Good Omens Reread

Good Omens, Part Three: The Dog Days of Summer

Hello friends, and welcome back to the Good Omens reread! I’m still Meghan and I’m still glad to see you! Last week we finished laying the foundation for the book and now we can really step on the gas—let’s see what Wednesday has in store for us!

Summary

It’s a hot summer day and the 11th birthday of one very special little boy. Warlock, the Antichrist, is having the birthday party to end all birthday parties. Unfortunately, the children’s performers his parents hired were struck down with a stomach bug. Even more unfortunately, Aziraphale has turned up to fill in. The little hobby that’s kept him going all these dreary, dark centuries has been practicing sleight of hand magic. He never uses his angelic powers to help him (that would be cheating!), and because of that, his magic skills are completely rubbish. The children are incredibly mean to him and tear him (figuratively) to shreds. Crowley watches his friend die on stage—some things just can’t be helped—while keeping an eye out for the hellhound that was promised.

A food fight erupts and the hellhound does not arrive. Something has gone terribly amiss. This means that Warlock is clearly not the Antichrist. But if he isn’t, who is?

The hellhound, meanwhile, has blinked into existence near a town called Tadfield. It slinks towards its master, teeth sharp and ready to tear apart anything in its path. It hears its master’s voice and waits, excitedly, to be named. The question of what it will be called will change the course of a hellhound’s whole life, giving it purpose and identity. Maybe “Killer”? Or “Demon”! But what its young master decides is that he wants a proper little mongrel terrier named, simply, “Dog.”

Crowley and Aziraphale decide to go through the records of the old Satanic hospital to find out if there were more than two babies born that day. They careen through London like a bat out of, well, you know, and Aziraphale is introduced to a beautiful selection of classical music, all covered by one F. Mercury.

Meanwhile, Anathema Device, witch, is out surveying and checking things against the all important book. Everything is going according to plan. Well, that is, until Crowley and Aziraphale crash into her life. Literally. The Bentley smacks into her bike and she goes tumbling. Aziraphale is horrified and helps her, mending a small fracture and fixing the bike all without her knowledge. He’s pleased that he can do a good deed. Meanwhile, Crowley glares at the Bentley and it fixes itself as well, and he argues with Anathema over why neither of them had lights on and who had the right of way. Aziraphale insists they drive her to her home, apologetic. Crowley can’t get away from her fast enough and once she’s out he drives back into the night, intent on saving his own skin. Anathema dwells for a moment on what odd people the two strangers were…then realizes with startling horror the book is gone.

Crowley and Aziraphale show up to the old Satanic nunnery and are immediately shot. Crowley complains about how bothersome it will be to get a new body before he realizes he’s actually still alive. And covered in paint. He rouses Aziraphale, who is very cranky for an angel by this point, and they go to find out what in the blazes is going on. It turns out that Sister Mary Loquacious had stayed on to take charge of the manor for the past eleven years and discovered a real talent for numbers and finances. With the Chattering Order disbanded, she took it upon herself to become a new woman and give her life new meaning. Thus, the manor became the Tadfield Manor Conference and Management Training Center—the premier location for office get-togethers, bonding excursions, and, yes, paintball battles.

This does not amuse Crowley. He’s had a very trying decade and he’s had about enough. He scares the office drone who shot him into unconsciousness and the pair tromp off into the manor itself, leaving behind a very nifty present for their would-be assassin. As they look for Sister Mary, all hell breaks loose outside as some of the office groups discover their paintball guns now fire real, live ammo. While everything outside descends into ’80s action movie anarchy, Crowley and Aziraphale find their quarry.

Crowley is 100% done messing around and simply snaps his fingers at the woman formerly known as Sister Mary, dropping her into a hypnotized daze. In a trance, she tries to answer all his questions, but she doesn’t know very much about the switch—she just remembers the babies were adorable. Having gotten nothing for their efforts, the demon and the angel abandon the nun and drive back out into the night before the police, busy rounding up the gun-happy management trainees, take any notice of them. Sitting in the Bentley they mull over how the world will end and what it may mean for them. They put all their cards on the table and tell each other what humans and organizations they have influence over. Some names appear on both lists. That’s humans for you—always trying to be on the winning team and doing their best to exploit a loophole. They decide to send some of their human teams to try and find the child. With that settled, Crowley takes Aziraphale home. Grabbing his coat from the back seat, the angel discovers a very, very special book.

Finally, as the chapter winds down, we find ourselves on a charming little island in the Mediterranean where Carmine “Red” Zuigiber (aka War) has decided to vacation. In the midst of a heated civil war (which had mysteriously sprung up upon her arrival), she receives a very odd package that signals the beginning of the end: an apocalyptic call to arms.

