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Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Omens

Good Omens

by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (Or Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman depending on your edition)

(5/5 stars)

In 1988 two great British humorists got together to write a story about the end of the world. I'm overselling a little here, but think of it as if the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin got on stage to jam together in the early '60s or so before they were huge stars. As you'd guess, the result is something unique--and hilarious.

How can the end of the world be funny? Watch and learn.

Long ago in the Garden of Eden, a demon named Crawly tempted Eve & Adam to eat the apples off the Tree of Knowledge and thus get kicked out of the garden. Taking pity on them, an angel named Aziraphale gave Adam his flaming sword to use for protection and making fire. Since then Aziraphale and Crawly (now known as Crowley) have formed a friendship even as their masters (ie Heaven and Hell) plot to destroy each other.

Along comes the big moment when Crowley is supposed to deliver the Antichrist to a satanic group of nuns, who will then switch the evil baby for the normal one born to an American cultural attache--a reference to "The Omen." Except one of the nuns messes it up and the Antichrist ends up going to a normal British family in a place called Lower Tadfield while the supposedly evil baby is watched closely by the minions of Heaven and Hell.

Skip forward eleven years to when the time has finally come. The Four Horsemen are getting to ride out--for fans of Pratchett's Discworld series the Horseman of Death is the same as in those books with the speaking IN ALL CAPS and the same dry wit--only now they've upgraded to Harleys. The lost continent of Atlantis has risen to the surface once more. And other weird stuff is happening, but now someone needs to find the Antichrist.

Crowley and Aziraphale, who have grown fond of if not humanity itself then at least all of humanity's stuff like books and Bentleys, set out to avert the seemingly inevitable End of Days. Their efforts are joined by a witch whose distant relative Agnes Nutter wrote a book of prophecies that never sold because of their terrible accuracy, a pair of witchhunters, and a gang of kids. But can they avert the Apocalypse in time? (Well, we're still here, aren't we?)

It occurs to me now that director Kevin Smith really should have read this book (and taken notes) before making his lamentable "Dogma" that dealt with similar concepts but was bogged down with too much information and not enough laughs. Gaiman/Pratchett (or Pratchett/Gaiman) manage to seamlessly blend in Biblical elements without sacrificing the humor. But as I've come to expect at least where Mr. Pratchett is concerned, there's intelligence behind the humor. Some of it may be a little too British (like Mr. Shadwell's terribly thick accent) or a little dated (like the jokes about answering machines, computers, and cassette tapes) but even so it's hard not to go more than a page without laughing.

This is a superb book that I think would make even those most fundamental Christian crack a smile. And as I said at the beginning, you're probably never going to see two masters get together like this again, so don't miss this opportunity.

That is all.

(BTW, as I finished Pratchett's Discworld series I thought this would make a perfect segue into my next book, Gaiman's "American Gods.")

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