Do you remember back when funny books were funny?
When words on a page didn’t just make you smile wryly and shake your head in shame for humanity, but actually laugh out loud?
The moment you first experienced when some wonderful friend introduced you to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and you realized that people could do amazing things with the written word and a little dash of seasoning?
Terry Pratchett (and Neil Gaiman as well, I suppose) certainly does.
And I cannot stress enough just how good it is.
This collaboration between two British authors came about thanks to Gaiman (working as a journalist at the time) interviewing Pratchett on the success of his first major novel, The Colour of Magic. The two became quick friends and proceeded to write the 398 pages of the now cult classic 1990 novel by sending floppy disks through the mail and calling each other on the phone. Of course, that story is all explained in the appendix, provided you don’t pick up an original printing of the book (if you do do that, however, you can probably sell it for quite a bit of change, so don’t be discouraged by your lack of author interviews).
But the real story at hand is, of course, the narrative of Good Omens itself – the tale of two friends, a demon named Crowley and an angel named Aziraphale who have spent all of human existence on earth and have rather come to like it, so when it comes time for the Apocalypse, they try to do whatever is in their powers to stop it. The cast of co-stars can only described as “vast,” with some characters only popping in long enough for Aziraphale to take over their body or to go on a shooting rampage. The main other characters though, include: the Antichrist himself, a young boy named Adam, and his gang of friends; a witchfinder named Newton Pulsifer and his love interest, Anathema Device, who just happens to be a witch (and one whose ancestor, Agnes Nutter was burned at the stake by Newton’s great-great-etc. grandfather, Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer.
Perhaps you’re beginning to pick up on that sense of humor I mentioned?
That’s what makes this book so great. I’m sort of a sucker for religious humor, and I’ve read a lot of books about the End Days. This one has to rank near the top, maybe even as the downright finest. It’s humor ranges from simple little comedic bits to social commentary on religion and the human race – but no matter how big or small the joke is, every one of them is attended to equally, and they are all funny because of that. I really did enjoy this book, all the way from the plot down to how it was written – for you know, it really is an impressive feat for a co-authored book to feel so seamless.
Pratchett’s books at their best are utterly excellent, and at their worst are merely good.
This, fortunately, is Pratchett at his best, and it cannot come with a higher recommendation.
“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING,” said Death, “JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”