Sunday, 6 January 2013

Good Omens

by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

With the Mayans prediction of apocalypse on December 21st falling through, what is a more fitting book to read than ‘Good Omens’?

This fantasy comedy is written by two acclaimed and award winning writers of sci-fi and fantasy fiction: Neil Gaiman (author of ‘American Gods’ and ‘The Sandman’ graphic novel series), and Terry Prachett (author of ‘The Discworld series’ and ‘Dodger’).

‘Good Omens’ involves the birth of the antichrist, with an angel called Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley’s efforts to avert the impending apocalypse, because despite its faults this planet isn’t half bad. These two giants of fantasy fiction have not only created a tale that turns figures from Christian mythology on its head, but paints a picture of a very english armageddon. This quirky and entertaining narrative features an end of the world where demons drive Bentleys, are responsible for the M25, have lunch with angels at The Ritz, where angels own bookshops in Soho, the four horsemen are bikers and where the antichrist lives in Tadfield. 

The list of absurd characters and irreverent satires goes on and on but occasionally the plots are as easy to mix up as the antichrist at a Satanist hospital. With many interweaving characters and subplots that veer to and fro, it takes you on a journey that leaves you laughing, crying and thirsty to read more. The characters created by the dual authors are well formed, fascinating and funny - who could not help but love a literary double act such as the demon Crowley, “the Angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards” and his unlikely friend, the angel Aziraphale - part time dealer of books and lover of tartan. The unlikely friendship between the two beings is one of the key narratives of the books, and contributes heavily to the books hilarious lighter moments.

You can really see the individual authors input throughout the book, whether it is Prachett’s tendency to ramble on in a controlled manner, manufacturing the books best pieces of comedic wit, or Gaiman’s pennant to re-imagine supernatural characters in modern settings, and write deep and multi-faceted plot lines.
Because the book is written in a fantastical style and light mannered tone throughout, it can sometimes be too light. Isn’t it the moments off darkness sandwiched between periods of light in life what makes the good times seem much brighter and the jokes much more funnier? Darkness in a novel gives the reader a chance to feel more for the characters, and allows us to enjoy the book more since we have a sense of the heightened feeling that comes from following the peaks and troughs of the books emotional roller coaster. To surmise the book seems to be missing the gravitas that would transform some parts of good omens into great omens.
Similarly, as exciting as all the merriment and hilarity seems to be at times, it can seem a bit too convoluted and it leave you a bit behind if you are not used to the fantasy genre or numerous back and forth narratives which is generally used to great effect in the authors other works. Prachett’s rambling style especially can be tricky for the reader unused to it.
Always light hearted, sometimes ‘Good Omens’ seems to be missing a sense of seriousness that would transform some parts of good omens into a really stellar read. However despite its sins ‘Good Omens’ is an immensely enjoyable book that would lighten up anyone’s apocalypse – An “ineffably” good read.

 Reviewed by Jade Bennett.

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