Friday, August 29, 2014

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Good Omens:
The Nice and Accurate Prophecies
of Agnes Nutter, Witch
A few months back, I read my first ever Neil Gaiman novel. Loved it. The man can certainly be named as one of the most popular modern writers, even though his works tend to fly under some sort of radar. I didn't know about him at all until I started blogging and reading other blogs. Clearly, I was missing out. 

Perhaps it's the depth of his work. It's not necessarily blockbuster, general consumption stuff. There seems to be more to it. At least, in the two selections I've now read. 

This particularly book, Good Omens, was co-written with Terry Pratchett. Apparently, it's become a bit of a cult classic, a fact of which I was not aware until I read the forward and felt a bit stupid for never having heard of it before. I guess that's how cult classics work.

The book is hilariously sacrilegious. It's premise centers around the apocalypse. Readers are given the "behind the scenes" view into the planning, execution, and spiritual bureaucracy surrounding the event. Angels and demons banter back and forth and there is a wild misunderstanding when the child meant to be the anti-Christ is accidentally placed with a perfectly normal British family of no consequence instead of the intended American diplomat.

The book is witty and irreverent. Don't read it if you don't have a sense of humor. It's completely absurd at points and frighteningly spot on in others. To express my point, take a look at this collection of quotes I particularly enjoyed:
  • "God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising."
  • "With five billion people in the world you couldn't pick [humans] off one by one any more; you had to spread your effort." (a demon bemoaning the trials of temptation)
  • "It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but be people being fundamentally people."
  • "They [humans] were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse....They've got what [demons] lack. They've got imagination."
  • "People couldn't become truly hold, he said, unless they also had the opportunity to be definitely wicked."
  • "All you needed to become a Satanist was an effort of will."
  • "No matter how grandiose, how well-planned, how apparently foolproof an evil plan, the inherent sinfulness will by definition rebound upon its instigators."

My favorite quote, however, came at the end of the book, as the two protagonists (one angel, one demon) were contemplating how to stop the coming apocalypse. One was reminded by his superiors that, "The point is not to avoid the war, it is to win it." That felt so true to me. Not to get too philosophical over a comical book, but I really do feel American Christians could do with a reminder of this point. We, myself very much included, spend a lot of time trying to smooth things over and avoid conflict, spiritual or otherwise. While this point is incredibly admirable at some moments, there are others when we are called to fight for our beliefs. We miss a lot of those moments, I think.

Good Omens certainly wasn't the funniest or smartest or best book I've ever read. It's clumsy at points and a bit hard to follow at others. Still, it's amusing and I enjoyed reading it. It's fun to read something that was so obviously a labor of love for the authors, a project they did purely for their own enjoyment without worrying about publishers or press or popularity. There's something refreshing about that.

Pages: 413
Date Completed: August 3, 2014

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