‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman [Book Review]

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I put off not only reading this novel but also talking about this novel because I feel like it’s a very hot topic right now with the Amazon adaptation coming out. I didn’t want to seem like I was jumping on to the bandwagon and I was just going to say really nice things about this novel because it was popular; I wanted to actually talk about it. That being said, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I am coincidentally reading this novel at this time when in fact I’m deliberately reading it because people are talking about it and there’s now a show, that has David Tennant in it so I have to watch it, and I wanted to read the book first. But I’m talking about it in this blog because I wanted to possibly voice a contrary opinion in that I think this novel was good and I did enjoy it and there’s a high possibility that I will read it again but it’s not something I am incredibly excited about, or compels me to watch the show. In fact, I haven’t seen the show yet. I watched the first episode about a week or so ago and I haven’t gone back to it.

I want to start off by saying that I did legitimately enjoy this novel because it might not seem like that once I start getting into more of the details. For one, I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan so I’ll read anything that he writes, but I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett before so I was very excited to get a glimpse into what that writing style would be like. However, I came out of this novel a little bit emptier than I thought I would and maybe that has something to do with my own expectations at what the story was going to be like. In a lot of ways it’s just a fun, parody-comedy thing that isn’t trying to be anything except funny–and that’s fine. There are plenty of authors whose writing I love that’s purpose is to make people laugh. In this case though, because I have read Gaiman’s work before, I was really looking for something a little bit heavier it terms of substance.

Image from GraphiteDoll

So let’s start with some positives. I did really enjoy it because the humor was fantastic. It had all of the wonderful dry and cynical humor of Gaiman that I’ve come to love and an introduction of this zany way of describing the world that Pratchett has. There were lots of times when I thought I knew what was going to happen or how a scene was going to play out and it completely went against my expectations in the most absurdly wonderful way.

I definitely wouldn’t say there were any characters in this novel that I particularly disliked. Ir’s one of those really interesting stories where the antagonist is kind of ambiguous because it’s this unseen force of nature–the end of the world itself–which makes the antagonist neither good or evil and is instead one of those antagonists that simply has an apposing goal to that of the main characters; which makes it one of the books that I always find infinitely more interesting than those with good vs bad conflicts.

An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.

However, even with all this comedy and these really interesting ways of telling a narrative, the actual story felt a little bit empty. For one, the characters themselves weren’t all of that interesting in terms of character. Their reactions to things were interesting and they were dealing with all this craziness that was happening around them was interesting but actual character development was minimal. I feel like this has a lot to do with focusing on the more comedic side of the writing and that’s fine. A lot of comedy gives up complex character dynamics because you can’t deal with a very serious, conflicted situation and also have this light-hearted comedy happening–unless you’re being really, really careful about how you do it.

And probably dealing with complex character arcs wasn’t a goal in writing this novel so it’s fine that it’s not there. It’s just something that kind of took me out of the end-of-the-world stakes of the novel because I never felt like the world actually was going to end within the plot of the novel and I never felt like there was any real danger to the characters at any point.

image from sophistry

Which brings me to the plot which was kind of odd–not necessarily in a bad way. For one thing, I felt like it was really fast and this might have something to do with it being a shorter novel. Again, I’m not sure about what the goals of the authors’ were going into writing this novel. I found it really fast and I was kind of trying to keep up with what was happening and it made it difficult to build up any kind of suspense because things were dealt with at a rapid pace. Part of this might have been that there were a lot of viewpoint characters. It was constantly switching around to the different people throughout the story which meant that none of them were focused on.

Perhaps I just have really high expectations for what I want a Gaiman novel to be but I finished this novel kind of uncommitted. To me the best kind of novels are the ones that end and they leave you hollow inside because you felt all of these emotions and you’ve gone through all of these crazy adventures with these characters that you love so much and once it ends you’ve just spent everything that you have on the story you read. This novel took me a surprisingly long time to read, and not just because I am working all the time and I have lots of other projects, but just because I wasn’t committed enough to sit down and read a bunch of chapters all in one sitting–I had to force myself to do it. Maybe I’m just becoming too pretentious with my taste in books these days (she says she goes back to reading science fiction from the 80’s).

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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