What would happen if the Apocalypse was held and the Antichrist didn't show up?

That's the basic problem here. Aziraphale and Crowley are an angel of Heaven and a demon of Hell who have been assigned to Earth since the Fall, and have long since developed a spirit of cooperation so that they can both get their respective jobs done while remaining in the favor of their superiors. About eleven years ago, Crowley was given the proud honor of taking part in introducing the Antichrist to the world as a small baby by arranging for him to be swapped with the child of another human family in a hospital run by an order of satanic nuns (don't ask).

Only problem is, the nuns botched the job. Now the Antichrist is eleven years old, his supernatural powers are beginning to manifest themselves, the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse (also don't ask) are ready to ride, the combined armies of Heaven and Hell are ready to march out and take care of issues once and for all, and if Crowley can't find the child before it all happens, things are liable to get ugly for him. Well, at least uglier.

Terry Pratchett wrote most of the words in this novel, and Neil Gaiman provided most of the basic story. Both of these authors are widely recognized and loved in their native United Kingdom, and if you're familiar with the Discworld novels or "the Sandman", you'd immediately understand why. The book is hilarious and clever without, somehow, being at all irreverent.

If that doesn't sell you, then go to your local public library, find a copy, and read the first three pages. That should do the trick.

Good Omens
The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.
By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
1990, Workman Publishing Company

Good Omens is one of the better known books in the humorous fantasy genre, and for good cause. Over 20 years after its initial publication, it is still reliably found on bookstore shelves, often in both hardcover and softcover, and it remains one of the most popular comic SF/F books out there.

Finally, it's time. The end of the world, or at least, the world as we know it. The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness has been born (well, produced in some manner, anyway), and carefully switched with a mortal child. He will be raised among men, and will, in time, destroy the world, initiate Armageddon, and reform the Earth in whatever manner he so desires.

Unless a demon in a hurry accidently mislays the little rug-rat, of course. This demon is Crowley, and he really is good at what he does. It's not his fault. In fact, it's so much not his fault that he didn't even know that it happened, until the end of the world started going funny. Thankfully, he has help, an angel that has fallen out of the habit of being angelic (although certainly not a fallen angel!), and wouldn't mind if the world didn't end on schedule... not that he has any doubt that his side would win, of course. But really, he does enjoy a good cup of tea, and heaven is not big on the Earthly pleasantries.

So now we have the Four Horsemen (and then some) running around leaderless, the big heavenly and hellish players looking for someone to blame, and an Antichrist who appears to be working for entirely the wrong team.

Oh... and Agnes Nutter was a witch who was disturbingly good at seeing the future. Too good, really, because most of the future isn't something you want to know, really know, that is coming for you. But she did get out one book of prophesies before being burned, and now it looks like Agnes' book is the only clue as to what in the world is going on.

This is a quite well written book, and compares well with other works of Pratchett from around that time; not quite as polished as his latter books, but top-quality humorous fantasy nonetheless. Gaiman's voice is a little less obvious, but stands out in some areas, such as the Four Horsemen. This is probably in part due to this book being a bit more lighthearted than most of the things that Gaiman writes, making it hard to identify his writing; the authors agree that Terry Pratchett was responsible for a bit more than half of the overall text, but this was a collaborative work, and they each hand a hand in every part of the story.

The plot is delightfully twisty, with multiple intertwining story-lines and sudden switchbacks and references to earlier bits that you thought had been dropped. It remains fast-moving and entertaining throughout, and holds up through multiple readings. The theological bits are covered with enough thought to be interesting, and handled with enough care as to be as inoffensive as this sort of book can be -- if the story pitch doesn't strike you as inherently sacrilegious, nothing in the book will make it worse. Overall, a very nice piece of work, recommended to anyone who likes a good laugh.

ISBN-10: 0060853980
ISBN-13: 978-0060853983

Title: Good Omens
Authors: Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Year: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-085398-3

Spoofing serious works of art is now rather mainstream. The first spoof I can remember watching and really liking is the film Dogma, starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock and many others. Many of the people around me did not like the film because they said it was blasphemous. But I really, really liked it. So, reading this book now, and while appreciating some of the bits meant to be funny, I was just mildly amused. The only bit I really found funny was the response of War when she got her sword and summons to ride for Armageddon. The rest of it was just bleh because I've seen most of the tropes elsewhere. Further, the writing style is a bit like H2G2 which became rather cloying after the first book. An example from H2G2 is "at first, nothing happened. After a while, nothing continued to happen." I think I saw a line like that in this book as well.

One thing I have always found rather odd is the Christian/Western idea of the nature of hell and the powers of the devil. It has always seemed to me that the devil having his own kingdom and even being able to challenge god was a limitation of god's power. Actually, even the story of the war in heaven and the fall seems to be a limitation of that power. So, the idea that this book is based on, that of the Antichrist and the impending final battle, are already so absurd that the work treating them with levity just does not have much material to work with in my mind.

One thing I did like is the presentation of demons as self interested backstabbers and angels (especially Metatron) as rather uncaring about humans and just obedient automatons. I once said to a friend that angels aren't good. They just do what god commands, even shitty stuff. It was a frustrating conversation because the guy's argument was that "god is good, therefore anyone doing god's work is good as well." A definition of good outside god's decree was just not on the guy's radar.

I did not like this book much. I have never read Mr. Pratchett, so I cannot compare it to his other works. I have read Gaiman's American Gods which I really loved and I think is much, much better than this. I'll reread the book in a few years. I might like it better then. But it is not recommended.

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