A Husband dearest review.
Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 1998, Corgi.
I'm sure I read somewhere recently that Neil Gaiman departed this earth a few weeks ago for another place, although I hope it was neither the heaven nor hell envisaged in this book, co-written with Disc-world author Terry Pratchett. I must have been mistaken in my reading for he is apparently well ...alive and winning prizes and writing new Dr. Who episodes for the BBC, but nonetheless I retrieved from my shelves the only book I have by him for a reread.
I had forgotten what an amusing read this book is and enjoyed again its rich characters, pointed footnotes and as the ‘Dramatis Personae’ page informs us, “full chorus of Tibetans, Aliens, Americans, Atlanteans and other rare and strange creatures of the last days”
For such is the setting of the tale, apart from a quick prologue in The Garden of Eden, the rising of the Anti-Christ, the Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse, skies on fire etc. etc., with all blandishments and garnish necessary to such an event, centred in the little home counties town of Tadfield, next Saturday, just after tea. Apart from the Anti-Christ himself who determines that just because something ‘is written’ doesn’t mean it can’t be crossed out. So it is not your average Armageddon, but very definitely a theological treatise encompassing debates on freewill, fate, ineffability and the purpose of existence. It is a political document of the nature of organisations; ecological screw-ups, governments and churches and their place in the battle between good and evil.
Shadwell, the Witch-finder Sergeant, records in his discourse on the fight against evil,
“Churches? What good did they ever do? They’m just as bad. Same line o’business nearly. You can’t trust them to stamp out the evil one, cos if they did, they’d be out on that line o.business. If yer goin’ up against a tiger, ye don’t want fellow travellers whose idea of huntin’ is tae throw meat at it.”Which pretty much reflects my own view on the church at the moment, but then I like Shadwell more than I should, as my diametrically polar opposite, a man who refers to ‘southern pansies’ with all the certitude of standing on a personal North Pole. A man who,
“…was racist in such a glowering undirected way that it was quite inoffensive; it was simply that Shadwell hated everyone in the world regardless of caste, colour or creed, and wasn’t going to make exceptions for anyone.”
I also admire the bumbling efficacy of the Witchfinder army’s newest, and only recruit, private Newton Pulsifer, who,
“…had always suspected that people who used the word community were using it in a very specific sense that excluded him and everyone he knew.”Newt also turns out to be the last surviving descendant of, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery Pulsifer, who just happened to be the chap who burned Agnes Nutter at the stake, as the culminating explosive conclusion of a 16th century witch hunt. Agnes was the authour of ‘The Nice and Accurate Prophecies’, which are of course the definitive guide to the future and a very poor seller by virtue of said accuracy. The only remaining copy is in the hands of her remaining relative, Anathema Device co-incidentally still living in Tadfield, trying to work out why her town seems to be the focus of so many unexpected events.
More Demons than Angels throughout this book, but better reading than anything by Dan Brown.
Neal Terry, 06/07/2010
Neil Gaiman - Homepage.