Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Good Omens

The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Title: Good Omens
Subtitle: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Authors: Terry Pratchett (official site - Wikipedia) and Neil Gaiman (official site - Wikipedia)
Italian title: Buona Apocalisse a tutti!
First publication date: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 412

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 by people being fundamentally people.
(Page 30)

The signs are clear: Apocalypse is coming. While the forces of Good and Evil are preparing for the long-awaited battle, an angel and a demon far-back allocated on Earth are not excited to see the planet and all its inhabitants destroyed. They decide to work together to stop the end of the world. They are not alone.

Mark Sheppard plays demon
Crowley in Supernatural.
This is a promo picture
for season nine [source]

I decided to read this novel after discovering that one of the protagonists was a demon named Crowley, who perhaps could have inspired the authors of Supernatural in creating the namesake character in the series, which is also my favorite. I was also very curious, knowing Terry Pratchett's genius and having heard so much about Neil Gaiman's one. I don't know why but I wanted to buy it in English! So far I took original versions only of the novels that weren't released in Italian, this one has been translated, but ... dunno! I am so happy I did it, anyway! The reading was easy, probably due to the fact that I enjoyed immensely the book!

The plot is extremely captivating, at least as far as I'm concerned. The idea of the end of the world, playing with the Holy Scriptures, the supernatural characters, all mixed together in a humor (British, even, too) sauce... in short, there was every reason to like it so much, and in fact I had a bit of fear that with so much expectation I'd end up disappointed! Luckily it did not happen!
I really liked the setting, too! We are in the early 90s (period in which the book came out) in England (and you know how the UK meets always my favor!) and the events of Armageddon mingle with everyday life of the unaware people...

But let's get to the main course: the characters! Oh how I loved them all! I would like to mention them one by one but even limiting myself to my favorite ones I know that I will write a papyrus, then I will contain my excitement. Arm yourself with patience anyway, please, and forgive the prolongation! :)
Anthony Crowley
by The sound of the pen on the paper
Let's start, obviously, with Crowley! I am very biased because I liked the character even before starting to read, because I love the aforementioned namesake Supernatural character, but I must say that as soon as I started the book I could not help but also love the book-Crowley, which has been adorable already in the description of the dramatis personae at the beginning: after Satan, Beelzebub and other Fallen Angels we have Crowley, an Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards. He always wears sunglasses so I imagined him as a cross between Supernatural's Crowley and Romo Lampkin, a character from Battlestar Galactica played by the same actor (Mark Sheppard) and famous for his fantastic little glasses.
Romo Lampkin (Mark Sheppard) from Battlestar Galactica
But that's not the only reason why I loved him so much, it's that objectively he's such a great character! Theoretically he is one of the bad guys, but in the end he's only someone that loves his lifestyle, is fond of his "work-place", so to speak (unlike the other demons he's always lived on Earth), and decides to risk everything to save both. And he risks quite a lot, at some point things go really bad for him, so much so that once again I couldn't help but notice the similarity to the television Crowley that, in the fifth season, for going against Lucifer, is found to be the most buggered son in all of creation.
by The sound of the pen on the paper
If with Crowley I started loving him I even before I knew him, about Aziraphale I didn't know what to think. Therefore it was even more enjoyable to discover him little by little and fall in love with him, too! At first I found myself in trouble for pronunciation (still do not know which one is correct), and that made the character a bit difficult. But it soon passed, I got attached immediately, and when I discovered his love for books, I started to love him! And how can you not do it? His bookstore (where he does everything to not sell books) is wonderful! Then he is so very British, and always calm and kind, but if necessary he take out his angelic power. I couldn't help but imagine him with the appearance (a little more blonde) of Misha Collins (the actor who in Supernatural - of course! - plays the angel Castiel), and even if going ahead with the reading I saw no more him in the role, I couldn't help but continue to imagine him like that!
However, as much as I liked (a lot) them separately, it is together that I really loved these characters! From the beginning, we see their "friendship", born from the fact that both have lived for millennia as agents of two opposing factions in the same territory, and in contact with humans. A little as Caleb and Nikolaus in Dampyr inevitably it has come to create an alliance between them and undoubtedly also a mutual sympathy. And at every little sign of this bond I went into raptures! They are too beautiful together! Yes, I know, the devil and the angel, it's a cliché, nothing new... but it always grips, at least for me, especially when the characters are already great on their own, and written so well! :)
The Four Horsepersons by ~Grrrenadine on deviantART
Among the other characters I also loved the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse, not so much for themselves but for the way they were shown. At their first appearance took me a while to recognize them, because their names are not said, we can only guess who is who by what they do. They are distinguished by colors (red for War, black for Famine and White for Pollution, replacing Pestilence who retired some time ago after the discovery of antibiotics) except Death, which remains the most mysterious. Their names are only hinted at, saying things like "it rhymes with", and even when they're finally said it takes place in a very peculiar way. Of course, what fascinated me the most is, as always, Death. After The Book Thief, Saramago and Supernatural I have developed a real penchant for this character! I cannot wait to meet him also in the series of Discworld!
Neal Gaiman e Terry Pratchett
How Good Omens Was Not Written
by ~LittleDogStar on deviantART

What about the style? These two are wonderful! It will be trivial, but reading the book I thought every time about how much they must have enjoyed writing it! The humor is just as I like, full of distortions of everyday things, devastation of cliches, some nonsense, and absurd and adorable characters! I would like to mention two things above all: the explanatory notes, all hilarious (sentences I quoted below are often taken from these notes) and the rearranging of biblical concepts about the end of the world, particularly the aforementioned Horsepersons. At some point one of them mentions some verses in the Bible (Revelations 6:2-8). Out of curiosity I went to read them, and I saw with amazement that there were represented precisely the Four Horsemen, with their characteristic colors and their symbols, which are not then Pratchett and Gaiman's inventions, but just adaptations, and somehow this thing has impressed me even more!
As I said English, despite being rich in puns, dialogical abbreviations and I think even some neologism, didn't create any difficulty in reading for me, and this is definitely a great value!

