Where to begin? Before I start talking about Good Omens, I feel like a little bit of background is in order to explain why this book has meant so damn much to me. So here goes: I grew overseas in a non-English speaking country, an only child and book worm. Some of my earliest memories are of reading. (I literally cannot remember learning to read, so in a way, reading has always been part of my life.) But for some reason, I was aware early on of a distinction between children’s books and “real” adult books; in other words, I was a book snob almost from the beginning. As a pre-teen, I loved reading books by Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne, Balzac and similar European authors, some of them probably somewhat unsuitable for my age. When my family moved to England and I learned English, I discovered and quickly devoured Agatha Christie’s books (wonderful for ESL beginners), but most of my reading was still devoted to 19th and early 20th century classics.
Then, sometime in my teens, I came across Good Omens. And, guys, it was a revelation. It was smart without pretending to be high-brow, and funny as hell. It had demons, and angels, and witches, and all kinds of other cool characters I’d never come across before. Mostly, it was just a blast. I re-read it more times than I can count, through my teenage years and early twenties, and went on to discover Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s other works, which also became favourites. (I especially love Pratchett’s Discworld witches stories and Thief of Time, and Neil Gaiman’s short stories. His Sandman oeuvre is still one of my fave examples of world-building.) Good Omens is also the reason why I fell in love the likes of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde – brilliant, witty writers with wild imaginations. It’s fair to say that Good Omens has been a Big Deal in my reading history.
So let’s talk about the book.
It was published in 1990 (!!!) making it over 25 years old (!!!). I haven’t read it in years, so my first question was: how does it hold up? And the short answer is: very well. I was going to say “surprisingly well”, but who are we kidding: Pratchett and Gaiman were/are visionaries, so there should be no element of surprise here. Admittedly, some references feel a bit dated … but, again, it’s 25 years old! A lot of my references are quite dated these days. Getting old happens to us all. With that said, the book is still fresh, and it certainly hasn’t lost its power to charm – or to make me bust out laughing in the middle of a crowded commuter train.
In fact, I was reminded again of the mystery that is the fact this book has never been adapted for the big or small screen. Think of all the questionable crap that has been made into movies and/or TV shows in the last 20 years – why hasn’t Good Omens made the cut?
Which brings me to my first question for you, fellow book clubbers: how would you fantasy cast Good Omens?
Moving on to some specifics:
What I liked the most
I love Crowley. I think it’s probably fair to say that there is a little bit of Crowley in Archer (the protagonist in my first novel), just as there is probably a little bit of Aziraphale in Bell (the other protagonist in said novel). I loved the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale. I would read a book about their adventures, for sure. (Um, I’m starting to sense that I owe Good Omens a bigger debt of inspiration that I realized).
I remember loving the 4 Horsemen in the past, but on re-reading, that conceit seemed less novel and striking – probably because I’ve read a lot more fantasy novels in the meantime, so I’m less surprised by the ingenious ideas that people come up with.
I still like the ending, although it feels a bit more “pat” to me now, as an adult, than it did to teenage Adina. But I love the idea of Adam deciding who he wants to be – and there is a little bit of that in Archer too. (What I said earlier? Yeah, thanks again, Terry & Neil!)
Book club question #2: what did you like the most about the book?
Book club question #3: who was your favourite character(s), and why?
What I liked the least
This is not a huge gripe, by any means, but there aren’t many female characters in the book. With that said, the ones that are there, are pretty kick ass. I love Anathema, Agnes Nutter, and Pepper. From past readings, I remember both Anathema and Pepper being really cool and not merely sidekick-y, damsel-in-distress types, and my memory was correct. They’re not front and centre as far as the storyline goes, but they seem to be fully realized characters. Honestly, though, there isn’t much I didn’t like about this book.
Book club question #4: what did you like the least about the book?
I’m going to turn this over to you guys now, and I would love to hear your thoughts about Good Omens. Feel free to respond to the questions above in the comments, if you wish (all or some of them), or simply leave your overall impressions, thoughts, or criticisms.
Finally, it’s time to announce March’s BCRL Book Club selection:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons!!!!
I wanted something different this month, and Cold Comfort Farm is about 180 degrees from Good Omens, although they both share the distinction of being bloody good. At least, I’m pretty sure. I could have sworn that I read this book in the past, but I’m now thinking that I may have confused it with the movie adaptation. Speaking of which, if you have extra time, definitely try to track the movie down and watch it — it is a sheer delight.
Don’t forget to join me on Thursday, March 24 for another book club discussion.