Commentary

Aziraphale’s attempt at being a magician is such a glorious, horrible moment of secondhand cringe. It feels like something that would happen on an episode of Parks and Rec or The Office. I always feel so bad for him. He tries so hard. Crowley, of course, thinks the whole thing is absolute pants and he isn’t wrong. Are there any creatures more vicious than eleven-year-old children? Sure, you could say it’s demons or bears (or demon bears!) but I’ve been through middle school. I have the scars. I know what the real answer is.

I’d also like to take a moment to shout out how much I love just the very idea of Dog. Here is this gruesome, fearsome hellhound all ready to rip apart the unfaithful and see that his master is victorious in battle. All he needs is a suitable name…then it all goes to pieces and he turns into a charming little pup, like something straight out of a cartoon. I keep imagining him as Snowy from Tintin, with a little stubby tail and yippy bark: the perfect companion for a young boy. I love how confused the hellhound is, and how it sort of shrugs and decides, “Well, when in Rome!” It’s compelled to do what its master desires and suddenly it wants belly rubs and sticks to chase. Part of me thinks it’s sort of a kindness, for the hellhound. Imagine how carefree and happy he is now. It’s like someone who has spent years in a grim dead-end job and they’ve finally found happiness in a whole new, unexpected career.

In my day job I work for a rather large corporation, so the team-building paintball scenes never fail to make me laugh. They aren’t outlandish at all. Office culture certainly hasn’t changed since this book was published. The cubicle-filled labyrinth of the modern office is still cutthroat and full of petty little indignities…and this was written before open offices became a thing! I’d like to think Crowley was behind open office plans. That seems like something he’d do.

Sister Mary Loquacious, now Mary Hodges, is awesome. I love how she took charge of her life, learned some new skills, and was able to make the Satanic manor into a thriving business that generates income for her. You’re never too old (or too silly, or too Satanic) to learn something new!

Poor Anathema. Agnes didn’t see THAT coming, now did she? I love how Aziraphale just can’t help himself and he has to “upgrade” her damaged bike. I also love how the luggage rack he magics into being has tartan straps. It’s so him! It annoys Crowley too, which just adds to the hilarity. Anathema takes it all in stride, for the most part—she recognizes that these two are more than they appear and just rolls with it. If she was really in danger, Agnes surely would have warned her. I’ve always wondered why Agnes didn’t know the book was going to get lost, though. That’s a relatively important plot point and she’s utterly silent about it. Anathema is completely taken by surprise, which must be a novel feeling for someone who’s known all her life precisely how everything is going to turn out.

As an aside, Aziraphale getting his hands on her book is such a great turning point. It’s the break in the case he and Crowley needed. I also deeply enjoy the description of the title page of the book with all the different text sizes and fonts—it reminds me of that old “Graphic design is my passion!” meme that gets trotted out on social media every time someone finds a sign with bad kerning. Kerning is probably another thing we can blame Crowley for. Do you want to make your friends and family suffer for the rest of time? Teach them all about kerning. They’ll never forgive you.

And finally, we have War on vacation. It’s an incredible scene because it shows her true power. While just her mere presence on the island brings about a violent civil war, she’s clearly not simply a passive player, and once she had the sword in her hand, it’s game over. There are parts of the scene that are played for laughs, like the oblivious British couple on vacation, but the entire interlude really has a lingering miasma of malice about it. It always gives me chills.

Pun Corner

Now it’s for my favorite part of the week: let’s take another jaunt into that bastion of silliness, Pun Corner!

“I don’t recognize this,” [Aziraphale] said. “What is it?”

“It’s Tchaikovsky’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’,” said Crowley, closing his eyes as they went through Slough. To while away the time as they crossed the sleeping Chilterns, they also listened to William Byrd’s “We Are the Champions” and Beethoven’s “I Want to Break Free.” Neither were as good as Vaughn William’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m much more partial to Debussy’s “Killer Queen,” myself.

“Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it,” said Aziraphale gloomily.

“All those higher life forms just scythed away, just like that.”

“Terrible.”

“Nothing but dust and fundamentalists.”

Absolutely savage.

[Anathema, trying to find her book]: She even tried the one which every romantic nerve in her body insisted should work, which consisted of theatrically giving up, sitting down and letting her glance fall naturally on a patch of earth which, if she had been in any decent narrative, should have contained the book.

…Wow, I came here to have a good time and I feel so attacked right now, book; if you’re going to drag me like that, just @me next time! Though I have always adored the winking little backhanded dig at their own work.

And that’s Wednesday all wrapped up: what an eventful day it was! Now it’s headlong into Thursday, pages 127 to 152. Thank you for joining me again on this madcap adventure. Can’t wait to see you again next week—it’s going to be a good one!

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.

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