The bookmark I used during the reading, made by me.

The cover of my edition: I love it. Or rather, I especially like the fact that it exists in two different versions, this one black white Aziraphale and a white one with Crowley. Needless to say, I wanted Crowley, but I bought it online and I wasn't able to choose it. I was a little upset finding the black one, so I created the bookmark (which you can see on the right) with the image of Crowley from the other cover, and in this way I felt even better because I had both my beloved ones! :)

Good Omens by *lerms on deviantART

Overall review.
I had high expectations for this book, and they have been more than confirmed, I would say that I liked it even more than I imagined! As Clive Barker said, the Apocalypse has never been funnier! And this book is really fun, and exciting, and brilliant, and characters are wonderful, and the story interesting, and... can I say again that reading it in English is even more awesome?! :)
When I finish reading a good book I'm always a bit sad, but this time I must say that I was more sad than usual, I miss it already!


Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.

It was a nice day.
All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn't been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.

Funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one, eh?
Crowley to Aziraphale
(Page 5)

Good Omens: In the Beginning by ~Kaytara on deviantART

It was going to be a dark and stormy night.
(Page 5)

Crowley: See you guys ar—see you. Er. Great. Fine. Ciao.
Ligur: Wossat mean?
Hastur: It's italian. I think it means "food".
(Page 21)

Hell was worse, of course, by definition. But Crowley remembered what Heaven was like, and it had quite a few things in common with Hell. You couldn't get a decent drink in either of them, for a start. And the boredom you got in Heaven was almost as bad as the excitement you got in Hell.
(Page 23)

And just when you'd think they were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they could occasionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this free-will thing, of course. It was a bugger.
(Page 38)

Good Omens- Flaming Sword
by ~ReverseAlchemist on deviantART

25 And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?
26 And the Angel said, I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next.
27 And the Lord did not ask him again.
Three verses addeed to the third chapter of Genesis in one of the Infamous Bibles in Aziraphale's book shop
(Page 50)

Aziraphale: Well, I'll be damned.
Crowley: It's not too bad, when you get used to it.
(Page 59)

That's sexism, that is. Going around giving people girly presents just because they're a girl."
(Page 83)

Aziraphale: Evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is ultimately negative, and therefore encompasses its downfall even at its moments of apparent triumph. No matter how grandiose, how well-planned, how apparently foolproof an evil plan, the inherent sinfulness will by definition rebound upon its instigators. No matter how apparently successful it may seem upon the way, at the end it will wreck itself. It will founder upon the rocks of iniquity and sink headfirst to vanish without trace into the seas of oblivion.
Crowley: Nah. For my money, it was just average incompetence.
(Page 97)

Aziraphale: You know, Crowley, I've always said that, deep down inside, you're really quite a—
Crowley : All right, all right. Tell the whole blessed world, why don't you?
(Page 107,8)

Aziraphale.: But you're a demon.
Crowley: Yes, but a demon of my word, I should hope.
(Page 112)

Aziraphale was an angel, but he also worshiped books.
(Page 117)

You used to get proper summers when I was a boy. It used to rain all the time.
Mr Young
(Page 140)

Anathema Device
from Good Omens - Humans
by *juliedillon on deviantART

She [Anathema] didn't compartmentalize her beliefs. They were welded into one enormous, seamless belief, compared with which that held by Joan of Arc seemed a mere idle notion. On any scale of mountain moving it shifted at least point five of an alp.
(Page 148)

English Burger Lords managed to take any American fast food virtues (the speed with which your food was delivered, for example) and carefully remove them; your food arrived after half an hour, at room temperature, and it was only because of the strip of warm lettuce between them that you could distinguish the burger from the bun. The Burger Lord pathfinder salesmen had been shot twenty-five minutes after setting foot in France.
(Page 157)

"Pah!" said Shadwell. Newt had seen the word in print, but this was the first time he'd ever heard anyone say it.
(Page 180)

I got her bloody smile right in the roughs, but it went all over the place when I painted it. Her husband had a few things to say about it when I delivered it, but, like I tell him, Signor del Giocondo, apart from you, who's going to see it?
Leonardo Da Vinci about Monna Lisa
(Page 248)

GOOD Omens by ~Jacksparrowsbabe on deviantART

For Go—, for Sa—, for somebody's sake!
(Page 263)

Voodoun is a very interesting religion for the whole family, even those members of it who are dead.
(Page 273)

Crowley was silent.
(Page 280)

"Wud he be harder to get rid of than, say, a demon?" asked Shadwell, who had begun to brighten.
"Not much more," said Aziraphale, who had never done other to get rid of demons than to hint to them very strongly that he, Aziraphale, had some work to be getting on with, and wasn't it getting late? And Crowley had always got the hint.
(Page 298)

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
[This is not actually true. The road to Hell is paved with frozen door-to-door salesmen. On weekends many of the younger demons go ice-skating down it.]
(Page 298)

His wound from Nam was starting to play up.
[He'd slipped and fallen in a hotel shower when he took a holiday there in 1983. Now the mere sight of a bar of yellow soap could send him into near-fatal flashbacks.]
(Page 344)

Good Omens: The Other Guys
by ~animagess on deviantART

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