Good Omens Reread

Good Omens, Part Eight: Another One Bites The Dust

If only real Saturdays lasted as long as this one does in Good Omens! Alas, it is Monday once again—but fear not, I am here to help get your week started on the right note! Yes, it’s time to rev up your engines, because The Good Omens Reread rides again…

Let’s do this thing!

Summary

The Four Horsemen have set out on their final journey, speeding down highways with little regard for others. Following them are the four hapless bikers from the bar, who are convinced that they can help somehow (and also it’s just damn cool to be riding with the Horsemen). They are going to be important—they can all feel it in their bones. They decide to choose names for themselves, trying to come up with appropriate-sounding horrors that can stand up to the likes of “War” and “Death.” The Horsemen ignore them as the bikers bicker amongst themselves.

We join Madame Tracy hard at work conducting a séance. Her clients are regulars and have the usual set of questions to ask. Much to Madame Tracy’s astonishment she actually channels a real spirit: Aziraphale speaks through her, wrecking her séance and ordering her clients out the door. Madame Tracy is incensed, puts on a pot of tea, and pours two cups. With the necessities taken care of, she demands to know what the hell is going on.

Proving once again that Agnes Nutter was always right, Newt and Anathema have indeed jumped each other’s bones following their near-death experience in the storm. Newt is elated. Anathema goes right back to business. They have a world to try and save, after all. Newt has some complicated feelings to work out, but must push them aside to focus on what’s important: not dying.

Shadwell dreams about the death of Agnes Nutter and then wakes up, confused and rather freaked out, in Madame Tracy’s bedroom. He receives an even bigger shock when he walks out to find Madame Tracy talking to herself in two different voices. He bids the demon begone and Aziraphale, who is having a VERY trying day, has had enough of him. Madame Tracy begs him to just sit down and listen, and Aziraphale fills him in on the oncoming apocalypse, but Shadwell doesn’t seem convinced. Antichrists are out of his jurisdiction. Utterly flummoxed, Aziraphale finally tells him that the Antichrist is the biggest witch out there. He’s the head witch! He finally has Shadwell’s attention. With that sorted, they head off to Tadfield on Madame Tracy’s scooter.

The Horsemen stop for nothing on their ride. Certainly not traffic accidents. They soar over a broken-down truck full of fish and sheet metal and continue merrily on their way. Their four biker followers are not so lucky. Their motorcycles don’t soar so much as… crash. Death hangs back: There’s a reason why those four weren’t also in the Book of Revelations.

Crowley is stuck in the notoriously bad traffic of London, pondering what he’s going to do with Armageddon nipping at his heels. The idea of just holing up in a posh restaurant to work on getting deeply, blackout drunk comes to mind. He can’t bring himself to give up, though. Crowley is, in the depths of his black, corroded little heart, an optimist. There must be a way to do something. This can’t truly be the end. Sacrifices will have to be made, and he uses his beloved Bentley to ram through the traffic and get to Tadfield at all costs. Unbeknownst to Crowley, Hastur the demon lord has escaped from his answering machine prison, and he’s going to have to face much bigger problems than London traffic soon. The beloved Bentley, a character in its own right, goes up in flames in Crowley’s haste to reach Tadfield; at this point, the car’s held together through the sheer force of Crowley’s will.

The quarry, headquarters of Adam and his friends, is the calm center of the storm. They sit and wait for the “friends” that Adam claims are coming. Enough is enough for the Them, though. Pepper takes matters into her own hands in order to knock some sense into her friend. They quiz Adam on what part of the world he wants. He deflates under their questions and says all he’s ever wanted was Tadfield. He loves Tadfield with all his heart. Challenged by his friends’ objections, Adam freaks out and for a moment seems to have gone mad with his own power. His friends are horrified and begin to back away, fleeing from him—and it’s like a bucket of cold water suddenly washes over him. His head clears and he’s Adam Young, eleven-year-old boy, once again. He knows now that they have to stop what he’s set into motion.

With his friends by his side again, Adam offers them a thought experiment. There’s another gang in Tadfield and it belongs to Greasy Johnson. They fight occasionally and most of the time (okay, at least a solid half of the time) the Them win. But what if Greasy Johnson and his gang went away? How great would that be? Except, as Pepper points out, it would be boring. They need an adversary. Everyone needs their own Greasy Johnson. With that settled, they get on their bikes. Adam has a plan.

Aziraphale is rather underwhelmed by Madame Tracy’s scooter. It manages to go about 5 mph carrying both her and Shadwell. This is unacceptable unless they plan to reach Tadfield sometime next week. Aziraphale is forced to take matters in hands, and thanks to the judicious application of a little angelic magic, they are soon zooming across England, hovering about five feet off the ground and making much better time.

