GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

While some folks like to believe the world will end in 2012, and at least one preacher predicted it would happen (twice) in 2011, back in 1990 fantasy authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett collaborated on Good Omens, a religious apocalypse as influenced by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Monty Python as by the Bible.

The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley have been around humanity since God kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden. The two have a sort of friendly animosity, working for opposite sides but meeting and chatting frequently. And when Crowley recieves the Antichrist, with instructions to swap him out for a regular baby, Aziraphale and Crowley decide they like humanity and don't want it destroyed, so they will work together to keep the child perfectly balanced between good and evil. Unfortunately, the Satanist nuns (yes, you read that right) wind up performing a three-child swap.

Jump ahead eleven years, and Aziraphale and Crowley have been focused on Warlock -- the wrong kid. Meanwhile Adam Young -- the actual Antichrist -- hangs out with his gang of three friends (the Them) and is having his powers manifest themselves. He also gets a pet hellhound that he names Dog.

There's the witch Anathema Device, whose ancestor wrote The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, the only book of 100% accurate predictions of the future. There's the somewhat nerdy witch hunter Newton Pulsifier, and his ancient and slightly mad superior Shadwell. And it wouldn't be an apocalypse without the Four Horsemen -- even if they're now riding motorcycles.

Good Omens is tremendously silly fun. Gaiman and Pratchett toy with a few deeper concepts (how deep does the divine, ineffable plan really go?) but are happy to have the silliness flow out, whether it's the ultimate game of phone tag or that any cassette tape left into a car for a few weeks automatically transforms into The Best of Queen. The characters are simple but effective: Crowley is cool and always planning, while the angelic Aziraphale is much more nerdy.
By contrast, the humans are less interesting (except for Shadwell's delusions of power), but the fun is really in the chase here, and Crowley and Aziraphale race to stop (well, find and then stop) the Antichrist. The writing has a deliciously witty style, and Good Omens will have you laughing from start to finish.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch
(who's proud to have a copy signed by Neil Gaiman)

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