Monday, April 06, 2009

Review: Good Omens

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett or Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (Depending on the U.S. or U.K. edition.)

How the hell do I review a zany book about Arma-geddon, for heaven's sake?

I can't very well recap the story because that would make me as crazed as Gaiman and Pratchett. I can, however, say there are two main protagonists: Aziraphale ("An angel and part-time rare book dealer"), and Crowley ("An angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.") (Quotes are from the book.) Along the way we meet a host of other protagonists and antagonists (this is war, you know), most of whom are clueless: The Apocalyptic Horsepersons (one is female), Anathema Device, Shadwell, Madame Tracy, Newt Pulsifer, Them, and the Antichrist (who was, uh, misplaced at birth by Sister Mary Loquacious, a nun of the Chattering Order of St. Beryl).

Perhaps it would be much better if I jot down some of my general impressions of the book.

Good Omens is irreverent but never sacreligious. God neither shows himself nor speaks, except through a being named Metatron. The authors never take potshots at any one religion—unless one considers televangelicalism a religion.

To me, the latter was one of the funniest bits in the book because it was dead on correct. Marvin O. Bagman, an alumnus of San Quentin and host of Marvin's Hour of Power, has a knack for getting people to send him money. Having recorded an album of songs he'd written and sung to stolen country tunes, Jesus Is My Buddy was advertised every four minutes. Tunes like, "Jesus Is the Telephone Repairman on the Switchboard of My Life," and "When I'm Swept Up by the Rapture Grab the Wheel of My Pick-up."

Even though this is brilliant satire, there are people and groups who will object to this book (wasn't little Tommy Cruise baptized "Metatron" in the Church of Scientology, one of the world's great religions?) That's too bad because Gaiman and Pratchett aren't wacky for 369 straight pages; they discuss, through various characters, the nature of the Universe, of God, of good and evil, of free will, and most intriguing of all, the question why must there be an Apocalyse that will penalize everyone, both good and evil?

On the downside, I read this book in bits and pieces. Too much humor at one time became overwhelming and less funny, just as I have to take breaks from a sad book because of emotional overload. I also didn't like the small, very-serif font and the even smaller footnotes.

I give Good Omens four out of five stars, which is very very good but not stupendously great.


Wandering Coyote said...

I read this book years and years ago, and thought it was brilliant!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The Resident Offspring read this a few months ago and has been singing its praises ever since. It is on high on my TMR list!

Charlie said...

I agree that Good Omens is brilliant, but I just couldn't take it in one or two sittings. I think I enjoyed it more by stretching it out over a couple weeks.

And perhaps I was chintzy with the stars--4½ might be more accurate.

Mary Witzl said...

My husband is crazy about both Pratchett and Gaiman, so I'm guessing he'll shell out for this book if we can't find it in the local used book store. Honestly, it sounds great, but I feel the same as you do: it's almost too comically rich to take in during one sitting. I'm sure I'd have to leave this and come back to it over a week or two.

Kim Ayres said...

Perhaps the fact I read it a chapter(ish) a night made it all the better.

Unfortunately my copy went walkabout many years ago. I think it's time to order another one :)

Mel said...

I'm glad you liked it, Charlie. Some of Pratchett's Discworld books are on my "read in case of mental stress" list for all time. Have you checked those out at all?

Mel said...

DUH. I see that you have by the GIANT BOLDED LIST in your sidebar.