Friday, July 11, 2008

Book: Good Omens

I'm recently on a big Neil Gaiman kick (well, I have the books, now I just have to read them) and this was the first in the stack, as highly recommended by Kate. Written by both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman when, as they say, they were just Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, not TERRY PRATCHETT and NEIL GAIMAN. Before they Made It.

In short: excellent, very funny, clever, insightful -- everything you would want in a smart, funny book about the Apocalypse.

Described in blurbs as "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Apocalypse", I wasn't sure what to expect. I read The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy long ago and was sort of befuddled by it. Intellectually, I knew it was pretty amusing ('intellectually' and 'amusing' rarely go together so maybe that's my problem...) but it didn't really 'click' with me as being fall-out-of-bed funny. I had a little bit of the same issue with this book, although I did laugh out loud on many occasions and was (pardon the dumb description but it's true) tickled by the writing many more times. I don't know why but sometimes I don't quite 'get' satire. Maybe it's because whenever I picture someone reading Hitchhiker or some such, I picture a tubby man with a ponytail and grubby Hawaiian shirt sitting in a dark office making fun of everything he doesn't like, feeling superior about his higher intellect, and grumbling about paying his taxes.

That said, this was a pretty darn funny book. No grubby Hawaiian shirts here.

Essentially, there's an angel and demon, and they live on Earth here with us humans. They're pals. They go out to lunch and talk about work once a week. There's a book of very accurate prophecies, which states that the world will come to an end very, very soon (this Saturday, in fact). The angel and the demon are kind of bummed, because they like the world as it is. The Antichrist has somehow been switched at birth and is being raised as an ordinary English child who has no idea he's supposed to bring about the end of the world. And a witch and a witchhunter are about to fall in love. What is the world coming to? (the end! That's what!)

I keep coming back to the word 'clever' and there's a reason for that -- the writing is so sharp and the satire so dead-on, even though I rarely read books that could be described as 'satire' I found myself completely, thoroughly enjoying this book. Clearly both of these writers are extremely talented and had fun writing the book, and I particularly loved the demon Crowley, in his Bentley and the cassette tapes which all eventually turned into Queen recordings.

The copy that I have is a somewhat new edition, I think, and there are some interviews and footnotes at the end of the book which were fun to read. Apparently, there is quite a cult following for this book (similar to Hitchhikers...), tales of people buying multiple copies because they keep lending theirs out and it never comes back... bringing in completely mangled copies (falling apart, dropped in the bath, etc.) to be signed by the authors... but since I'm kind of thick I don't really see why. I mean, it's a wonderful book and very funny, but a cult following? For... Crowley? The Antichrist, Adam? I don't get it. But I think that has more to do with me than it does any merit the book may have. I'm all for cult followings of clever cultural phenomena. They're not supposed to make sense.

Anyway. The book was everything Kate said and more. Very, very funny and very smart, and now I'm even more excited about reading my Gaiman stack. I'm not sure I'm Terry Pratchett material (but I may give him a read just to see). But, I've read Coraline and many of the Sandman graphic novels, and loved them very much. I also read Neil's blog sometimes, because I like what he says. Also he rescued a dog and I always like that sort of thing. I have four Gaiman novels sitting on my bedside table and I can't decide which to start with. I think I'll go in order, starting with Neverwhere, then Stardust, American Gods, then Anansi Boys. These are the books I have, anyway. The Graveyard Book sounds pretty good, too.

My TBR pile is getting very large.

1 comment:

Nymeth said...

I love this book so much. And not just because it was written by my two favourite authors. The first time I read it they weren't my two favourite authors yet. Do give Terry Pratchett a try...I think that if you enjoyed Good Omens there's a good chance you'll enjoy at least some of his stuff (I really recommend Small Gods). And I hope you enjoy those Neil Gaiman novels.