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Underground Reading: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

__Good_Omens___cover_design_by_kbakonyi-1 The problem with trying to review a well-liked book that's been out for a while is that there's nothing new to be said about it.  There isn't even a new way to say anything about it, fatuous observations like "that scamp Gaiman seems like he'll go far" or "Pratchett is one to watch for!" aside.

We are many things here at Pornokitsch, but we are never fatuous.  (This is, of course, a patent falsehood.  We make a point of being as fatuous as we can, as often as possible.)

If she can't be fatuous, your much-tried reviewer is thus forced to review the book on its merits.  And maybe talk a bit about its legacy.  She therefor begs your forbearance.

So.  Good Omens:  The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is, as it turns out, a pretty good book!  If I come off as a little surprised, it's only because I have long been leery of picking the novel up - as I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I'm not a huge fan of the Relentless Cute.  And there is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of cute in Good Omens.  It's very Pratchett-y.  It's very Douglas Adams-y.  It's very PG Wodehouse-y. For the most part, however, Good Omens manages to strike that rare balance between Adamite Cute-Bleak and Wodehousian Cute-Vacuity.  It's not a perfect novel, but it is very good.  And it's a lot of fun.

First, the imperfections.  The kids bugged the hell out of me.  They weren't particularly convincing eleven-year-olds, but came off instead as precocious seven- or eight-year-olds.  Now I do recognize that writing children is hard, but the age and behavior of these four children is vital to the novel's plot.  So their impulses and motivations matter.  Their pidgin language and weird desires were just slightly too young, although Adam's deep love for his childhood home struck true.

Images Far and away, the breakout characters of Good Omens are the angel and the demon who have graced any number of covers over the last twenty years.  The book-collecting Aziraphale is, of course, a Pornokitsch favorite, but if you were to demand I choose between him and the debonair Crowley - well, it'd be a tough decision.  Both are charming, and their not-especially-antagonistic relationship is the best aspect of the novel.

The other characters, with their precious names, are pretty forgettable compared to Crowley and Aziraphale (with an honorable mention going out to Dog, the hellhound of unusual size).  The book is divided into days, comprising the last week of life on Earth, and the plot pumps along admirably until the final day, when action overtakes character and things sort of implode into a messy, ever so slightly cheesy, ever so slightly predictable conclusion.  Happy middle-class values are reestablished, friendships forged and strengthened, and lessons are learned.   Nothing's either good or bad but thinking makes it so, &c.

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are such fixtures in the geek firmament these days that it's hard to imagine a time when they were just starting out.  The young Gaiman, a freelancing journalist, sought out the young Pratchett, a newly-minted author, for an interview over dim sum in London's Chinatown.  That was in 1985.  They liked each other, and kept in touch.  At some point, Gaiman sent Prachett six pages of a short story he didn't know how to end.  Good Omens is the result.  The partnership benefits the book; Pratchett's sense of humor and iron control helps rein in Gaiman's occasional fustiness and problem ending novels, and Gaiman's High Seriousness is a welcome palliative to Pratchett's tendency toward the absurd. 

All in all, Good Omens is a good, strong book made even more interesting by the fact that it's the joint product of two authors near the beginnings of their careers.  It's well worth a read.

Tube Journeys:  One trans-Atlantic flight

Rating:  Six walruses and a hippo.  Highly recommended!