Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

3.5/5 stars
PG-13 for some swearing, sexual references, and irreverence to Judeo-Christian religions
Recommend to fans of humor, the ridiculous, parody, and satire. If you enjoy Douglas Adams or Christian comedian Brad Stine, you will probably find humor here.
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

Good Omens is completely irreverent and absolutely hilarious.

I adore it.

It's just a figure of speech!
First, let me address the elephant in the room.

This book is super irreverent toward Judeo-Christian religions. I hesitated reading this for a while because of that. In the end, I'm very glad I did, because it's hilarious. Some people might find this book offensive or insulting because of its irreverence -and I get that. BUT, if you think you might be one of these people, let me say this: just don't take it too seriously. It makes light of serious Biblical events, yes, but at the same time, it offers up some good points and interesting commentary about the world. And, in the end, just remember it's a part satire, part parody, fantasy, comedy novel.

On this topic of religion and irreverence, there's actually an interesting theme at play in the fabric of the story which I quite love, pointing at how the worst and the best things in history were devised by humans, not influenced by the likes of demons or angels. It even mentions that Crowley (a demon) took notes during the Spanish Inquisition and sent them back to Hell, because even demons couldn't come up with this stuff. It's almost a running joke throughout the story for Crowley (said demon) or Aziraphale (an angel) to admire one particularly successful blessing or terror, only for the other to reply, "Oh, that wasn't us. We thought that was yours."

Now, I find this so interesting because of the popular idea, both in storytelling and theology, that devils and angels hang around earth, tempting and guiding people in their daily lives.
I've never much liked this concept because it has the stench of brushing off personal responsibility. In a nutshell, I think temptations come from the evil inclinations inside oneself, rather than from an external evil force trying to lead one into darkness; if one simply blames one's sins on the siren call of the devil, one is rather sloughing off one's personal culpability to said sin and one's personal responsibility to keep oneself on the path of the righteous. For example:
It's not my fault
If in God's plan
He made the devil
So much stronger than a man

Hellfire, from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame 
After all, when people put down all the evil in the world to devils and the good in it to angels -or to any spiritual powers!- that certainly begs the question of an individual: "Then what does it matter what I do?"

In Good Omens, Pratchett and Gaiman play around with this idea through the perspectives of Crowley and Aziraphale and -while I don't agree with most of the theology aspects in this book- this side of it is actually quite poignant. It proposes that humans have the capability to be more evil than demons and better than angels.

And you know what? I think they've got a point.

Plus, the book is hilarious. A demon who drives a 1926 black Bentley with 'Dick Turpin' painted on the side? An angel who owns a rare book store? A two-man (not very in demand) army of witch hunters, an 11-year-old Antichrist, and the world's only complete book of prophecy written by one Agnes Nutter, Witch? And all of these elements are thrown into a blender without a top and set on puree. The only thing missing are those identical, little black bags from Oscar!

Of all the parts of this book, what I love most is the friendship between Crowley and Aziraphale. The pair have found common ground over millennia through their shared affinity for earth and humans during their time spent tempting and guiding mankind, and neither of them is much looking forward to seeing the End of the World they've come to love. AND THUS IS BORN THE GREAT COMEDIC TEAM UP. Aside from their poignant dual observations on humanity, theirs is a hilarious and unlikely friendship as they bumble around trying to mess up the Great Plan -and all the better for it, says I!

The plot is a convoluted band of hilarity as Heaven and Hell and everything in between gear up for Armageddon, but while the story tends to bounce all over the place between a wide array of eccentric characters, Gaiman and Pratchett never disappoint to fill a scene to its fullest and funniest potential and it is obvious they enjoyed every second of time they spent in this world.

My one complaint of the whole story is the rather anticlimactic finish. It doesn't necessarily leave loose ends, but it isn't what I wanted, either. There are enough good moments throughout that I still quite love the book but -judge me if you must!- I'm kind of hoping the ending might get tweaked in that BBC miniseries coming next year. *fingers crossed*

Good Omens constantly had me in a fit of giggles, occasionally provoked me to think a little deeper, and easily let me imagine David Tennant in Crowley's shoes just from the way his lines were written.

Besides, any book whose summary ends "And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist..." deserves a read, don't you think?

Have you read Good Omens?

No comments:

Post a Comment