Hello again and welcome back to the Good Omens Reread! I’m still Meghan and once again I’m excited to see you here for another week of angels, demons, and the end of the world as we know it! What could be better than that? This week, it all starts to unravel—in the words of a very wise man, hold onto your butts…
Saturday dawns early and bloody. (What’s the old saying? Red sky at night, sailors’ delight, red sky at morning, sailors take warning?) A delivery man is out on his rounds. After a near-death experience with a truck, he manages to deliver something special to the third Horseman, Pollution (Pestilence having retired in 1936, apparently). He gets back to his truck and looks at his fourth delivery. His final delivery. He doesn’t escape the truck this time, and instead delivers a message directly to Death (who is very appreciative). All four horsemen have been set loose. The apocalypse can begin.
Shadwell checks that Newt has everything a Witchfinder might need to venture out into the great unknown—or, in this case, a picturesque little town called Tadfield. Newt is eager to get away. He sets out in his car, a Wasabi named Dick Turpin for reasons of comedic significance that only Newt knows. Everything is going swimmingly until he’s stopped by a flying saucer. But before we can get into that, we must deal with Agnes.
Agnes Nutter was a singular witch and her burning was a singular event. The townspeople had turned out as a mob, howling for her head, and she knew her time was at hand. Down to the precise second, nearly. She chastises the Witchfinder for being late, in fact. She marches right up to the bonfire and climbs on, shouting that she is a witch and for everyone to gather round to watch her burn. The Witchfinder is utterly flummoxed by her actions, but sets to burning her anyway. Agnes, sly girl that she is, has one last trick up her sleeve. Concealed in her petticoats are massive quantities of gunpowder and roofing nails: She takes out the entire village in an explosion seen clear across England. The Witchfinder who burned her was a Major named Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer and his descendant is currently talking to aliens. Funny old world this is, eh?
The aliens are just as confused as Newt is… perhaps even more so, honestly. They mosey on over to Newt’s car like intergalactic police officers and interrogate him on the state of the world. Shameful how humans have been using the Earth. The ice caps are under regulation size for a planet of this classification! The aliens let Newt off with a warning and fly off. Newt sits there for a moment, wondering if he’s having a nervous breakdown. Aliens! That’s crazy. He sets out again for Tadfield, sure that nothing else strange will happen… until he nearly hits a Tibetan monk sticking up from a hole in the ground and crashes.
The Them find Newt first, after spending some time discussing metaphysics and why saving the whales is good. Adam quickly runs to fetch the closest adult. Forearmed thanks to Agnes, Anathema is waiting with a first aid kit ready. She jumps into action, rushes to help him, and is deeply underwhelmed by what she sees. Agnes had mentioned a few other more intimate details about good ol’ Newt in her book, and Agnes had her fingers crossed for someone a little bit… less Newt-ish. He’s rather uninspiring, no matter how you look at it. Anathema is a touch disappointed but tries to soldier on the best she can. For his part, Newt is utterly bewildered by his accident and the fact he’s being cared for in a strange woman’s bedroom. Once he’s awake and lucid, Anathema announces without fanfare that she’s a witch and hands him a stack of cards that contain some of Agnes’ prophecies on them. Newt’s running a bit late and he needs to catch up quick.
Newt does his best to grapple with the new information presented to him. It’s a lot to take in: There are witches and an Antichrist and the end of the world, oh my! Newt was just looking forward to a quiet day away from Shadwell and this is what he gets instead. Anathema explains about Agnes’ unique way of telling the future and Newt starts to realize just how out of his depth he is. When asked how long they have until the end of the world, Anathema just takes a long look at her clock. That’s probably… bad.
Elsewhere, things begin to take a turn. The Them leave Anathema’s, proud to have helped rescue Newt. They begin to talk again about the state of the world, of whales and rain forests and nuclear bombs. Adam starts to dwell on everything, brooding about how awful people are to hurt the world so badly, and starts to frighten his friends. They can tell a change has come over him; he’s not himself. A voice deep inside starts to talk to Adam, telling him that he can change everything, fix everything. He can raze it all to ashes and start over. The skies begin to darken and the Them know something dreadful is about to happen.
