Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is one of those books I can come back to again and again. I recently bought a new copy and this edition includes introductions written by both authors. One includes a comment about Good Omens being the most repaired book they see because people read it so much it falls apart. There’s a mention that when they see a new copy, it’s usually because the owner’s gone and bought it again because they lent it to a friend and never got it back. This made me laugh; guess why I’d had to buy a new copy?
Good Omens is the story of the apocalypse, drawing on a lot of Biblical material. Crowley is a demon. Not just any demon, he was the serpent in the garden of Eden. Now he lives on Earth, messes around with humanity and generally has a good time. His opposite number is an angel called Aziraphale. The two of them have reached an understanding, allowing them to divide up England comfortably (both of them claiming credit for Milton Keynes). They’re not exactly friends, but they’re able to meet amiably despite the fact that one reports to heaven, the other to hell.
All seems to be going great until Crowley is given a child to place with a human family. This child is the antichrist, which means that the end of the world is imminent. Crowley and Aziraphale agree to team up in order to prevent the apocalypse. Unfortunately for them, due to incompetence, the child is misplaced and grows up away from the influence of either heaven or hell. Meanwhile, Anathema Device is using the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Angus Nutter, the only entirely accurate book of prophecies in existence, to try and pinpoint the antichrist.
As the end of the world nears, the unknowing antichrist’s powers start to manifest, causing chaos around the world.
As well as the main characters, there’s an interesting mixture of supporting characters, including: Shadwell, a witchfinder obsessed with how many nipples people have; Newton Pulsifer, a witchfinder who’d really love to work with computers; the Them, a gang of kids who follow the antichrist; Madam Tracy, part-time painted jezebel and medium; the four bikers of the apocalypse; and the four other bikers of the apocalypse, who didn’t make it into the book of Revelations.
The whole story is a light-hearted adventure full of bizarre situations and amusing occurrences. But, at the same time, it touches on some interesting issues of free will, religion and destiny.
I would strongly recommend this book. Maybe you’ll end up with a much-repaired copy because you’ve read it too many times.
Night Watch is my favourite Terry Pratchett book. However, it’s not one I’d recommend starting with.
It’s part of the Discworld series. This series consists of about three dozen books, all set on a flat world which rides through space on the backs of four elephants who are standing on the shell of a giant turtle. These books started as parodies of traditional fantasy adventures but soon found a satirical comedy style. Within the series, there are some books which are standalone and can be read without any prior knowledge of the series. Other books form subseries. For example, the Tiffany Aching series for younger readers is comprised of Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith. Even though these books are quite recent, a reader can easily start with Wee Free Men as their first experience of Discworld.
Night Watch is part of the City Watch series. This series starts with Guards! Guards! In this book, a teenaged boy raised by dwarves is sent to the great city of Ankh-Morpork to join the Watch because it will, apparently, make a man out of him. He finds a bunch of unwanted misfits lead by the permanently-drunk Captain Samuel Vimes. However, when a dragon threatens the city, the Watch rise to the task. In the second book of the series, Men At Arms, Vimes has been ordered to expand the Watch to include minorities. Now their ranks include a troll, a dwarf and a woman (sort of). They have to stop an Assassin who wants to restore the monarchy. In Feet of Clay, Vimes, now Sir Samuel, Commander of the City Watch, has to solve the mystery of not just who is poisoning the Patrician, but also how. In Jingo, a war is brewing and Vimes and the Watch must try and prevent it. The Fifth Elephant is one of the weakest books in the series. In this book, Vimes and his wife journey to distant Uberwald as ambassadors and there have to contend with dwarven politics and bloodthirsty werewolves. Only then do we get to Night Watch.
In Night Watch, Vimes is chasing a vicious criminal named Carcer when they both get caught up in a magical accident and flung back in time. Vimes finds himself back in the city of his youth. One of Carcer’s first actions in the past is to commit murder and now Vimes must fight to keep events on track otherwise he won’t have a future to get back to.
One of the things that makes this book so great is that it introduces familiar characters as they were. It’s not just the Watch characters, but others that occur throughout the series. So we get to see the city’s leader, Vetinari, as a student in the Assassins Guild being picked on by people we know will have to follow him. We see CMOT Dibbler, the most notorious entrepreneur, just starting out in business. We see Corporal Nobbs as a filthy street urchin. This makes the book fascinating for readers who know the Discworld and its characters but someone new to the series would probably miss half the humour.
It is a fantastic story, with a winding plot and some brilliant characterisation. But I would only recommend it if you’ve read many other Discworld books.