actually want to allow it to happen, not even the Antichrist himself! A wacky adventure ensues as the most unlikely cast of characters try to prevent the end of times. I won't say more than that since discovering who teams up together, how their paths cross and what they are up to is half the fun.
I was engrossed in the story; completely captivated by the characters and their escapades. I giggled merrily to myself at the funny bits, but I was also deeply touched by the uncomfortable truths brought to light. While Good Omens might appear to be a fluffy read it has a much deeper philosophical side. Using wit and humour it deftly explores the human condition and some profound issues like nature vs. nurture, good vs. evil, the fallacy of religion and the question of free will.
“Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or bad, but by people being fundamentally people” (p 39)
"I don't see what's so t'riffic about creating people as people and then gettin' upset 'cos they act like people," said Adam severely. "Anyway, if you stopped tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it all out while they're alive.” (p 367)
Shoehorning in a reference to 1984 the ending is satisfyingly apt; full of promise and possibility, just as life should be.
If you had to highlight all the funny and profound bits (not to mention the profoundly funny bits) you’d end up with an edition swimming in a sea of neon. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are great authors in their own right, but as co-authors they are utterly brilliant***. Good Omens might have been written at the start of their respective careers, but it’s every bit as good as any of their more recent work.
* Aside from, obviously, waiting for the next one to be released. Said release being Raising Steam scheduled for release in October of the year 2000 and 13.
** Not a true account of events, but it seemed thematically appropriate. In actual fact I had hit my head on a shelf after toppling my reading lamp. The joy, however, was real.
*** On a brilliance scale starting with the output of a single candle and working your way up to the really bright stuff they’d rate somewhere close to a nova.
Good Omens is a hellishly funny read that will have you laughing out loud into the wee hours of the morning. It’s full of wit and humour, but also hides a more serious side. Some people might not ‘get it’, but if you are a fan of Discworld you’ll love every moment of it. I definitely did. Highly recommended!
The Rating: 8/10 (Great)
Thanks to Lynsey Dalladay from Transworld for providing the review copy.