Cecily's Reviews > Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
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it was amazing
bookshelves: humour, fantasy-faeries-magic, god-religion-faith


Image source imdb.

Don’t be misled by those who class this as fantasy, humour, or just fiction.

This is actually a profound philosophical and theological treatise, exploring good and evil, nature versus nurture, free will, war, pollution, and organised religion. 😉

But it’s cleverly disguised as a madcap caper featuring angels, demons, the M25 motorway, Manchester, raining fish, dolphins, Atlantis, aliens, the Apocalypse, the young Antichrist, Americans, footnotes for Americans, tunnelling Tibetans, witches, witch-finders, whales, Hell's Angels, Queen and Freddie Mercury, junk food made of junk, nuclear power, a flaming car, satanic nuns, an inadvertent baby-swap, a book of prophecy, and more besides. Lots of ineffability, too.

The writing is so like Douglas Adams that it could be mistaken for a missing volume of Hitchhiker's, except for the pages of Just William slipped in, Calvino style.

The Heavy Stuff

Inscription from Terry: “We made the Devil do it…”
It echoes a line in the book:
The Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn’t have to.

The weight is smuggled into a plot that is simultaneously simple, complicated, and counter-intuitive.

The Antichrist is born, but accidentally goes to a boringly normal, rural couple, rather than the intended satanists. With the Apocalypse due around his 11th birthday, opposing forces try to ensure they’ll win, which requires first realising there’s been a mix up - and then fixing it. On that simple trunk, a plethora of sub-plots and an even larger number of larger-than-life characters twist, and climb, and intertwine.

Amidst the chaos and the warring factions, the fundamental question is whether Adam, the young Antichrist, will fulfil his destiny, whether
Birth is just the start.. Upbringing is everything”.
After all, the Devil started off as an angel.

The Odd Couple

Aziraphale (angel) and Crowley (demon) have been on Earth a long time, developed a grudging fondness for it, its inhabitants, and even each other. Their tetchily co-operative, affectionately teasing relationship is central to the plot, the philosophy, and the humour.

They’ve reached an “Arrangement” after realising “they have more in common with their immediate opponent than their remote allies… tacit non-interference… made certain that while neither really won, also neither really lost.” Heaven wants to win the war; humanised Aziraphale comes to realise that he would prefer to avoid it.

Bibliophilia

“Aziraphale was an angel, but he also worshiped books.”
Aziraphale collected books. If he were totally honest with himself he would have to have admitted that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them. He was not unusual in this. In order to maintain his cover as a typical second-hand book seller, he used every means short of actual physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours - he was incredibly good at it.

Near where where Pratchett spent much of his life, was a cottage given over to second hand books. There were no unpleasant smells, but opening hours were limited, as were payment methods. Books were piled high and deep (double/triple) and vaguely sorted by category, but not by author... except for Pratchett. Here it is (sadly, it closed in 2018):

There’s a larger version in my GR photos HERE.

Quotes - Religion
* “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
I particularly like the fact the last phrase is emphasised with italics, even though, in a pitch-dark room, it’s barely relevant.

* “When it came to avoiding going to church, the church he solidly avoided going to was… no-nonsense Church of England.”
* “Being brought up as a Satanist tended to take the edge off it. A Saturday thing.”
* Crowley is embarrassed by the enthusiasm of satanists, just as a “Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighbourhood Watch meetings”.
* “Voodoun is a very interesting religion for the whole family, even those members of it who are dead.”
* “Marvin got religion. Not the quiet, personal kind, that involves doing good deeds and living a better life; not even the kind that involves putting on a suit and ringing people’s door bells; but the kind that involves having your own TV network and getting people to send you money.”

Quotes - Good and Evil
* “Most demons weren’t deep down evil” but like “tax inspectors - doing an unpopular job, maybe, but essential to the overall operation”.
* Often, the difference between good and evil isn’t obvious: some of the world leaders Aziraphale thinks good are assumed to be evil by Crowley.
* “If we beat them we’d have to be our own deadly enemies… it’s no good anyone winning”.
So, “You just had to decide who your friends really were.”

Quotes - Destiny versus Free Will
Slightly spoilery.
* “You can’t refuse to be who you are… Your birth and destiny are part of the Great Plan.”...
“I don’t see why it matters what is written… It can always be crossed out.”
* “He was left alone! He grew up human! He’s not Evil Incarnate or Good Incarnate, he’s just… a human incarnate.”
* “No one around Adam was ever in full control of their own mind”.

