Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry PratchettIn recent years Neil Gaiman has become something of a celebrity. As close as any author ever comes to being a rock star. He has legions of fans across many genres of fiction.

Terry Pratchett has also turned into a bit of an international household name. His satirical writing is some of the sharpest and poignant out there, also perhaps the most entertaining. He is fantastic at combining wicked satire with real drama to create hilarious and exciting adventures.

Many years ago, nobody knew who either of them were. Neil Gaiman was a news reporter and Terry Pratchett was a still unheard of comedic voice in fantasy — a notoriously hard sub-genre to write in.

They met and the result was Good Omens.

I wish I could summarize precisely why I didn’t enjoy this book. Everything I can point to is done very well. There is a great deal of religious satire that is treated for laughs but, somehow, kind of respectfully at the same time. It’s hard to get offended when the joke is so true and yet it feels well intended.

The story is about an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, have been living on the earth for untold millennia doing good or evil respectively. In that time they’ve become friends and will occasionally help each other out — as long as it’s on the down low.

When the Apocalypse strikes and nobody knows where it is because of a confusion with a misplaced infant the two team up to thwart it, having decided that they rather like living in the world and don’t want it end.

The story has some amusing anecdotes and some hilarious circumstances and asides. The whole is sharp witted, well written and amusing. In short it is what one would expect coming from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

I am baffled, then, by my reaction to it. Which was one of total apathy. I just couldn’t muster much interest in any of the characters. The situations, while funny, felt like they lacked any strength. It’s an amusing string of situations that build off one another brilliantly but only tenuously linked together with characters that feel underdeveloped and maybe a little like caricatures.

I can see the magic at work here. The authors have chosen a touchy subject matter to make fun of and they do it so well that it feels respectful even while they are poking holes in religious logic. The delicate hand that is required to do that is easily overlooked. When it’s done well, it looks easy. When it’s done bad it makes people mad or comes across as rude.

Pratchett and Gaiman have written a comedy classic that I just had a hard time caring about at all. If you are a fan of either of these authors you are likely to enjoy this book, but by the time the end finally rolled around I felt like I had read a book twice the length and it was a bit exhausting.


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