Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witchby Published 28 Nov 2006
|Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.pdf|
|Format||Mass Market Paperback|
An alternative cover for this ISBN can be found here
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Reviews
I somehow ended up reading them both simultaneously. So I couldn't help wondering
What Madam Bovary Might Have Thought Of Good Omens
Three days later, a package arrived; there was no return address, but she immediately recognised Rodolphe's hand. It contained a paperback novel, whose title was Good Omens. Feverishly, she cast herself over it. Her English was poor, but, with the aid of a dictionary, she persevered and soon made great progress.
The more she read, the greater her bewilderment became. The book at first reminded her of Candide, which she had surreptitiously read at the convent, but M. Voltaire's ésprit had been replaced by another ingredient she was unable to name; she suspected that it must be the strange English invention they called humour. All the personages were well-meaning and agreeable; the witches, the torturers of witches, the prostitutes, even the Demons of Hell; they were filled with kindness and compassion, and their worst faults amounted to an occasional mild irritability. Where were the indifference and thoughtless cruelty that surrounded her, and which had now become the very air she breathed?
She did not know whether Rodolphe had sent her the book to comfort her or to mock her in her despair, and her futile attempts to resolve this question gradually resulted in an agonising headache. Her husband prescribed an infusion of valerian, and persuaded her to retire for the night; she lay sleepless in her bed a long time, until the drug finally took effect just as the sky was beginning to lighten. She dreamed of apocalyptic prophecies, red-headed women wielding swords, endless circles of horseless carriages, young boys with dogs.
In the morning, she remembered that she should purchase some arsenic.
It seemed unfair for this to be one-way. So, in the spirit of granting a right of reply, here's
What Good Omens Might Have Thought Of Madam Bovary
"I saw this smashin' film yesterday on TV," said Adam, as the Them listened attentively. "It was called Madam Bovver-Boy -"
"She was a lady skinhead?" interrupted Brian.
"No, stupid," said Adam. "It's a French name. Bovver-Boy. By Flow-Bear."
"You mean Madame Bovary, by Flaubert," said Wensleydale. "I read about it in The Encyclopaedia of World Literature."
Adam gave him a withering glance. "That's what I said," he continued. "Madam Bovver-Boy, by Flow-Bear. She's married to this doctor, and he's dead borin', so she starts hangin' around with these two lovers, and then she maxes out her credit card, so she eats arsernick and poisons herself. The bit where she's dyin' of the arsernick is dead good. Her tongue's hanging out and she's screamin' -"
"Why did she max out her credit card?" asked Pepper.
"She was buying presents for her lovers," said Adam. "Roses an' boxes of chocolates an' stuff like that -"
"I thought the lovers were supposed to give her presents?" said Brian dubiously. "My sister's boyfriend gave her this huge bunch of roses on Valentine's Day, and a box of Quality Street, and a balloon with -"
"She gave them presents instead because it was a proto-feminist novel," explained Wensleydale authoritatively. "That's what The Encyclopaedia of World Literature says."
Adam felt that his control of the situation was slipping, and decided to up the stakes. "It's all true," he said, in an exegetical move that would have had Flaubert scholars around the world clutching their foreheads. "Based on a true story," he added prudently, in case the The Encyclopaedia of World Literature happened to have opinions on the subject.
Behind the bushes, Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. Crowley looked defensive. "Very loosely based," he whispered hastily. "I mean, I tempted her, it's my job you know, but Gustave changed the ending for dramatic purposes. Said it didn't work to have Rodolphe sort out her debts and then settle down in a cozy ménage à quatre with her, Léon and her husband. I told him that's what actually happened, but he insisted the arsenic worked better..."
I read this book before I tried to tackle Pratchett on his own merit, so I may have to retroactively skew this review based upon what I now know. The book is enjoyable, but may suffer from the fact that it represents its two authors at what seems to be their most basic states.
