Reviews: Good Omens

A nice take on common tropes.

I really loved this book. There was so much about it that was not only funny, but filled with good storytelling. The tropes that I recognized in it were used quite well. Good Omens is a true page-turner that's full of fantastic twists and turns in the plot. It's no wonder Pratchett and Gaiman tell us readers that this is "the most repaired book" they have ever signed. I can see why someone wouldn't want to give up their paperback or their hard covers so easily.

While Good Omens tells a relatively simple story, it's the character interactions and relationships that make it a truly memorable book. It also has several messages within the text that aren't overly Anvilicious. What I really like is the interpretation of the conflict of demons vs. angels - and how there can be good and bad on either side.

What's really special about Good Omens is its ending. I'm not going to leave any spoilers - you'll just have to read for yourself!

I'm sure it's all part of the ineffable plan.

A Piece of History

The big thing about Good Omens was that it was co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, probably the two writers of a certain type of fantasy and phenomenally good at what they do. I mean Terry Pratchett is the best-selling British author of the whole 1990's. The book was written in 1990 and was the Neil Gaiman's first novel.

As a book, it's pretty good. The styles work well with each other, it means there isn't so much Neil Gaiman Symbolism! and his One True Plot* is consigned to a substory. Equally it tempers early Pratchett unfocus and makes it work in a modern day setting which Pterry has never quite managed. It's not the best of either but it's genuinely funny and probably one of the most witty of all their books, if the humour is grounded a bit in 1980's which dates it. People use cassette players and in-car phones. The past truly is another world. All the same it lacks a strength of theme and drive. It's good but not completely outstanding.

The main theme is humanism but there is nothing particularly challenging. If you've got faith it's not going to shake it, on the other hand if you're looking for a very detailed exploration of humanism, this isn't Dogma. In the end it comes off as even a little self-defeating. The central idea is that if it's wrong to do wrong, why does God let us do it? It's a good question and Pterry fans will recognise it (if God puts bricks under hats etc), some philosophers have called it the greatest challenge on faith, but this book doesn't commit. In one place in particular, someone asks this and yet two paragraphs later the same person is asked if he should make people good and replies it wouldn't be right. Heck the protagonist is a bit of a Jesus analogue and one point Death says 'You can't kill me' and he replies ' I don't know about that' or similar. I'd put it down to co-incidence, but this is Neil Gaiman and you know, Symbolism!

But the historical importance alone makes it worth reading. It's fun to work out who wrote what, parts with the Four Horsemen have a distinct Gaiman vibe, as does the young confused person who Becomes A Man and gets the girl, whereas some of the cross banter of the kids can only be Pterry. This is something you should read just so that you can have read it.