Good Omens: The harbinger of the apocalypse is an eleven-year-old boy

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsGood Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman fantasy book reviewsGood Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

The bad news for the world is this: the apocalypse is nigh and all of humanity will soon face their final judgement. The good news? A Bentley-driving demon and an angel who is ‘gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide’ have decided that they rather like humanity and are going to try and save it.

Good Omens is the result of a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, when ‘Neil Gaiman was barely Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was only just Terry Pratchett.’ The story centres on Crowley, said demon, and the serpent who tempted Eve (originally named Crawly). Throughout history, he has secretly liased with Aziraphale, an antique-loving, rare books enthusiast who also happens to be an angel. In fact, the two have accidentally become friends over the centuries. Now they must try and stop the Antichrist from destroying all humanity.

The Antichrist (otherwise known as The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan and Lord of Darkness) is in fact an eleven-year-old boy named Adam Young who lives in rural Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire. He likes cowboys. And aliens. And rainforests. He has a gang of mates called The Them who run amok in the countryside and generally do what all other eleven-year-olds do. But Adam is no normal kid. He manages to raise the lost city of Atlantis and cause five hundred tonnes of uranium to disappear from a power plant, just by wishing it.

Anathema Device also lives in Lower Tadfield. She is the descent of the 17th Century witch, Agnes Nutter, who wrote the Nice and Accurate Prophecies (nice, here, meaning highly accurate). Now, armed with the indecipherable prophecies of her ancestor, Anathema joins Crowley and Aziraphale in their attempt to stop the four horsemen of the apocalypse from destroying the universe.

A note on the four horsemen: these were the creation of Neil Gaiman and a truly awesome piece of imagineering (yes, I just made up that word). War is a red-headed bombshell, Famine a diet-food tycoon. Pollution contaminates everything he comes into contact with, and Death is reminiscent of his DISCWORLD counterpart.

A collaboration between these two fantasy juggernauts was always going to be a success. Good Omens is hilarious and poignant in equal parts. Crowley, it is explained, designed the M25. For anyone that is unfamiliar with the English road system, it is one of the most notorious motorways in the UK. Crowley designed it in the shape of the sigil odegra in the language of an ancient priesthood that roughly translates to ‘Hail The Great Beast, Devourer Of Worlds.’

It’s great fun to try and distinguish the two authors’ voices. Though Pratchett claims both authors rewrote each other’s work so much that even they don’t know who wrote what any more, there are phrases that are clearly more Pratchett- or Gaiman-esque. A side-splitting read from start to finish and, most importantly, tremendous fun.

Good Omens — (1990) Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. Publisher: According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter — the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future — the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea. Which means that Armageddon will happen on a Saturday night. There will be seas of fire, rains of fish, the moon turning to blood and the massed armies of Heaven and Hell will sort it outonce and for all. Which is a major problem for Crowley, Hell’s most approachable demon and former serpent, and his opposite number and old friend Aziraphale, genuine angel and Soho bookshop owner. They like it down here (or, in Crowley’s case, up here). So they’ve got no alternative but to stop the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse, defeat the marching ranks of the Witchfinder’s army and — somehow — stop it all happening. Above all (or, in Aziraphale’s case, below all) they need to find and kill the Antichrist, currently the most powerful creature on Earth. This is a shame. Because he’s eleven years old, loves his dog even though it’s really a Satanic hellhound under all that hair, really cares about the environment and is the sort of boy anyone would be proud to have as a son. He’s also totally invulnerable, and a nice kid. And if that isn’t enough, they’ve still got Sunday to deal with… All two of them.

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RACHAEL “RAY” MCKENZIE, with us since December 2014, was weaned onto fantasy from a young age. She grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies and devoured C.S. Lewis’ CHRONICLES OF NARNIA not long after that (it was a great edition as well — a humongous picture-filled volume). She then moved on to the likes of Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy and adored The Hobbit (this one she had on cassette — those were the days). A couple of decades on, she is still a firm believer that YA and fantasy for children can be just as relevant and didactic as adult fantasy. Her firm favourites are the British greats: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman, and she’s recently discovered Ben Aaronovitch too. Her tastes generally lean towards Urban Fantasy but basically anything with compelling characters has her vote.

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3 comments

  1. This has been on my TBR for what feels like forever. Clearly I’m missing out on some good stuff!

  2. Same here, this collaboration of fantasy giants has been on the shelf waiting to be read for ages! I have the audiobook now so it may finally squeeze to the front of the queue.

  3. ditto!!!
    Thanks, Rachael!

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