Publication Info: Prince Frederick, Md. : Recorded Books, 2009 [originally published in 1990]
Several years ago, I read Good Omens, and hearing the buzz about the new tv series adaptation, I thought it was worth revisiting this book in audio format, charmingly narrated by Martin Jarvis. This was the first book I read by either author at the time of my previous reading. It is no less than a satirical fantasy about the Apocalypse. More specifically, satire of the religious beliefs around the End Times mixed with satire about quirky, middle-class English life (the biggest flaw of this book is that it can get bogged down in the “quirky, middle-class English life” bit, past the point of being funny).
The main characters of the book are the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, who have formed a partnership over the eons due to their both liking humanity for their own reasons, and thus wishing to avoid the end of the world. Early in the novel, the son of Satan is born, and due to a mix-up by the Satanic nuns at the hospital, the baby is mixed up with another baby. 11 years later, when the Apocalypse is too begin, the child groomed to be an Anti-Christ is an ordinary boy, while Satan’s actual son is Adam Young of the Oxfordshire village of Lower Tadfield.
The plot shifts among several characters. Aziraphale and Crowley trying to sort out the mix-up without getting in trouble with their Higher Ups (and Lower Downs, I suppose for Crowley?). Adam and his gang of friends Them get into esoteric mischief as Adam becomes aware of his powers. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War, Death, Famine, and Pollution (who took over from Pestilence after the invention of penicillin) assemble and ride, picking up some Hell’s Angels along the way who give themselves names of things that annoy them. And Anathema Device is a witch who knows everything that will happen because she is the descendant of Agnes Nutter, a 17th century witch who wrote a book of accurate, but highly specific predictions. She is brought together with Newton Pulsifer, a nerdy bloke who seems to stumble into becoming one of the last Witchfinders for a paycheck.
A lot of it’s corny, and as I’ve said, sometimes the jokes are belabored. Nonetheless, it’s a clever and funny work of two of the great fantasy writers of our age.
My original review from 2004:
A very silly book about the Apocalypse run amok. Sometimes the tongue-in-cheek writing style got a bit annoying, but there were always some clever bits to redeem it. While mostly a parody of Apocalyptical legend, there is also a strong undertone about good & evil and faith in a higher being. For all the comic cynicism, the message about God here is surprisingly positive.
It is said that the Devil has all the best tunes. This is broadly true. But Heaven has the best choreographers
Crowley thought for a bit. “You must have had records,” he said. “There are always records. Everyone has records these days.” He glanced proudly at Aziraphale. “It was one of my better ideas.”
(As someone who works in archives and records management, I’m particularly amused that a demon invented records.)
The small alien walked past the car.
“C02 level up 0.5 percent,” it rasped, giving him a meaningful look. “You do know you could find yourself charged with being a dominant species while under the influence of impulse-driven consumerism, don’t you?”
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