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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

You may have heard that the world was supposed to end last weekend. Based on the fact that you are reading this post, I think we can all safely assume that it didn’t. It struck me that predictions can be, at best, awfully fickle things. If only there was a book that didn’t mess about, something that took all the guess work out of things and just made The Apocalypse simple

According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future – the world will end on a Saturday . Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…

Good Omens was originally published way back in the halcyon days of nineteen ninety. At the time, I was a thoroughly impressionable sixteen year old and I think, in hindsight, that I can now squarely point the finger of blame for my obsession with the end of the world on this novel.

The premise is simple, the Antichrist is born on Earth and following a baby switch that quickly devolves into farce, he ends up with a family in a sleepy little village in England rather than as the son of a US Cultural Attaché.

Fast forward just over a decade and we are re-introduced to Adam, the Antichrist, and his gang, ‘Them’, an atypical group of youngsters. Accompanied by Dog, a small yappie-type mongrel with serious identity issues, they roam the leafy lanes of Lower Tadfield seeking excitement that would appeal to a group of eleven year olds.

Meanwhile, across the globe, various groups are trying to seek the Antichrist out. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are finally on the move. The Witchfinder Army are primed to take action – all two of them, and a women called Anathema Device is tracking predictions laid down hundreds of years previously by her ancestor Agnes Nutter.

Also, along for the ride, is an angel called Azriphale and a demon called Crowley. Having spent thousands of years on Earth they have become quite fond of the human race, and so between them are attempting to maintain the status quo and divert the End of All Things.

With knowing nods to diverse references such as The Omen, and the works of Enid Blyton, the novel covers a lot of metaphysical ground. There is something for everyone from the hollow earth theory and the missing continent of Atlantis to the collected works of Freddie Mercury and Queen.

The predictions from Agnes and additional footnotes provided by the authors add extra depth to all the fast paced comings and goings. If you put me on the spot and asked the question ‘what’s your favourite prediction?’ then the answer would most certainly be “Do Notte Buye Betamacks”. Even now, decades later, this remains funny. My father resolutely insisted that the picture quality was better than VHS so this has become a running joke in our family.[1]

Twenty one years after publication and Good Omens is still a laugh out loud experience. This week, I have made a strangled snorting sound on a number of occasions whilst on the bus going to and from work, my attempts to stifle my guffaws while reading failed miserably.

For many years a proposed movie version has languished in developmental limbo. At one point I’m sure I even remember reading that Terry Gilliam’s name was associated with it. If I was allowed to choose only one book that was to be made into a film, Good Omens would be it. C’mon Hollywood, make this happen. Never has the end of the world seemed so amusing.

While I still have your attention – the good news is that I’ve checked the internet again and the Rapture has been re-scheduled to occur in October. This may or may not be directly related to the fact that Denmark has recently banned Marmite, I’m not sure. Anyway, enjoy your summer holidays they may well be your last.

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[1] I apologise to anyone under thirty. There is a chance that this paragraph may well be lost on you. Basically before DVD and blu-ray there used to be this technology called ‘video recorders’…. Ohhh for Heaven’s sake!! Google it.

Good Omens


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