[ Book Review ] Looking for a Scapegoat

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I am going to be shunned for heresy, but I’m going to come right out and say it. Here goes: I did not enjoy Good Omens as much as I thought I would.

I am no longer a proper Pratchett loyalist, and the knowledge burns. But instead of huddling somewhere, trying to process this suddenly upturned world, I’m going to pin the reasons I had trouble with the book on three major issues:

    1. Gaiman
    2. Gaiman
    3. Gaiman

Thus, the fangirl in me is mollified.

Good Omens is a fun book, make no mistake. It combines the light writing style of the Discworld series with Gaiman’s penchant for making the fantastic out of our everyday world. The story begins with the end of the world–the apocalypse is nigh, the four horsemen are ready, and the divine troops are preparing for battle.

Everything is going as planned when the angels and demons realize something. Both sides have misplaced the Antichrist.

The story and characters are hilarious, the social commentary wonderfully biting, and the marriage of the real and the magical delightful. This is a book I would recommend to anyone.

So what kept this from a five-star? There really are three reasons.

1. The scope of the story made it difficult to attach myself to the characters. There were many players–enough that at I had to stop at least twice to think, “wait, who is this again?”

2. The first issue leads directly to the second. This was a Message novel. Hilarious and loveable as it was, the main focus seemed to be to make a social commentary. But whereas in the Discworld books, the satire was covert in its prodding, here the characters often found themselves as playing the chiding role of authorial mouthpieces. Two examples:

“Seems simple enough to me,” said Wensleydale, sitting back. “I don’t see why it’s taken thousands of years to sort out.”

“That’s because the people trying to sort it out were men,” said Pepper, meaningfully.

“Don’t see why you have to take sides,” said Wensleydale.

“Of course I have to take sides,” said Pepper. “Everyone has to take sides in something.”

Adam appeared to reach a decision.

“Yes. But I reckon you can make your own side.” (280)

Or lines such as these:

“I don’t see what’s so triffic about creating people as people and then getting’ upset ‘cos they act like people,” said Adam severely. “Anyway, if you stopped tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it out while they’re alive. If I was in charge, I’d try makin’ people live a lot longer, like ole Methuselah. I’d be a lot more interestin’ and they might start thinkin’ about the sort of things they’re doing to all the enviroment and ecology, because they’ll still be around in a hundred year’s time.” (322)

And finally, the third reason…

3. …Gaiman.

After all, I know in my feathery fangirl heart that Pratchett can do no wrong.

8 thoughts on “[ Book Review ] Looking for a Scapegoat

  1. You’re right. Pratchett can do no wrong. I can’t judge Gaiman, having only read one book, so far… I didn’t love it.
    4 Canaries is still good!

  2. bwahaha! –I used to be a huge Gaiman fan, then he wrote Anansi Boys. Done.

    I don’t know, I’m convinced some of that is Terry Pratchett. He’s got at least a few books where the lessons aren’t that subtle (or couched in surprisingly funny puns).

    • Haha, yes, you’re probably right. Not that I’ll ever admit it to myself. My conversation with theothercanary when I first wrote this went something like this:

      “No, that’s how Pratchett writes.
      “It’s Gaiman’s fault.”
      “Remember Small Gods?”
      “It’s Gaiman’s fault.”
      “I’m not gonna get anywhere with this, am I?”

      • Heh heh. I must admit that there certainly are strong moral hints in more than one of Pratchett’s stories… still, he is awesome to read.

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