Quotes - Time
* “The future came and went in the mildly discouraging way that futures do.”
* “Memory… works backwards as well as forwards… Agnes didn’t see the future. That’s just a metaphor. She remembered it.”
* “On the cusp of recollection, a memory of things that hadn’t happened.”
* Accurate predictions are little use if they’re too narrow and specific. For example, “Do notte buye Betamacks” was only meaningful for a few short years.
* “DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”

Quotes - People and Relationships
* “Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.”
* “Courting is always difficult when… an elderly female relative in the house… It’s much worse when the relative has been dead for three hundred years.”
* “Newt had indeed been harbouring certain thoughts about Anathema; not just harbouring them, in fact, but dry-docking them, refitting them, giving them a good coat of paint and scraping the barnacles off their bottom.”
* “Pollution [one of the Apocalyptic Horsepersons], while still walking, nevertheless gave the impression of oozing.”

Quotes - Other
* “A rain-swept courtyard full of righteous dustbins.”
* “Leaping gratefully onto this new ice floe in the bewildering stream of consciousness.”
* “Her spelling… was not so much appalling as three hundred years too late.”
Similarly, if anyone questions something my father says or writes, he claims it’s just archaic; impossible to disprove!
* “Every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf.”

Quote - Best One-Liner
A Hell’s Angel asks one of the biking Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse what chapter they belong to:
REVELATIONS, he said. CHAPTER SIX. ‘Verses two to eight’, added the boy… helpfully.

TV Adaptation

Fab cast, and Gaimain was heavily involved, so my hopes were high, and largely rewarded. David Tennant as Crowley and Michael Sheen as Aziraphale were brilliant together, and it looked great. It suffered a little from being too similar to the very recent adaptation of American Gods (see my review HERE). And Aziraphale's bibliophilia was underplayed, but overall, good.



Photo from imdb.
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Reading Progress

April 29, 2016 – Shelved
April 29, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 11, 2016 – Started Reading
May 11, 2016 – Shelved as: humour
May 11, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy-faeries-magic
May 13, 2016 –
page 46
10.7% "'Aziraphale collected books... To maintain his cover as a typical second-hand bookseller, he used every means short of actual physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase.' p26"
May 14, 2016 –
50.0% "Great fun from Pratchett and Gaiman, disguising some deep thoughts about good and evil. It's so like Douglas Adams in style that it could be mistaken for a missing volume of Hitchhiker's, with some pages of Richmal Crompton's Just William slipped in by mistake, Calvino style."
May 15, 2016 –
page 430
100.0% "It looked as if it might end with a tremendous anti-climax. But there were 20 more pages. \n It turns out, it was all ineffable."
May 15, 2016 – Finished Reading
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: god-religion-faith

Comments Showing 1-50 of 83 (83 new)


Matthew Quann I read this ages ago (maybe in High School?) and thought it was the funniest book I'd ever read. I'm excited to read your review and see if it still holds up!


Cecily Matthew wrote: "I read this ages ago (maybe in High School?) and thought it was the funniest book I'd ever read. I'm excited to read your review and see if it still holds up!"

It's decades since I read Pratchett, and I've never read Gaiman, but I've just finished this and absolutely loved it. I hope to review it tomorrow - after which, I'll look at friends' reviews. Thanks, Matthew.


message 3: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Cecily wrote: "It's decades since I read Pratchett, and I've never read Gaiman, but I've just finished this and absolutely loved it. "

I've read Gaiman, but no Pratchett, though I could borrow his books from my kids if I ever want to. Not sure I ever will, but your review is undoubtedly entertaining, Cecily.


message 4: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov You're spot on, Cecily, on what makes T.P. so enjoyable. A great review!


Apatt Wonderous review Cecily, you would probably like solo books by either of these two authors, though I suspect you would lean more toward Practchett. Gaiman's Coraline and Graveyard Book will probably appeal to you, though.


Matthew Quann Incredible review, and I truly mean it! Your reviews always bring a level of literary dissection to the review game that blows the rest of us out of the water. Keep it up!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Fantastic review, Cecily, thanks.


message 8: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy I agree with Matthew Quann! Your thorough and insightful reviews are a pleasure to read.


Cecily Teresa wrote: "I've read Gaiman, but no Pratchett, though I could borrow his books from my kids if I ever want to. Not sure I ever will, but your review is undoubtedly entertaining, Cecily. "

Thank you, Theresa. Having read a little about how they collaborated it, it's impossible to pick out what is Gaiman and what is Pratchett - not that I'd be able to do so anyway. But it was great fun.


Cecily HBalikov wrote: "You're spot on, Cecily, on what makes T.P. so enjoyable. A great review!"

Thanks, H. But don't forget Gaiman! (Not that I've read anything by him alone yet.)


Cecily Apatt wrote: "Wonderous review Cecily, you would probably like solo books by either of these two authors, though I suspect you would lean more toward Practchett. Gaiman's Coraline and Graveyard Book will probably appeal to you, though."

Apatt, my friend, thank you. I've enjoyed TP before, but a long time ago. I will now read him again, and should probably try Gaiman solo first. Thanks for the tips. Your judgement is - generally - sound.
;)


Cecily Matthew wrote: "Incredible review, and I truly mean it! Your reviews always bring a level of literary dissection to the review game that blows the rest of us out of the water. Keep it up!"

