Thursday, December 23, 2010
Good Omens: Not bad.
Even the writers wonder the same thing in their commentary for the anniversary edition. They seem dumb-founded by this sci-fi-ish novel's cult following, as - in truth - am I.
Oh, I get fans' enjoyment of Pratchett & Gaiman's sense(s?) of humor, and I too found their musings on human nature thought-provoking, but I much prefer Gaiman's more recent works like Anansi Boys and Stardust, and this novel's plot- and character-development left me wondering...
In particular, during the lengthy penultimate "Saturday" chapter, when I should have been flipping the pages relentlessly with breath held and eyes wide open as we careened toward the book's climax, instead I wound up skimming and flipping pages just hoping for some decisive forward plot movement as we bopped around among various plot threads in a stop-start-stall motion. And then there's the issue of character development, even for what you might call the dual protagonists, angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley. To me, that issue loomed large: Many of the characters seemed merely allegorical devices and vehicles for one-liners for most of the book, so, for me, keeping engaged on a psychological/emotional level grew challenging.
On the other hand, I did laugh out loud many times and smile often, so if diversion's what you're looking for at the moment, then most of this book will serve you well.
What's it about? Too much to tell, really... Good and Evil and Armageddon and the stupid, cruel, violent, generous, decent things humans do. Human nature and the nature of the world.
And when this book falls into the hands of its perfectly right reader, a rabid dogged fan is born. It's happened to over one million people, and it could happen to you.
In the end, Good Omens is another solid read for anyone who likes to think, holds an open mind - esp. about religion - and enjoys a good laugh.
What's my action? Magic. See "Gnomens" post, and stay tuned for "December Story" (dropping about Jan. 1 or 2) to see what happened...
FYI for Listening Learners: For a leg up on the first 100 pages or so, which can seem dauntingly peppered with characters, settings, and - for us Americans, sometimes obscure - references to many things British, get the CD on tape or downloadi the audiofile. The reader, Martin Jarvis, thoroughly 'gets' every word, inflection, and innuendo, so he's well worth listening to to get your footing. And if you listen in the car and then read at home, you'll speed through Good Omens at the same pace as it proceeds... One week's adventure to save or slay the world as we know it.
FYI: In my experience, this book's legion of fans is primarily adolescents, so I'm attaching two quotes that may justify their passion. It's Adam Young, the unwitting eleven-year-old Anti-Christ from bucolic Tadfield, England, expressing his disdain for the world the grown-ups have left him:
"You grow up readin' about pirates and cowboys and spacemen and stuff, and jus' when you think the world's all full of amazin' things, they tell you it's really all dead whales and chopped-down forests and nuclear waste hangin' about for millions of years. 'Snot worth growin' up for, if you ask my opinion." (204)
And Crowley musing that demons get a bad rap:
"There were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn't just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They'd come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully functioning human brain could conceive, then shout "The Devil Made Me Do It" and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. That was what some humans found hard to understand. Hell wasn't a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley's opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind." (76-77)
Never mind that the entire last third of the novel negates this last assertion, it's this sort of pronouncement that teenagers - and students of the human condition of all ages - applaud.