Book Review: Good Omens
Less of a review and more of a reflection, really.
My copy of Good Omens
Good Omens is on Amazon Prime. I haven’t watched it.
There, it’s said. I have no doubt that Michael Sheen and David Tennant played the heck out of the roles of Aziraphale and Crowley, and that the miniseries hewed as closely as possible to the spirit of the book. I just can’t watch it yet, for sentimental reasons.
I did, however, revisit the novel.
The book pictured above is my third copy of Good Omens. This particular title has the annoying habit of wandering off on its own (I am fairly certain every Good Omens book is semi-sentient).
My first copy of Good Omens disappeared while I was in a toilet cubicle. I had just popped the book into my school bag. My second copy went on a plane ride with me (I had the intention of reading it in flight but I didn’t) and it didn’t disembark with me. Wherever they are, I hope they and their current readers are very content.
Now, on to the actual book review, or, to be more nice and accurate, my book reflection.
I got round to reading Good Omens by way of the Sandman series and a detour via Coraline. I was going through Gaiman’s works and someone mentioned that he collaborated with another author, Terry Pratchett, whom I had yet to read at the time. I picked up the book and, from the caveat onwards (“Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.”), I never stopped smiling, grinning, or suffering flat-out giggle fits.
Good Omens is funny, and through its humor incredibly, honestly human. It may feature supernatural entities trying to foil (or un-foil or re-foil) the Ineffable Plan, but the core of it is about people trying to live authentically and as true to themselves as possible. Adam, balanced between Heaven and Hell, who named his dog ‘Dog’ because that is what Dog is, is the central character. He learns a little about the world (as much as a child can understand), he tries to change it with his supernatural powers (and succeeds, for a bit), and eventually realizes that it is more important for people to want to change things by themselves.
“Well... you could bring all the whales back, to start with.” He put his head to one side. “An’ that’d stop people killing them, would it?”
Yet, Adam wouldn't have come to this conclusion without his friends. Because of them, Adam defies his supposed destiny. Newt and Anathema find the opportunity for love and exploration because of each other. Shadwell and Madam Tracy find emotional support in each other. Crowley and Aziraphale defy their respective sides and choose to stand by each other because they have each other.
We work better together than we do individually.
"Of course I have to take sides," said Pepper. "Everyone has to take sides in something."
“Yes. But I reckon you can make your own side.”
Gaiman’s work tends to provide ideas for us to ponder and mull, in our quiet moments, like a slow-blossoming bud. Think Sandman, where Dream is everyone and no one other than himself, inspiring but without explaining. Pratchett fills his readers with righteous rage, ignites indignation and anger when faced with injustice. As in the Discworld novels, Pratchett never allowed us to shake off our duty as people to people.
I don't know what lessons you draw from this book, because there are so many possible lessons, but for me, it is that we have a duty to be human to others. Humans are responsible for what humans do. Therefore, we have to remember that we cannot rely solely on what is in the law or in holy writ to determine how we should behave. We know that a sense of empathy, community, bravery, fairness... these are what make a good person.
Then (Adam) said: “I don’t see why it matters what is written. Not when it’s about people. It can always be crossed out.”
(Yes, I cried reading this book again. I can’t help it. I laughed, and I cried, and I like to think that Sir Pterry would think I’m being rather silly and sentimental about it all.)