J.G. Keely's Reviews > Good Omens

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
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it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, humor, novel, reviewed, contemporary-fantasy, uk-and-ireland

I read this book before I tried to tackle Pratchett on his own merit, so I may have to retroactively skew this review based upon what I now know. The book is enjoyable, but may suffer from the fact that it represents its two authors at what seems to be their most basic states.

There is no question as to the recognizability of both Gaiman's and Pratchett's respective styles here, but neither seems to add anything to the other. One of Gaiman's weaknesses is surely his general lack of humor. Anything that makes you laugh in his books isn't likely to qualify as a joke. While this could have been remedied by Pratchett's collaboration, his humor tends to be more groan-worthy than profound.

It seemed to me that, by collaborating, both authors felt a need to simplify and de-personalize their respective styles, which for Gaiman meant an unfortunate loss of much of his dark charm, and for Pratchett that he was even more watered down than usual.

I know a lot of people, especially fantasy fans, love this book, and I will admit that it is romp-y, easily digestible, and certainly doesn't betray the inclinations of either author. Unfortunately, it also doesn't surpass them or create anything new or interesting. The whole is less than the sum of its respective parts. However, certainly worth a read; if only to get a fix of Gaiman while waiting for him to actually finish his next book.

UPDATE: After reading Gaiman's Anansi Boys, I have come to find that he can be quite uproariously and side-splittingly funny. I am now unsure just what part Pratchett played in Good Omens at all.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2006 – Finished Reading
May 24, 2007 – Shelved
May 26, 2007 – Shelved as: fantasy
May 26, 2007 – Shelved as: humor
February 27, 2008 – Shelved as: novel
June 9, 2009 – Shelved as: reviewed
June 9, 2010 – Shelved as: contemporary-fantasy
September 4, 2010 – Shelved as: uk-and-ireland

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

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Trixie Jack "I am now unsure just what part Pratchett played in Good Omens at all."

To be fair, in their latest edition of the book, both authors said largely the same thing--they don't know where each other's voices end and begin, which parts they each played in what scenes, or really even who wrote what. :) 20 years probably does that to you.
I've often found which Pratchett's work that multiple re-readings of the same text, particularly if spaced out over a few years, offers up more of his satirical humor within the deeper layers of the piece (it may help that we seem to have similar politics, so that I'm finding greater and more subtexts to explore each time I go back).

I just had to smile at your last sentence. I'm sure the authors would do the same. Cheers!


J.G. Keely Heh, I'm sure twenty years on, very few authors have much idea what they were thinking at the time. Perhaps Gaiman learned something about approaching humor from their collaboration--though I know he's also been an avid student of Douglas Adams (his first book was a bio of Adams).

Thanks for the comment.


message 3: by Richard (last edited Mar 27, 2012 07:18AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Richard What? A Keely review NOT followed by reams and reams of angry, nay e'en excoriating, fulminations hurled by disputants who are in violent disagreement with his views and baying for his blood? I may never survive the shock.


Akash Makkar Lol,good one Richard.


Richard Akash wrote: "Lol,good one Richard."

Thanks! :)


J.G. Keely I assume they just haven't gotten to this one yet. I try to be patient.


Richard Keely wrote: "I assume they just haven't gotten to this one yet. I try to be patient."

Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you. :)


J.G. Keely Ha, that's right.


Traxy Thornfield Recently read that about 80% of the raw text material was Pratchett's but that both edited everything so that it all came together that they can't tell things apart.


J.G. Keely Ah, interesting.


Charity I agree. The book has flashes of humor, but is really just tedious and LONG. I'm only finishing it to find out what happens to the angel.


J.G. Keely Heh, sometimes plot does draw us along. Thanks for the comment.


message 13: by Cassandra (new) - added it

Cassandra Keely wrote: "Anything that makes you laugh in his books isn't likely to qualify as a joke."

I'm reading this now, and laughing more frequently than I can remeber ever laughing at a book before... but then groan-worthy humor runs deep in my family. No accounting for taste, I suppose.


J.G. Keely Yeah, I know a lot of people who like him, and I've just never enjoyed his work. Then again, all of them got into him when they were quite young, so perhaps that has something to do with it.


message 15: by Cassandra (new) - added it

Cassandra Keely wrote: "Yeah, I know a lot of people who like him, and I've just never enjoyed his work. Then again, all of them got into him when they were quite young, so perhaps that has something to do with it."

Gaiman or Pratchett? Neil Gaiman it a recent discovery for me, and he's becoming one of my favorite authors; I can see how he wouldn't be for everyone though.

This is my first experience with Terry Pratchett.


David Netherworld is pretty funny, too.


David Correction: *"Neverwhere"... also, "Anansi Boys" is a spinoff of "American Gods", and very much worth reading.

I think that your insight into what works/what doesn't in GOs is accurate, nonetheless.


message 18: by Kat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kat took me three months to finish this book, very disappointing


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

I just read your fantasy suggestions. You bashed some great books. A TON of great books. How old are you?


J.G. Keely Daniel said: "You bashed some great books. A TON of great books."

