Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
This book is: the most fun you’ll ever have witnessing the Apocalypse.
Other elements: angels, demons, condensed milk, dogs, aging mediums, talkative Satanist nuns, the nature of humanity, impending doom, hijinks.
Read it: if you enjoy wry humor. If you giggle at any of the quotes below.
Overall rating: 9.75/10
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It should have been, but that’s the weather for you. – Page 4
The powers below have decided it’s time for the End of Days. A demon named Crowley is perturbed; he lives in the human world and is rather fond of it. He faces the uncomfortable realization that he really would rather not bring about the apocalypse, but direct disobedience is risky when you’re an agent of Hell. He delivers the human-shaped baby Spawn of Satan (aka the Antichrist, Destroyer of Kings, Lord of Darkness, etc) safely to its human foster family and then goes to see an old friend.
On the whole, neither [Crowley] nor Aziraphale would have chosen each other’s company, but they were both men, or at least man-shaped creatures, of the world…. Besides, you grew accustomed to the only other face that had been around more or less consistently for six millennia. – Page 31
The demon and the angel come to a deal: they will both keep an eye on the baby Destroyer of Kings and each attempt to influence the child, hoping to cause a standstill. This continues for 11 years, until the collaborators must face an unpleasant discovery. The child they’ve been focusing on is entirely human and the Spawn of Satan is missing. Everyone panics.
MORTALS CAN HOPE FOR DEATH, OR FOR REDEMPTION. YOU CAN HOPE FOR NOTHING. ALL YOU CAN HOPE FOR IS THE MERCY OF HELL.
JUST OUR LITTLE JOKE.
“Ngk,” said Crowley. – Page 255
The reader is introduced to a new plotline: an idyllic, isolated town with a group of childhood friends led by the young Lord of Darkness himself, who has grown up free of supernatural influence. He is called Adam and enjoys circuses, winning computer games, and playing with his dog. As the fateful hour approaches, Adam begins to feel new things within himself and comes to the realization that he is not an average 11-year-old. Hijinks ensue as vast ranges of people/creatures try to find Adam and either thwart or join in the fun of the apocalypse before it’s too late. Everything becomes immensely ridiculous and extremely entertaining.
One aspect of this book I particularly enjoy is the footnotes. One begins “Note for Americans and other aliens:” (page 32) and another, even more direct, “NOTE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND AMERICANS:” (page 78). These notes explain mysteries like Milton Keynes and the original British monetary system. It does wonders for the ego to find footnotes in a novel that sound like they were put there just in case someone exactly like you came along.
Now, because it is genius and it gives you a good sense of what to expect, here’s a longer excerpt:
In fact the only things in the flat Crowley devoted any personal attention to were the houseplants. They were huge and green and glorious, with shiny, healthy, lustrous leaves. This was because, once a week, Crowley went around the flat with a green plastic plant mister, spraying the leaves and talking to the plants. He had heard about talking to plans in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it was an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did. He put the fear of God into them. More precisely, the fear of Crowley.
In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn’t look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants.
“Say goodbye to your friend,” he’d say to them. “He just couldn’t cut it…”
Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuous around the flat.
The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. They were also the most terrified. – Page 225
As you may have surmised, I think this book is wonderful and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.* It’s very silly – but clever and well-written enough that it’s an engaging story rather than just a book-long joke. There is also meaning behind the madness; beneath the puns and chaos there’s a real statement about the nature of humanity and the importance of balance between opposing forces to maintain equilibrium. It made me laugh a lot and then it made me think a little, which is often what I’m looking for in pleasure reading. I anticipate keeping this one on my shelf for years to come.
* Anyone who isn’t offended by books that satirize religion.