June 12, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Discworld Read-Along Continued: Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman wrote an Apocalypse comedy.

I said I would do a few extra books from Pratchett since I have finished the Discworld series, so without further ado, here’s his apocalypse comedy Good Omens, co-written by Neil Gaiman.

Plot:  The Antichrist has been born!  An Earthbound demon named Crawley has been assigned to make sure the kid gets swapped and sent to the right parents in order to bring about the End Times.  But Crawley wrongly trusts an addle-brained Satanist nun to get the job done, the child gets mixed  up with a middle-class English couple’s, and therein lies some problems.

Whether or not young Adam Young wants it, when he is 11 years old, the Apocalypse is scheduled to happen.  He doesn’t really know anything about that.  He’s just a regular kid who sometimes seems to have odd things happen to him.

Meanwhile, Crawley meets with his angelic counterpart Aziraphale to see if they can stop the Apocalypse.  Why?  Well, both Crawley and Aziraphale have found that rather like the Earth and want to stay there.  Heaven is rather boring.  Hell is, well, Hell.

Can a demon, an angel, the last two members of the Witchfinder Army, a phony psychic, and the last descendant of a very accurate prophetess stop the end of the world?  Or will a kid decide he’d rather keep things as they are when the thing that makes him what he is doesn’t want that at all?

Commentary:  I don’t really know anything at all about how exactly this book was written, but the writing style suggests Pratchett did all the actual putting the words to paper while Gaiman probably worked out the plot with his longtime friend.  I see more Pratchett than Gaiman here.  Considering that Pratchett was an atheist and Gaiman, near as I can make out from his Wikipedia page, was of Jewish stock, spent much of his childhood in the Church of Scientology, and currently seems to be something of an agnostic, it may not be much of a surprise that despite the Christian overtones, this may not be much of a “Christian” book.  By that I mean, there’s blatant questioning on God’s plan going on, though it comes out late that it may be because Heaven and Hell’s respective representatives are interpreting how things are supposed to go on their own.  God never really appears in the book, and Crawley of all people is the one to point out that an all-knowing creator probably knew what was going to happen anyway and maybe wanted things to turn out as they did.

But the book is mostly full of Pratchett’s longtime themes, namely how people are rarely all-good or all-bad, which includes people who are practicing Satanists, and the fact that both Crowley and Aziraphale have been surprised many times over the past few millennia over how much more creative humanity is for both its good and evil deeds than anyone from their respective domains.  Since the message from Adam-the-Antichrist seems to amount to telling the celestial beings from both realms to  get lost, that also fits in squarely with a lot of Discworld books.    For the most part, Pratchett views humans as flawed, silly creatures who can always do better, and that view is extended to angels and demons here.

Gaiman’s contribution might be harder to pin down, but I expect a lot of it came from the cosmology involved in the book.  Like I said, if Gaiman’s name weren’t on the cover, I might not know what he added to the book.  It reads a lot like one of Pratchett’s, right down to the comedic footnotes.

Besides, there’s a supporting role given to a character that may be Discworld’s Death.  Appearing as one of the Four Motorcycles of the Apocalypse, Death here speaks in the ALL CAPS and seems a bit less bemused by everything around him.  There’s some real fun with the other Horsemen-turned-Bikers as well.  War is a woman who has worked as an arms dealer and war correspondent.  Fights break out wherever she is.  Famine is a successful businessman selling diet meals and nutrition-free fast food.  The final member is a new person, Pollution, an albino litterbug from the looks of things.  Pestilence, we are told, quit when penicillin was invented, but he missed out on some good stuff in the backend of the 20th century.

I haven’t read this book in a long time, but I did still have the paperback I bought probably close to twenty years ago.  It’s looking a bit battered and torn on the cover, but still was a good read.

NEXT BOOK:  While Discworld may be Pratchett’s best-known series of works, it wasn’t his only one.  He actually managed to complete another series before he died with science fiction writer Stephen Baxter as his co-writer.  I’m not the slightest bit familiar with this one, aside from what the back cover says, and it may not even be at all funny.  But be back sometime soon for the first book in The Long Earth series titled The Long Earth.  That series runs five books, after which I will be done with this project.

Previous entries:

Here’s where I would list the 41 Discworld books in the order I read and wrote up about them.  That’s a lot of cutting-and-pasting more often than not, so from here, let me just send you to the special page where everything is already linked up.  Go here.