Well, I probably did bash a metric ton of books--those doorstop fantasies are thick as bricks, and about as fun to read--however, whether any of them were 'great' remains a point of contention.

"How old are you?"

Eh, I took my age down because the only people who ever referred to it were angry incoherents looking to make some kind of fallacious personal attack because they had nothing else of worth to say. I figured this is a book website, so lets talk books, and the fewer outside distractions the better.


message 21: by Nic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic all the witches and witch hunters and 4 horsemen bits were straight outta pratchetts other stuff. As a voracious reader of both writers, its easy to tell where each took point on a scene or idea, but the synthesis is pretty good in some spots. The antichrist kid was a really good blend. I suppose i should say that i really like both authors, also.


message 22: by Madison (new) - added it

Madison Chabot Just fyi, if you don't understand and appreciate dry humor, you won't like Gaiman or get his jokes.


J.G. Keely Madison said: "if you don't understand and appreciate dry humor, you won't like Gaiman or get his jokes."

Really, you find Gaiman's humor to be dry? I would have said he and Pratchett follow the other tradition of British humor: overtly goofy absurdism in the vein of Douglas Adams or Monty Python. I certainly wouldn't say this book is an example of understated, deadpan wit.


message 24: by Text (new)

Text Addict I've always been extremely amused by this book, myself. But then humor is probably the most individual taste there is, after sex.

And before and during it, too.


J.G. Keely Text said: "And before and during it, too."

A book is the best friend you can have, outside of a paramour--inside a paramour, it's too dark to read.


Aaron Adamson I would be interested to hear a more thorough explanation of your criticisms. On the surface they almost read as unsubstantiated contrarianism, but I'm sure that's not the case.

From what I can tell, your critique of the humor amounts to saying "Gaiman isn't funny, Pratchett isn't profound." Most readers disagree on both counts. Of course, mass opinion is a problematic barometer of quality, but I think greater detail would lend credibility to your opinion here. Particularly with respect to something as subjective as humor.

Also: if there isn't anything "new or interesting" in the book, surely that suggests that it's derivative and cliche? Any examples? I found parts to be quite original, including the overall concept - the apocalyptic supernatural comedy isn't exactly a burgeoning genre, even less so in 1990.

You call it "enjoyable" and "certainly worth a read" but by my thinking two stars or lower is neither. That said, you may have your rating scale calibrated very differently from my own.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


J.G. Keely Aaron said: "greater detail would lend credibility to your opinion"

Certainly true, but I read this years ago and nothing about it really stuck in my mind. Based on my first experience, I have no interest in rereading a book I didn't care for to try to prove that I didn't care for it. If you don't trust my judgment, that's fine--just ignore my review.

"surely that suggests that it's derivative and cliche? Any examples?"

I was thinking in terms of voice and approach, mostly, but sure--how about Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice, Python's Life of Brian, or Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide?

"You call it "enjoyable" and "certainly worth a read" but by my thinking two stars or lower is neither."

Two stars means 'it's okay'--I suppose I meant enjoyable in the sense that its a simple, easy read, a bit of fluff with a few amusing bits. Also, I qualified that it's 'worth a read' only if you need a Gaiman fix and don't have anything else at hand.


message 28: by Aaron (last edited Nov 18, 2015 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aaron Adamson Thanks for the reply. It seems to me that the tone is markedly different from Adams and Monty Python... in those cases, the plot tends to serve mostly as thin scaffolding for absurdist humor to play in, with little care for actual tension or character development. On the other hand, it seemed to me that the humor in Good Omens was more situational and the plot more developed by comparison.

In any case, surely we shouldn't call works unoriginal merely for employing droll British absurdism? A creative concept is still every bit as inventive even if it is packaged in familiar tone, in my opinion. I would go as far as to say that works that innovate in too many directions at once struggle to find a readership. It can be a good decision, mechanically, for an author to focus narrative experimentation on one or two aspects of a novel's structure.

Anyhow, please don't interpret my comments as negative, I think it's a genuinely interesting discussion. What standards should authors be held to for originality of voice and tone? And, should the variability of taste in comedic works be taken into account in our criticism of them? As was mentioned earlier by another poster, few things are as subjective as comedy.


J.G. Keely Aaron said: "It seems to me that the tone is markedly different from Adams and Monty Python"

I was using those (along with Heinlein) as examples of stories with apocalyptic and religious humor from before this book, as you had requested. I would also say that I didn't find the plot of Hitchhiker's Guide to be any less developed than this book's.

"In any case, surely we shouldn't call works unoriginal merely for employing droll British absurdism?"

I meant that the jokes themselves didn't seem particularly original, they felt like old hat to me, fairly predictable stuff--the style adopted is perfectly fine.


message 30: by Percy (new) - added it

Percy I must say, I'm quite shocked. This is the first review of yours I've ever read that doesn't look like it was shat on by a giant thesaurus.

But I would like to know: since when does humor need to be profound? Very rarely do I find myself actually laughing at profound humor. It's more likely to induce a wry smile and a headshake, occasionally the odd chuckle or two, but a belly laugh? Almost never.


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