If this book isn’t already a cult classic, it most certainly should be. Subtitled The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch and released around 1990, Good Omens is a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett [although Pratchett did more of the writing and editing], both well-known fantasy authors in their own right.
Having not read either author’s work previously, this introduction to their comic genius has prompted me to purchase a few of their individual books which I’m eagerly looking forward to reading very soon.
The main plot revolves around the impending end of the world as we know it – Armageddon, and the efforts of the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, to prevent the Antichrist in the guise of Adam Young, an eleven-year old boy from bringing it about, having taken a liking (in their own ways) to humans and becoming inured to the comfortable life on earth over the millenia. Aziraphale we are told is the angel originally from the biblical Garden of Eden, while Crowley is better known as the talking snake who tempted Eve.
Being the respective representatives of God and Satan on earth, both form an unlikely friendship and conspire to ensure that the baby from Hell that Crowley is tasked to integrate into human society, does not actually grow up learning to differentiate between Good and Evil. Needless to say, in a comic mix-up at the hospital the future Antichrist winds up with the wrong family and grows up to be a relatively normal eleven-year boy who begins to utilize his unearthly powers without knowing it.
As the fateful day of the Rapture approaches, the race is on by both demon and angel to find the Antichrist a.k.a. Adam Young, to prevent him from initiating it. But there are also a host of other characters after him, some to help him end the world such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding motorcycles, and others such as Anathema Device, the descendent of the witch Agnes Nutter, and Newton Pulsifer the witch hunter descended from the man responsible for burning Agnes at the stake. The latter pair team up to find Adam and help save the world.
The rather neat ending in which the world is saved from annihilation was a bit of a let-down, but overall the many laughs and perceptive commentary about the state of the world up to that point, more than make up for it. I found the final thought from Adam [listed further below] is something everyone should aspire to.
Perceptive Commentary About the State of the World, or My Favorite Quotes
- God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.
- It happened to them at a certain age, wives. Twenty-five blameless years, then suddenly they were going off and doing these robotic exercises in pink socks with the feet cut out and they started blaming you for never having had ti work for a living. It was hormones or something.
- They’d been brought up to it and weren’t, when you got right down to it, particularly evil. Human beings mostly aren’t. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow.
- It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
- They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse.
- People couldn’t become truly holy, he said, unless they also had the opportunity to be definitively wicked.
- There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that , despite thousands of years of manmade evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf.
- “Churches? What good did they ever do? They’m just as bad. Same line o’ business nearly. You can’t trust them to stamp out the Evil One, ‘cos if they did, they’d be out o’ that line of business…”
- He’d have liked to believe in a supreme God, although he’d have preferred a half-hour’s chat with Him before committing himself, to clear up one or two points. He’d sat in all sorts of churches, waiting for that single flash of blue light, and it hadn’t come. And he’d tried to become an official Atheist and hadn’t got the rock-hard, self-satisfied strength of belief even for that.
- It was then that Marvin got religion. Not the quiet, personal kind, that involves doing good deeds and living a better life; not even the kind that involves putting on a suit and ringing people’s doorbells; but the kind that involves having your own TV network and getting people to send you money.
- “I don’t see what’s so triffic about creating people as people and the gettin’ upset ‘cos they act like people,” said Adam severely. “Anyway, if you stopped tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive.”
- There never was an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it.