There is no question as to the recognizability of both Gaiman's and Pratchett's respective styles here, but neither seems to add anything to the other. One of Gaiman's weaknesses is surely his general lack of humor. Anything that makes you laugh in his books isn't likely to qualify as a joke. While this could have been remedied by Pratchett's collaboration, his humor tends to be more groan-worthy than profound.
It seemed to me that, by collaborating, both authors felt a need to simplify and de-personalize their respective styles, which for Gaiman meant an unfortunate loss of much of his dark charm, and for Pratchett that he was even more watered down than usual.
I know a lot of people, especially fantasy fans, love this book, and I will admit that it is romp-y, easily digestible, and certainly doesn't betray the inclinations of either author. Unfortunately, it also doesn't surpass them or create anything new or interesting. The whole is less than the sum of its respective parts. However, certainly worth a read; if only to get a fix of Gaiman while waiting for him to actually finish his next book.
UPDATE: After reading Gaiman's Anansi Boys, I have come to find that he can be quite uproariously and side-splittingly funny. I am now unsure just what part Pratchett played in Good Omens at all.
My Fantasy Book Suggestions
Remember back when funny books were funny? Back before you went to college and found out that Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen weren't funny after all, but Samuel Beckett and Charles Dickens were hilarious? Remember when the words on the page didn't just make you smile wryly and shake your head in shame for humanity, but actually made you laugh out loud? Well, that's the kind of humor that Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's 1990 release Good Omens brims with, and it is so damn good.
The two British authors were both relatively unknown at the time of their partnership, having met when Gaiman (working as a journalist at the time) interviewed Pratchett on the success of his first major novel, The Colour of Magic. The two became quick friends and proceeded to write the 398 pages of the now cult classic novel by sending floppy disks through the mail and calling each other on the phone. Of course, that story is all explained in the appendix, provided you don't pick up an original printing of the book (if you do do that, however, you can probably sell it for quite a bit of change, so don't be discouraged by your lack of author interviews).
But the real story at hand is, of course, the narrative of Good Omens itself--the tale of two friends, a demon named Crowley and an angel named Aziraphale who have spent all of human existence on earth and have rather come to like it, so when it comes time for the Apocalypse, they try to do whatever is in their powers to stop it. The cast of co-stars can only described as "vast," with some characters only popping in long enough for Aziraphale to take over their body or to go on a shooting rampage. The main other characters though, include: the Antichrist himself, a young boy named Adam, and his gang of friends; a witchfinder named Newton Pulsifer and his love interest, Anathema Device, who just happens to be a witch (and one whose ancestor, Agnes Nutter was burned at the stake by Newton's great-great-etc. grandfather, Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer.
Perhaps you're beginning to pick up on that sense of humor I mentioned?
That's what makes this book so great. I'm sort of a sucker for religious humor (and religious horror movies), and I've read a lot of books about the End Days. This one has to rank near the top, maybe even as the downright finest. It's humor ranges from simple little comedic bits to social commentary on religion and the human race--but no matter how big or small the joke is, every one of them is attended to equally, and they are all funny because of that. Though some of the British jokes and references flew by me (a problem the authors usually account for in their humorous footnotes), I really did enjoy this book, all the way from the plot down to how it was written. It really is an impressive feat for a co-authored book to feel so seemless (this honestly almost puts shame to the excellent Stephen King/Peter Straub double-ups, The Talisman and Black House).
So let down your guard, pack away that condescension that your professors poured into you Lit class after Lit class, and resist the urge to turn up your nose at any novel you can buy in trade paperback form in airports for $7.99 (but higher in Canada--oh wait, not anymore!). I actually laughed out loud as I read Good Omens. A few times, to be completely honest. And that's pretty impressive for a cynical, jaded old bastard like me.
One of my all-time favorite books. Up there with Hitchhiker's Guide.
This novel spoof of THE OMEN is absolutely hilarious. From the four bikers of the apocalypse to adorable hell hounds, it's my absolute favorite offering from Terry Pratchett -- his humor mixed with Neil Gaiman's is absolute win in my opinion.
***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.****