We live in a culture stuffed with fantastic plots in movies and literature. This state of affairs is by large caused by the phenomenon of superhero movies. However, look in the past with a little bit of attention, and you will see that fantasy has been on the cards in the movies industry, and especially in literature long before the 21st century. Of course, there are examples such as Tolkien’s legendary Lord of the Rings, but there are other books that deserve attention of the readership as well. Good Omens published in 1990 before Neil Gaiman gained recognition for American Gods And Terry Pratchett expanded the Discworld universe immensely is a good example of a fantasy book that stays appealing and relevant through decades.
In a nutshell, Good Omens is a story about the Apocalypse. It does not sound too optimistic, but the authors’ talent makes it so. The book revolves around the fact that the Antichrist has been born which means that the set of events leading to the End of Times has already started. A surprising alliance between the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, who represent heaven and hell on Earth respectively, sets and eventually achieves the goal of preventing apocalypse. The four horsemen are there as well. Yet, in the end, it is Satan’s son Adam (a subtle pun created by the immensely creative minds of the writers) who defeats the horsemen by preventing them from devastating the world of humans.
The story features supernatural beings such as angels, demons, and even Satan himself, alongside ordinary people. One of the most interesting things about the book is that the line between the two categories is as blurry as it can be. For instance, Aziraphale and Crowley do not show even the level of hostility towards each other, a reader would expect given their backgrounds. Instead of demonstrating fierce loyalty towards their sides in the eternal war between good and evil, they cooperate to maintain status quo and preserve what they perceive as their home. It is safe to say, therefore, that they act like humans who often prioritize the safety of their immediate environment over some vague loyalties.
Another graphic example of the fine line between people and supernatural beings is the plot line about Adam (the actual Antichrist) being swapped with another child in the hospital. As a result, Aziraphale and Crowley had been watching after a human child closely for several years while Adam was left to deal with his powers as ordinary teenagers do: through self-discovery mediated by interaction with his peers.
The idea that it is difficult to differentiate between human and supernatural is, in fact, one of the main themes of the whole book. It is further underlined by the presence of the book of Nice and Accurate Prophecies which turn out to be too accurate for people to believe them. In other words, the authors stress on the point that people would rather believe in something vague and mysterious, something that leaves them the space for individual reinterpretation, than the objective truth.
Despite the supposed seriousness and even scariness of the events described in the book, the authors manage to fill the reading with (sometimes not so much) subtle humor. Thus, the death of Agnes Nutter is about to be a horrifying episode in the story. There is nothing to be laughed at about death by being burnt at stake. Yet, when the reader learns that the witch has managed to take the crowd that came to see her die with her by adding crazy amounts of gunpowder and nails to her dress one cannot help but smile at the absurdity of the situation.
It is safe to say, therefore, that the paradoxical humor of the book crystallizes another one of its major messages: people are irrational creatures and life is full of absurdity. Reminding the audience about this fact directly could alienate the readers and make them defensive in response to the book. Therefore, the writers chose a more eloquent and satisfying way to point the audience to their inadequacies.
Collaboration of Creative Minds
Speaking about the strategies the authors employed while working on Good Omens, one cannot help but mention that the process of their cooperation was difficult in both technical and artistic terms. Let’s not forget that back in the day the two writers could not create a Google doc file and edit it cooperatively. Therefore, Pratchett and Gaiman had to spend numerous hours on phone and in live meetings to come up with a coherent story that would achieve both author’s goals.
One of the reasons for the success of this ambitious project was that it was initially conceived as an artistic experiment rather than an attempt to gain money or recognition for either of the partners. Thus, the writers initiated an artistic dialogue aimed at the reader right on the pages of the book through footnotes. Thus, the authors commented on each other’s sections of the text by adding their own footnotes to them. This method is more sophisticated than editing the sections till the point of mutual agreement because it invites the reader to add something to the discussion as well.
Overall, it is not an exaggeration to say that Good Omens is a unique book since it is a product of collaboration between two greatly creative authors possessing distinct individual styles. This fact alone seems to be a more than valid reason to read the book. Add interesting plot, smart humor, and subtle satire applicable to modern society as well as it was at the time of publishing, and you will get a recipe for a fascinating and enjoyable read!