During the school year, when you feel like readings are piled up to your ears, reading for fun can seem like a ridiculous idea—but it shouldn’t. Reading is the fastest way for you to make an escape into the world of your choosing, and expand your vocabulary without even knowing it. The underappreciated world of literature offers endless benefits, so without further ado, check out this week’s read.
Good Omens, a collaborative work between fantasy legends Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is a familiar tale in many ways.
The action begins with the delivery of a demonic child, destined to bring about Armageddon. The apocalypse will be presided over by a pair of adversaries pitted against each other since the dawn of man—Crowley, the Genesis-era tempter of Adam and Eve, and Aziraphale, the Angel entrusted with guarding Eden.
There’s one problem with this scenario: In the 6,000 years since the Fall Crowley and Aziraphale have become drinking buddies, and have grown to enjoy the pleasures of earth. Not interested in dealing with the nasty business of the End Times, the two immortals plot to disrupt the infant’s diabolical upbringing. This is further complicated by the fact that, unbeknownst to either of them, the child has been switched at birth.
Packed with quirky characters, eccentric humour, and plenty of pop culture references, this 1990s cult novel reads like The Omen mixed with Monty Python.
The book features multiple intersecting plotlines, sly running jokes that take hundreds of pages to pay off, and a large cast of angels, demons, humans, children, nuns, witches, and witchfinders.
Given that Pratchett and Gaiman collaborated on the novel in an era before Google Docs (they reportedly wrote the bulk of it through phone conversations and mailed floppy disks), it’s a small miracle that the story is so seamlessly integrated.
The plot is mostly driven by Pratchett and Gaiman’s witty narration and whimsical asides. Along the way, the authors provide solutions to a variety of mysteries of the universe: Why are there only Four Horsemen in the Book of Revelations (the answer involves a motorcycle accident)? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin (a moot point, as there is only one angel who can actually dance)? Did Elvis Presley really fake his death (turns out he’s alive and well and working at a truck stop)?
Much of the novel’s humour comes from the pairing of bookish Aziraphale with stylish slacker Crowley. The reluctant demon “who did not Fall so much as Saunter Vaguely Downward,” is frequently surprised to find humans committing more diabolical sins than demons could ever dream up. “They’ve got what we lack,” he concludes. “They’ve got imagination. And electricity, of course.”
As an apocalyptic novel, Good Omens has its fair share of grandiose imagery, including clandestine meetings of demons and the resurgence of the Lost City of Atlantis.
However, the real magic is found in the smaller, character-driven moments—deadpan dialogue between supernatural beings, scenes of Aziraphale and Crowley drunkenly bemoaning the coming apocalypse, or subtle notes like Crowley “blessing” under his breath.
My personal favourite moment is an exchange in which a technology-adverse demon is informed that Crowley “drives a car with a telephone in it” and subsequently speculates, “I bet it needs a lot of wire.”
Good Omens is a clever and irreverent read that might just get you thinking about deeper religious and moral questions. Alternately, you can take it as an amusing joyride through the End Times set to a Best of Queen soundtrack.