Book Review: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman continues to establish himself as one of this age's cultural institutions. After the success of the American Gods adaptation comes last year's cult hit Good Omens. And while many good things can be said about the TV adaptation, today we'll be talking about the book that inspired it.
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
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Neil Gaiman is one of today's premier fantasy writers. He's won countless awards, including the Locus Award for his fiction, and the Eisner Award for his Sandman comic books. But before all of the worldwide success and fame, Gaiman released his first novel back in 1990. Gaiman had initially come up with the idea, after a viewing of Richard Donner's The Omen. However, while the project is most commonly associated with him nowadays, it's important to emphasise the contributions of fellow fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett.
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Pratchett, who was best known for his Discworld novels, initially wanted to buy the concept from Gaiman. Gaiman, who was busy writing Sandman at the time, saw this as an opportunity to co-write a novel with one of his long time literary heroes – and the two got to writing. They finished the novel in nine weeks that were mostly composed of long phone calls where they had read each other their material in hopes of making the other person laugh. Indeed, comedy is the biggest selling point of the novel as the two reimagine the Antichrist and the end of days similar to how Douglas Adams reimagined the secrets of outer space in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. If it's a good time you're looking for, then Good Omens is for you.
The Four Horsemen
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What makes Good Omens so good is the fact that it has taken worn out iconography and has given them a breath of fresh air. The Four Horsemen, for example, have gone through many modern interpretations across many different mediums. In the world of online gaming, the 4 Horsemen online slot features fantastical artwork depicting each of the apocalyptic heralds in the most recognisable guise. Other videogames featured on Venture Beat such as Darksiders also reinterprets the Four Horsemen – but even these modern interpretations seem dated, overused, and don't offer the same imaginative prowess that Gaiman and Pratchett had back in 1990. One reason for this could be the fact that each part of Good Omens has such a distinct voice and character to it.
And this would make sense, as this was how it was written to be. While the novel itself is a collaborative effort, both Gaiman and Pratchett lend their unmistakable voice to specific parts of the novel. Gaiman revealed that the concept for the Four Horsemen (and Other Four Motorcyclists) was his idea, while Pratchett was responsible for the occult witchery that is Agnes Nutter.
Despite being Gaiman's debut novel, Good Omens is still remembered as one of his best works. The novel is a shining example of what is possible when two writers, both with limitless imagination, cut loose and write for the pure joy of it. You hear each writer's distinct voice on every page, as they make worlds come alive without overpowering each other. It's more impressive when you consider the fact that Gaiman had never written a novel prior to this, as he was able to stand his own with the veteran Pratchett. Whether you're a Gaiman fan or a Pratchett fan (or a fan of good books in general), Good Omens is something you must read, as it gives you the best of both worlds — of heaven and of hell.
If you're looking for more unique book recommendations, check out our article on Horror Reads Found Outside of the Horror Section!