Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett

People love Good Omens. There’s an adaptation, which is a good sign of being loved, with a follow up series. They love its humour, what it has to say about humanity and the supernatural, its many homages and brilliantly daft ideas. It helps too that it’s written by two particularly loved authors in Gaiman and Pratchett. How can you not love a collaboration of two icons, particularly if you belong in some way to the same culture as them?

Well I don’t know how I don’t, but I don’t love Good Omens.

The more I consider this, the more bizarre I find the situation. I like Crowley and Aziraphale, our main characters from the hosts of heaven and hell. I very much like their friendship with one another, with all the complexities and laughter and references it brings. I enjoy the ‘Just William’ pastiche of Adam and Them, and their endless fast-burning enthusiasms. Anathema is a strong character, and I have a soft spot for what they did with the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

So many of the conceits are incredible. All car tapes turning into Queen? Change that to Bob Dylan, and that was my childhood. Convents of chattering satanic nuns, a fraudulent order of witch hunters, ducks that recognise spies and corporate team building gone dark? Yes to all. The M25 as a prayer wheel to dark powers? Convince me it isn’t, frankly. Although you might have to be British to get that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that for a certain period, they could have simply used “do you get all the references in Good Omens” as the British Citizenship test very easily. That period being my formative years.

How do I not love this book?

Part of it is a certain jadedness about the concept. There are so many fantasy books that want to tell us about heaven and hell and how it really is these days, and I’m beginning to find the “well actually” air so many of them have a little tedious. Good Omens has it’s share of that vibe. Give me the layered ineffability of the Almighty in Gaiman’s Sandman, or the neat sidestep into the worship of Om in Pratchett’s Discworld instead.

More than that though, I just don’t find the plot line gripping enough. Good Omens is a very superior collection of scenes but for a lot of the book, it meanders. I have no urge to find out (or revisit) what happens next. There are few scenes that are elevated and empowered by the consequences of prior scenes.

The ending comes together with a vengeance and has some sequences with real momentum, particularly regarding Crowley and Adam, but even here there’s a bit of flab because there’s so much to be resolved. Some parts of it underwhelmed, particularly regarding the horsemen.

And so I find Good Omens to be less than the sum of its parts. There’s so many things I love in here, but I just can’t quite love the totality. In a strange way, perhaps I could if the parts were less wonderful and the pedant in me wasn’t muttering under its breath. There’s no way I know, I’ll suppose. A good book. Just not for me.

8 thoughts on “Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett

  1. “Less than the sum of its parts.” Yes, that’s fair comment. Lots of sparklies, but the necklace they’re hung on feels a bit frayed, or leastways flimsy. The test is: would I read it again? And the answer to that is, I’m definitely in no hurry.

    Now, I might read Noh Country for Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, adapted by Cormac McCarthy…

    Hell’s Angels meet the Outlaws

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also found Good Omens a bit of a let down when I first read it… I much prefer the adaptation and am looking forward to S2. For my part, I’ve never been much of a Terry Pratchett fan so there were a lot of elements that didn’t do anything for me. Do you think you might have felt less jaded about the overall concept if you had read it when it was first published?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I could actually read when it was first published 😛

      But more seriously, no. I did first reach Good Omens a long time before I read most of the others – probably wasn’t clear about this being a many times over re-read – but my opinion of what I want has been markedly changed and there’s no removing the filter. Not that I ever really loved this book, I think; the mild lecturing air is an addition to my main problems, rather than my main problem.


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