Speaking of transportation: For once in its life, Newt’s car is proving to be useful. He and Anathema drive to the American military base just outside Tadfield to try to avert nuclear Armageddon. Agnes’ prophecy cards are completely out of order but Newt insists that doesn’t matter anymore: Pick a card, any card, and have your fortune told. Anathema selects one that concerns the army base. They stop and get out. A big tree has fallen across the main entrance road so they try to go in the back way. What’s the worst that could happen? Agnes is pretty sure neither of them get shot by the U.S. military. What’s a little gunfire when the world is ending anyway? It should be fine…

Commentary

Now the seriousness of the end of the world is setting in—not as many laughs in this section. It’s such a fantastic chunk of the book, but you can tell things are starting to narrow to a close, bringing all the key elements together.

Adam finally comes to his senses, thanks to his friends, and realizes that he was on the cusp of making a huge mistake. He also knows it’s not too late; he can still make things right somehow. I love the analogy involving Greasy Johnson. It’s a brilliant way to demonstrate that existence without conflict and competition is boring, and only serves to create a vacuum. Heaven will always need Hell and vice versa. One without the other would just be tedious. Adam now knows there has to be a balance and he’s ready to make it happen. Pepper, Wensleydale, and Brian are really incredible in this chapter, as well. It must be terrifying to stand up to their friend, especially when he’s bringing literal hell down upon the world, but they muster up their strength and common sense and are able to pull him back from the brink. Without them, the world would have been lost.

I love how Aziraphale has so little patience for Shadwell. Madame Tracy adores him (for some reason I’ve never figured out), but Aziraphale is just despairing that he’s stuck with the Witchfinder again. What are the odds? Oh, cruel fates, how could you? Madame Tracy is just wonderful in this section. The séance going wrong is just absolute perfection; I love the woman’s dead husband finally getting the chance to tell her to shut up. Of course Madame Tracy doesn’t find it very funny, though. She may have just lost three good paying clients. She’s livid with Aziraphale. She does the most British thing possible and makes a pot of tea in a rage—and then sets out two cups. I’ve always loved that detail. It’s the little things in this book that truly make it come to life.

The poor Bentley! I always feel sad when we get to this part of the book. It’s clear that Crowley loves that car so much, and to see it burning and breaking apart is always a little tragic. Crowley knows he has to sacrifice the Bentley to stop the end of the world but it still must hurt quite a bit. It hurts me, at least. Crowley holds the car together with sheer willpower and manages to dumbfound police and spectators alike as he smashes his way through a traffic-clogged highway. You can start to feel the desperation coming off Crowley in this scene, and it always shifts the tone of the narrative for me: The demise of the Bentley shows what Gaiman and Pratchett are willing to destroy as we get closer and closer to the end. For now, it’s just a beloved car. Soon, it will be people.

Speaking of poor souls who don’t make it, the bikers following the Horsemen reach an ignoble end trying to keep up with them. The scene is played for laughs, but I always find it to slightly horrifying and rather sad. Maybe it’s just me. It’s easy to get attached to the bikers quickly because they offer such quality comic relief. Their deaths seem to signal that comedy time is over.

This section also contains the most nightmarish scene in the whole book: Hastur getting loose from the answering machine. My skin crawls just thinking about it. I mean, I know they’re telemarketers, but they don’t deserve to die that way. It’s horrifying on a Cronenbergian level. Neil, which one of you was responsible for this? I need to send whichever one of you it was the bill for my therapy. It takes a lot to freak me out—I read H.P. Lovecraft as bedtime stories—but this section legitimately gave me nightmares when I first read Good Omens.

We are now past the turning point of the story. We have a little way still left to travel, but we are well and truly not in Kansas anymore.

Pun Corner

This section was a little bit more somber but it still contains some excellent puns and jokes—some light in the darkness. Balance is important.

[After Anathema says there’s no time for another roll in the hay] “Why not?” said Newt. He was about to point out that it might not take long, but an inner voice counseled against it.

NEWT. Oh, honey, no. Oh god, poor Anathema…

[Footnote on Aziraphale’s little white lie about the Antichrist, and the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.] This is not actually true. The road to Hell is paved with frozen door-to-door salesmen. On weekends many of the younger demons go ice-skating down it.

This amazing mental image—I love it. Do you think Hell has updated their road to include those scam callers who use your own number to call you? We don’t really have many door-to-door salesmen anymore, but my phone number calls itself more than any other number and I’d like to think divine (infernal?) justice will find the culprits one day.

“It’s like the man said in the history books. A plaque on both your house.”

This was met with silence.

“One of those blue ones,” said Brian, evenly, “saying ‘Adam Young Lived Here,’ or somethin’?”

I love Brian so much, you guys.

 
My friends, the end is nigh: Everything is ready. Everyone is zeroed in on Tadfield. We are ready for the end of the world. Next week is the final stretch of Good Omens—join me for an extra-long dive into the final part of the book, as well as a discussion about the novel as a whole and how it will translate to TV. Read the rest of “Saturday” as well as the “Sunday” chapter, and meet me back here next Monday as all the schemes and plots come together.

See you next week to find out whether Heaven or Hell wins! Place your bets!

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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