You're very kind, Matthew. There's certainly a bit of dissection and rejigging in this review, though I'm not sure it's very literary. ;)
Thanks for the encouragement.


Cecily Anne wrote: "Fantastic review, Cecily, thanks."

And thanks to you too, Anne.


Cecily Amy wrote: "I agree with Matthew Quann! Your thorough and insightful reviews are a pleasure to read."

Thank you, Amy. Ones like this are fun to write, and having appreciative comments are very welcome.


message 15: by Dolors (new)

Dolors I recently finished Duncan's The River Why, which could easily fit in your description of "a profound philosophical and theological treatise, exploring good and evil, nature versus nurture, free will, war, pollution, and organised religion."
Word by word.
Funny how the content of many books is interchangeable, but the form makes a difference in providing unimitable sum and substance to each of them.
Not sure I am the reader for Pratchett, but I greatly enjoyed your review, Cecily.


Cecily Dolors wrote: "Funny how the content of many books is interchangeable, but the form makes a difference"

What a strange co-incidence. They even have "madcap" in common - in the opening of my review of this and in the GR blurb for The River Why. And that links to a more tenuous connection: Madcap is a software company, and for several years, their main product was the main tool of my job - and may yet be again!

Dolors wrote: "Not sure I am the reader for Pratchett, but I greatly enjoyed your review, Cecily"

I think you're probably not, but I'm happy to have entertained you a little.


message 17: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Cecily wrote: "HBalikov wrote: "You're spot on, Cecily, on what makes T.P. so enjoyable. A great review!"

Thanks, H. But don't forget Gaiman! (Not that I've read anything by him alone yet.)"


Gaiman has all the tools! I thank my daughter for getting me into his Sandman stuff twenty years ago, which made me aware of all his other writings.


message 18: by Mareli (new) - added it

Mareli Thalwitzer I was standing with this novel in my hand at a bookshop a couple of months ago - and I put it down. Damn. See if I can find it again. Good review Cecily!


message 19: by KOMET (new) - added it

KOMET Cecily, your review so impressed me that I'm going to the bookstore after work today to buy this one to add to my collection of Terry Pratchett books.


Jessica Love your review! I read this quite some time ago, and you've made me think I underrated it. Need to put it on my re-read list I think.


Cecily HBalikov wrote: "I thank my daughter for getting me into his Sandman stuff twenty years ago..."

It was my 22 year old who suggested I read this. He has good taste and good judgement of my tastes.


Cecily Mareli wrote: "I was standing with this novel in my hand at a bookshop a couple of months ago - and I put it down. Damn. See if I can find it again. Good review Cecily!"

Gah! I'm sorry you missed one opportunity, but I doubt you'll have any difficulty finding it again. Thanks for your kind words, Mareli.


Cecily KOMET wrote: "Cecily, your review so impressed me that I'm going to the bookstore after work today to buy this one to add to my collection of Terry Pratchett books."

Gosh, I hope it lives up to your expectations. I loved it, as you can see, and hopefully I've given enough of a taste of its style, mostly via quotes, for you to be confident it will be to your liking.


Cecily Jessica wrote: "Love your review! I read this quite some time ago, and you've made me think I underrated it. Need to put it on my re-read list I think."

Thanks, Jessica. Sometimes, it's not about the merits of the book so much as whether it's the right time for the reader to best appreciate it. When you reread it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


message 25: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro There's a lot of love in the Goodreads room for this review, Cecily.
I can tell that you had a lot of fun compiling it.

And isn't Aziraphale the perfect name for an angel?


message 26: by Cecily (last edited May 21, 2016 02:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Kevin wrote: "There's a lot of love in the Goodreads room for this review, Cecily.
I can tell that you had a lot of fun compiling it."


Thanks, Kevin, I did. But the love is really for Pratchett and Gaiman's language and ideas.


Kevin wrote: "And isn't Aziraphale the perfect name for an angel?"

Yes, it's angelic. But Crowley's is even better. The prologue explains that (view spoiler). PLUS, his new name is a nod to Aleister Crowley.


message 27: by Ruth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth We are currently rereading through DiscWorld in order and I am eagerly awaiting Omen's turn.

I'm a big fan of both Gaiman and Pratchett so what's not to like! :)


Cecily Ruth wrote: "We are currently rereading through DiscWorld in order and I am eagerly awaiting Omen's turn.
I'm a big fan of both Gaiman and Pratchett so what's not to like! :)"


I'm not sure who "we" is, but I'm glad you're enjoying it. When I return to comic fantasy sci-fi, I'm not sure whether to try Gaiman proper or go back to Pratchett.


message 29: by Ruth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth My wife and I :) We use Pratchetts as entertainment on long drives (almost any time we leave the house).