Hoo boy, and here we go. Today is the big day. Saturday is when everything really starts happening. We first start with that poor delivery man—I always feel so bad for him; he didn’t deserve that. Gaiman and Pratchett really tear your heart out when they want to. His lovely wife Maud! The place where he grew up! How could you do this to me, guys? We get a little bit more time with Death as well. Despite speaking ALL IN CAPITALS, I don’t think he’s the same Death that’s a fan favorite in the Discworld series. He doesn’t have the same warmth or sense of humor. Maybe we’re dealing with parallel universes, and they’re all the same Death, just different in small ways. There’s one out there in a top hat and swirly eyeliner, one with the classic scythe get-up but with a Jamaican accent, and so on. Death also gives us one of the more memorable lines in the book in this section: “DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death, JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
Poor Newt is in for a hell of a day, that’s for certain. He handles the aliens as well as can be expected, really. Those aliens would be SO much more angry with us now; can’t say I blame them. Newt handles the galactic traffic stop with relative aplomb and probably would have gone on his merry way were it not for fate, and the Tibetan. Enter Anathema. Poor Anathema: their encounter has all the makings of an absolutely disappointing online dating meet-up. She was hoping for tall, dark, and handsome and got… well, Newt. She’s known that she was going to meet him all her life and has understandably built him up a bit in her mind over the years. Agnes is not great at this whole matchmaker business, huh?
Also, my undying love and respect goes to Newt for saying what I’ve been saying this entire reread and wondering why Agnes didn’t see half of this stuff coming. Newt, I adore you.
I love the glimpses of other Device family members we get on the index cards. It’s like watching a very slow internet message board, with everyone commenting and leaving their two cents—I especially like the two who wonder if Agnes might have been drinking that day. The cards are another excellent way in which Gaiman and Pratchett give this world additional depth and color and add details to the story, all with such a tiny addition. The same can be said, as always, of the footnotes, which are simply wonderful in this section. From the ins and outs of British money to Pepper’s mother still giving tarot card readings, they really add that extra dash of realism and humor.
We also see Adam finally come into his power, and it shifts the tone of the book completely. Adam is just eleven and he has such immense power, this new voice now whispers to him. Things have to change. He can make them better. He can wash away the wrongs of the world and leave behind those that are worthy to begin again. To the growing horror of his friends, Adam begins to parcel out the world. He gives continents to each of them (Dog gets Australia) and tries to convince them all that this is for the best. While they have no idea what Adam really is, the Them know that something has gone terribly wrong and their friend is starting to frighten them. Honestly, it’s a horrifying moment. Adam starts to go off the rails and you can empathize so much with his friends: They have no idea what to do and they all wordlessly agree to stay with him, but you can tell all of them are freaking out a little. It’s heart-wrenching.
This particular section was rather light on our favorite angel/demon duo, but that changes next week. In fact, some of Aziraphale and Crowley’s best moments are just ahead, and I can’t wait to share them with you! They bring the levity the story needs to keep things from getting too dark. Good Omens is an exceptionally well-balanced book. It doesn’t tumble into the grimdark basement, nor does it stay aloft in the realm of airy, inconsequential humor. It knows exactly how much of each it needs to stay grounded, and I love that about it.
Friends, Romans, dearest readers, it is time again for my favorite part of the reread. Yes, we’re back in Pun Corner! This week has some absolute gems…
[Concerning Newt’s car] It was state of the art, he said. The art in this case was probably pottery.
Google, where’s the nearest burn unit in Tadfield? Because daaaamn.
[Concerning Agnes] A howling mob, reduced to utter fury by her habit of going around being intelligent and curing people
How dare she! Being intelligent AND curing people? Burn the witch!
[The aliens] They walked down the ramp. At least, two of them walked. The one that looked like a pepper pot just skidded down it, and fell over at the bottom.
I don’t know how many people catch this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, but this is a Dalek from Doctor Who. You can tell because it’s shaped like a pepper pot (and also because it immediately falls over).
That’s a wrap on the first half of Saturday; things are only going to get more downhill from here. Are you ready? Read pages 230 to 281, ending on the line “Whistling softly, he drove.” We’re checking back in with our favorite angel and demon to see what shenanigans they’re up to. It’s going to be a great time!
Have a wonderful week!
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.