November 22nd, 2020

Book 22 - 2019

Book 22: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman - 405 pages

Description from
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 . . .

I don’t remember if I’d heard of this book before I saw an ad for the TV show, but I’ve read other Neil Gaiman books, and I’ve had Terry Pratchett’s Discworld on my list of books to read since forever, though I’ve never got around to actually reading them. But my interest was piqued by clips of David Tennant and Michael Sheen being downright hilarious and adorable, and as I had an upcoming overseas trip (which included 15+ hours of flight), I decided I need a copy of the book and the show to take with me. So two points before I get started:

This review is as much of the show as it is of the book. I watched/read them co-currently, so they are forever linked in my brain
I did end up finishing the show before the book, so that has undoubtedly influenced my opinions

Okay, so I loved both the book and the TV show immensely. I think I love the TV show slightly more because the two leads are just amazing. I want to hang out with them forever, and I wish there was more, but at the same time, I’m glad Gaiman and Pratchett wrote one great book, rather than two or three less great ones (not that I think they would have written less great sequels). I’m also glad Gaiman has put his foot down on TV sequels (from what I’ve seen online); not everything needs a sequel, and sometimes a story is better for not having one.

Still, despite loving the TV show more, there are certain things that I feel worked better in the book than they did in the TV show, or background information was given that added context (I was confused by the holy water thing when I saw it in the TV show, but it made more sense once I’d read the book). There are differences, with some additions to the show that I really liked, and some omissions that didn’t affect the story in any way. The show focuses more heavily on Crowley and Aziraphale, and adds to the airbase scenes in ways I liked, but the last scenes of the book with Adam work better in the written medium. Ultimately, the two complement each other beautifully.

The very best thing of the story is Crowley and Aziraphale. I choose to interpret their relationship as a deep platonic love born out of millennia of being the only two of their kind, and the mutual love they share for the Earth and humanity. I just can’t come at them as being sexual - their supernatural beings so having sexual urges doesn’t necessarily make sense to me, and their relationship didn’t read as physical to me anyway (but hey, if you feel otherwise, more power to you). David Tennant and Michael Sheen now are those characters for me, and I don’t think I could imagine anyone else in the respective roles (David’s ever changing hairstyles and sunglasses are fabulous in more ways than I can describe). I could talk for hours about how fabulously they play their parts. But the relationship shines in the book too; two people who alone understand each other’s experiences, have worked out that nothing is as black and white as their head offices might claim, and that have built a funny, silly little life together (in a manner of speaking) while the fundamentalists carry on with their nonsense. Their relationship, along with the book/show itself, says some really powerful things about choice, religion (particularly fundamentalism), good vs evil, people, decisions, friendship, childhood, love, destiny etc, etc. It’s the kind of book I hope to be able to write one day, a book that makes you ponder great and wonderful things, whilst revelling in the small inconsequential silliness at the same time.

I also never picked up changes in style despite the book being written by two people. I know Gaiman has said that both men could write passably in each other’s style, but it truly feels like a book written by a single person. In many ways to me, it further reflects the beautiful symmetry that is the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale.

Another thing I really loved was the Britishness of the book. It actually temporarily made me long for being back in London (I lived there for three months in 2012). Even more so than Harry Potter, this book is unashamedly British, and never shies away from this by over-explaining to the audience. I loved this - I love books that basically encourage a reader to go away and look up a slang word or google ‘why is the M25 so terrible?’. With our cultures increasingly converging in the West, it is more important than ever to celebrate the things that still make them unique. Good Omens could never be American, and I am so happy about that! (Don’t get me wrong, I love America - I’m literally in America right now!).

There are so many other wonderful things about this book, and I will be re-watching, re-reading and talking about it for some time. I encourage everyone to give it a go!

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

5793 / 15000 pages. 39% done!

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