Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My spouse has given me books for Christmas since 2001. It began with him looking up lists of the year’s best books on and buying me five or so to wrap in our local free newspaper and put under the four-foot-tall artificial tree I bought in 1999.

In 2003, after we’d moved to California, which cut our income in half and doubled our rent, he stopped buying books and instead began putting library books under the tree along with a promise of uninterrupted time in which to read them. By 2005, our first Christmas with our first child, the time had become an even more valuable commodity than the money.

In 2008, he stopped using reviews of books to choose which to put under the tree for me and started using my own Goodreads to-read list. That is just what he did this year, which means that one of the books I found under our now thirteen-year-old tree was Good Omens. Okay, well, technically I picked the books up from the library myself, wondering why my spouse was reading a bunch of books I’d had on my to-read list for ages, but the effect was largely the same. I brought them home, we stuck them (unwrapped) under the tree, and I didn’t think about them until Christmas morning.

Good Omens is the first of the bunch I picked up this Christmas break. I read it in three installments, one while my spouse took our son to the library and I sat with our pale and vomity daughter, one after everyone else was in bed and the snow fell silently outside the window behind me, and the third this morning while my spouse took our well-for-the-moment children to the children’s museum.

I found the experience of immersing myself in this book very pleasant. I’ve been doing a slog through my “currently-reading” list lately and nonfiction just doesn’t invite the kind of immersion that a novel does. In addition, I was impressed with the seamless way Pratchett and Gaimen assembled this co-authoring effort, wondering at times if their little jabs at trends in co-parenting might be self-conscious references to their own co-fathering of this book.

Overall, the book has the dry, British wit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a decidedly Gaiman-esque flavor especially to the Four Horsemen bits, or at least an American Gods-esque flavor, although I found it less laugh-out-loud funny than the Hitchhiker’s trilogy and less well developed than American Gods. Neither of these comparisons is actually fair, though (and not just because I used “-esque” and “flavor” twice in that last sentence). Gaiman published American Gods fifteen years after Good Omens came out, and one would assume that an author’s work would acquire some polish with fifteen years of practice, and I first read Douglas Adams in middle school when I was determined to find anything British hilarious because it seemed esoteric and therefore made me feel special when I laughed at it even if I didn’t catch 75% of the jokes. It’s possible that, had I picked up Good Omens in middle school (which would have been impossible since it came out the year I started high school), I would have laughed out loud at it. But I’m a jaded 36-year-old who picks up her own Christmas gifts from the library and looks at her child having a stomach bug as “downtime.” I think it takes a little more to make me laugh out loud these days.

But I did find Good Omens amusing, and I’m glad I picked it from the Christmas pile first. Now for some lunch, some exercise, and on to the next book.

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4 Replies to “Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman”

  1. Great gift-giving ideas… and I can relate to how they book-giving has evolved over time and children.

    I read both American Gods and Good Omens a few years ago, and agree with your review. I thought it was interesting how Good Omens was written by two authors… through the mail! I think I remember they wrote it before email, so they mailed manuscript drafts back and forth. Is that right?

    May your 2013 be filled with plenty of time to read.


    1. The notes at the back said they read their work to each other and discussed ideas via phone twice a day and sent disks (remember those?) back and forth several times a week. They also got together in person sometimes, too, or so I gather. Now that I think of it, I wonder if the collaboration between the two main characters of Good Omens is a reflection of the collaboration of the authors (as well as being a central part of the story). Or perhaps it just mirrored the friendship that led to the collaboration. Or maybe didn’t mirror anything at all.

      Thanks for the wishes for the New Year!


      1. Ahhh… so it was a little more high-tech than I remembered.

        I bet you’re right about the parallelism between the authors and the characters.


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