Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I bought a kindle version of Good Omens in 2013 and dove into it right away.  I couldn’t get into it, though, and put it down after reading the first 98 pages.  My book club chose it for our next read in June 2019, so I picked it up and tried again.  While I did finish the whole book this time, I still didn’t enjoy it very much.  I think it might just be a personal issue on my part, however.  I’ve read two of Neil Gaiman’s books (The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere) before this and they didn’t really click with me either.  Before I begin, take a look at this brief synopsis of Good Omens:

‘Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.’

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…

This book was originally published in 1990 and it shows its age a bit.  There are mentions of technology such as landlines and cassette tapes that are not as common nowadays.  It didn’t detract from the story for me, but I was born in the 90s, so I grew up with cassette tapes and the like.  I’m not sure how people who were born in 2000 or later would do with the technology mentioned in this book, though.  I feel like it might cause a bit of a disconnect for this age range since most of them have probably never owned or used these electronics.

The perspective shifts in this book were really hard to follow.  They were just so abrupt and the shifts were too subtle.  I had to stop and reread a few paragraphs because I wasn’t aware that a new character was narrating, which was really confusing.  Some of these POV changes switched from a familiar character to one we hadn’t run across yet.  Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the author wrote these perspectives as if we already knew the characters and their back stories.  These sudden shifts were very confusing and made the whole book feel choppy.

I did like the humor/writing used in Good Omens.  It reminded me of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale with the weird, off-the-wall happenings that occurred.  For example, the following sentence appears in Good Omens:

“Admittedly he was listening to a Best of Queen tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums.”
– Page 14

That sounds just like something that would happen in Night Vale.

The plot of Good Omens didn’t feel as cohesive as the one in Welcome to Night Vale, however.  There are angels and demons; the apocalypse; witches and witch-hunters; realistic/contemporary scenes; and even aliens and flying saucers!  There were so many different plot points and genres scattered throughout this book that it was like the authors couldn’t decide what type of book they wanted to write, so they just threw a bunch of ideas at the wall and used what stuck.  Good Omens felt very messy because of this.

There was also a lot of unnecessary filler.  For example, on pages 182-183, the reader is informed about Newt Pulsifier’s car.  We are told that it has so many design flaws and safety issues, but Newt still tries to convince his friends and family members to buy one.  After that, we don’t hear anything else about it or receive an explanation as to why the reader needed to know this information.  I usually enjoy getting a little extra detail in books, but these scenes seemed pointless to me.

One of the main themes explored in Good Omens is the good versus evil debate.  I thought the authors did a good job of subtly adding details throughout the book that made the reader think about how the line between Good and Evil isn’t crystal clear; it’s blurred and ambiguous.  For example, on pages 62 and 63, it is mentioned that Aziraphale (an angel) is eating deviled eggs and Crowley (a demon) is eating angel cake.  The little things like that made me contemplate the differences between Good and Evil much more than the actual plot did.

I think Good Omens could have been an interesting, thought-provoking book if it was a bit more cohesive, plot-wise.  Perhaps if the authors had stuck with one genre throughout and left out one or three of the random side-plots, this book might have ended up being one of my favorites.  As it is now, however, it was a mediocre book that I had trouble finishing for my book club meeting.

I’m waffling between giving Good Omens 2 stars or 3.  I know a LOT of people enjoyed this book, and I really think most of my issues with it aren’t universal, so I’ll go ahead and give Good Omens 3 stars.


But there were times when you needed trees, and the shame of it, Jaime thought, was that his children were growing up thinking of trees as firewood and his grandchildren would think of trees as history.  – Page 293

She was not astonishingly beautiful.  All her features, considered individually, were extremely pretty, but the entirety of her face gave the impression that it had been put together hurriedly from stock without reference to any plan. – Page 111

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