Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: Good Omens

Title: Good Omens
Author: Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Pages: 415
ISBN: 9780552159845
Publisher: Corgi
Published: 1990 (2011 for this edition)
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

'Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don't let you go around again until you get it right'

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it's only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea? You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax.

Or you could just try to do something about it.

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.

The Verdict:
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.


  1. I just bought a paperback copy of this today! (I'm pretty sure I still have my hardcover, but it's buried in a box somewhere in the Land Of Packed Away Things...) Planning to squeeze in a reread and review next month. :D I love all things Pratchett. Just love him.

    1. Pratchett is great! I can see myself re-reading this again and again. My only regret is that my review doesn't do this justice at all.

  2. I always felt that people who go into this book with no knowledge (or love) of Richmal Crompton's William are going to miss out on quite a number of the book's references and much of the tongue-in-cheekness of the homage.

    1. That might be true, but if they don't get the references to Just William, there are loads of other references that are bound to delight.