At its heart, Good Omens is a story about friendship.
I mean, yes, it’s also about the end of the world, but mostly it’s about friendship. It’s about the friendship between an angel and a demon, between a young boy and his best friends, and it’s about the friendship between the authors themselves. None of this—the beloved novel, the fandom that embraced it for almost three decades, the highly anticipated television adaptation—would exist without friendship.
In the impressive new trailer for the six-part Good Omens serial, Aziraphale shouts that he isn’t friends with Crowley, which they both know is a lie. They’ve known each other since the very beginning of everything. After awhile, it’s nice to see the same face every few centuries. They may not have that problem anymore, though: the end of the world is coming, and they only have one week to stop it.
Welcome to Good Omens.
In 1985, a young Neil Gaiman, wearing a truly awful hat and working as a freelance journalist, had an interview with the only slightly older (by 12 years) Terry Pratchett, who had just published the first book in his Discworld series. The two got on like a house on fire and became fast friends. A few years later they put their heads together and wrote Good Omens. Not for fame or fortune, but because it was a funny idea and they both got to flex their wit and satire muscles and do what they did best. Dare I say it was a match made in Heaven (or Hell—I don’t play favorites)?
The first draft took a few months to write and they had to send floppy disks with new bits of writing or rewrites back and forth to each other in the mail because it the internet was still in its early infancy. They also had to shout at each other excitedly over the phone like barbarians instead of shouting on Twitter like civilized people. Still, the story came together and became the brilliant, hilarious novel we all know and love today. Various attempts to bring it to the screen were planned and pitched and discussed, but they never went anywhere. Then Terry Pratchett became sick and, sadly, passed away. Neil Gaiman kept working to bring their story to life and now we’re here: Good Omens will premiere on Amazon Prime in 2019. There is a trailer we can watch and everything, so there’s no turning back now: the show exists, it’s real, and there was much rejoicing.
Just what makes Good Omens so special, you may ask? It’s hard to say. What makes macaroni and cheese so special? It’s just some cheddar and some noodles but somehow when you stick them together and hurl some bread crumbs on top, it becomes the best food in the entire world. Good Omens is like that. It’s sharp British humor and some awful/wonderful puns mixed together with delightful characters and smart plotting (the toasted bread crumbs on top in this case is, of course, the music of Queen). Put everything together and you get a story that’s beautiful, whimsical, and sharp as a tack. It’s ostensibly about the looming apocalypse, but it’s really about friendship, family, tradition, and humanity. The deepest truths are told with comedy, and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are soothsayers par excellence. They wield a clever turn of phrase like an expert fencer wields a foil (and their words can cut sharper and deeper than any sword, when it serves the story).
It’s a rollicking tale about a demon and an angel who like the world too much to watch it be destroyed. They’re aided by the collected 17th-century prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a witch of some small renown who foresaw exactly what’s going to happen before her untimely demise. They must stay one step ahead of Heaven and Hell in order to stop the Antichrist from triggering the end of the world. Thankfully, the Antichrist isn’t a being on the side of good or evil (yet). He’s a young boy with a solid group of friends who has no idea what he’s capable of, but has a very active imagination.
The players are assembled. This is where we begin. Time to get your copy of Good Omens and join me as we delve into this wonderful novel. While I own, at last count, about five copies of Good Omens (and two which have since disappeared into the void of “you haven’t read this? Here, borrow my copy!”) the edition I’ll be using for our reread is the black mass market paperback copy published by William Morrow in 2006.
The reread will be split up into ten parts, with the final part being a wrap-up of the entire novel. In each installment, we’ll go over a summary of the story thus far, my commentary on what’s going on, and a special trip to what I like to call “Pun Corner.” It’s going to be an awesome time and I can not wait to discuss this bonkers book with all of you! The first part will cover pages 1 to 35, so grab your book and start reading…
I’ll see you here next Monday, book in hand, Queen playing in the background. We have to do this properly, you know. Your homework is to watch the trailer one hundred times (or at least once!). With that fresh in your mind, we can begin the end times.
Meghan Ball is an avid reader, writer, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. When she isn’t losing to a video game or playing the guitar badly, she’s writing short fiction and spending way too much time on Twitter. You can find her there @EldritchGirl. She currently lives in a weird part of New Jersey.