Fortunately for you, it is not an either/or situation :)


Cecily Ruth wrote: "My wife and I :) We use Pratchetts as entertainment on long drives (almost any time we leave the house).

Fortunately for you, it is not an either/or situation :)"


Ah, so presumably audio books. With the right readers, Pratchett could work well in that medium, I expect (even though I don't like audio, personally).

And no, not either/or in general, but at any one moment it is!


message 31: by Roger (new)

Roger Brunyate Wonderful review, but absolutely not for me! R.


Cecily Roger wrote: "Wonderful review, but absolutely not for me! R."

This is very much not a book for everyone, and an appreciation of my review from one such is all the more welcome. Thank you.


message 33: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie Loved your review Cecily. I'm going to reread this book immediately!


Cecily Ellie wrote: "Loved your review Cecily...."

Thanks, Ellie.

Ellie wrote: "...I'm going to reread this book immediately!"

Really? No pressure! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and you're expecting to.


message 35: by Gray (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gray Great review! It's been years since I read this. Definitely time for a reread. I remember reading about this book in The Sandman letter column back in the day. Neil used to write little updates on it. It was my first experience of the wonderful Terry Pratchett, too.


message 36: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie Cecily wrote: "Ellie wrote: "Loved your review Cecily...."

Thanks, Ellie.

Ellie wrote: "...I'm going to reread this book immediately!"

Really? No pressure! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and you're expec..."


:D


Fabian {Councillor} Splendid review, Cecily! I have always been intrigued by the combination of Pratchett and Gaiman's imagination, but so far, I never got around to actually reading this. Sounds like a very funny, captivating and profound book.


Cecily Graham wrote: "Great review! It's been years since I read this. Definitely time for a reread. I remember reading about this book in The Sandman letter column back in the day. Neil used to write little updates..."

Thanks, Graham. It's not exactly recent, but it still speaks - even about the M25, new when published, and a section of which forms part of my weekday commute.


Cecily Councillor wrote: "Splendid review, Cecily! I have always been intrigued by the combination of Pratchett and Gaiman's imagination, but so far, I never got around to actually reading this. Sounds like a very funny, captivating and profound book"

Thank you, Councillor, if you've been tempted by Pratchett and Gaiman, and you want a mix of comedy and profundity, in a very British setting, this is perfect.


dianne Now see what you've done... you've made me want to read it again. Immediately.
darn you!
;)


message 41: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Your enjoyment is contagious, Cecily. I got a number of laughs just from your review and quotes, so maybe this one is for me!


message 42: by Nandakishore (new) - added it

Nandakishore Varma The humour seems right up my sarcastic alley. I have put it on my TBR list.

Excellent review, Cecily - and the quotes. :)


message 43: by W.T. (new)

W.T. Shad "A rain swept courtyard full of righteous dustbins." I dig that one.


message 44: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice And, of course, one must have ineffability...


Cecily dianne wrote: "Now see what you've done... you've made me want to read it again. Immediately.
darn you!
;)"


;)

I'll take that as a compliment, for which I thank you.


message 46: by Cecily (last edited May 22, 2016 02:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Jan wrote: "Your enjoyment is contagious, Cecily. I got a number of laughs just from your review and quotes, so maybe this one is for me!"

I'm so glad. And I see you gave 4* to Hitchhiker's, so coupled with your enjoyment of my quotes in this, I think it's a pretty safe bet for you.

Jan wrote: "And, of course, one must have ineffability..."

Indeed - though Crowley would disagree, or at least, tease you about it.


Cecily Nandakishore wrote: "The humour seems right up my sarcastic alley. I have put it on my TBR list.

Excellent review, Cecily - and the quotes. :)"


It's mostly gentler than "sarcastic" implies to me, but I think the style of humour, and its Britishness would appeal to you - and I'm sure you'd write a very witty review of it.


Cecily W.T. wrote: ""A rain swept courtyard full of righteous dustbins." I dig that one."

One of my faves, too. For context, the dustbins are at a maternity hospital run by nuns. But the nuns are (view spoiler).


Karen Mardahl Delightful and brilliant review. I never wrote a review myself. I had no idea where to begin. Now I can just point people to this review. :D

I have not gotten around to any Pratchett books yet. I have read several Gaiman books and thought they were wonderful. I have the feeling that it would have been fun to listen in on their collaboration with this book.


Cecily Karen wrote: "Delightful and brilliant review. I never wrote a review myself. I had no idea where to begin...."

Thank you, Karen. As for where to begin, I have no answer; it's different every time for me. I think the thing is just to start at all (if you want to).

Karen wrote: "I have the feeling that it would have been fun to listen in on their collaboration with this book."

Yes, it would be wonderful, though it was mostly by post and phone, if Wikipedia is to be believed:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Om...


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