#CBR10Bingo Cannonballer Says
This book was a gift from cannonballer Malin in the 2017 book exchange and was also recently recommended by Lowercasesee in Quick Questions with a Cannonballer.
For my first review of CBR10, I read Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and loved it for its wit, humor and wisdom. Malin had sent the book as part of the CBR9 book exchange, and she included Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens in the package. Let me just say this: I am a fan of Pratchett for sure and most likely will become one of Gaiman’s, too. Good Omens deals with the unfunny topic of Armageddon in a most delightful way. The cast of characters includes devils and angels, a daft witchhunter and his apprentice, a witch whose ancestor predicted how the End would unfold, and four 11-year-olds who seem to have a lot more power and sense than they know. As with Hogfather, Pratchett (now with Gaiman) provides a thoughtful discussion about what it is to be human and manages to do so in a manner that is both profound and hilarious.
The novel opens with Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden as discussed by the angel Aziraphale and serpent/devil Crawly (soon to be Crowley). Right off the bat, Pratchett and Gaiman set up a sort of screwball mix up. The serpent is wondering if tempting Adam with the apple was such a great idea and Aziraphale has, without permission and perhaps wrongly, handed over a weapon to Adam because he felt sorry for him. Satan having compassion for humanity? The angel going against God’s plan??? Fast forward many millennia, and Aziraphale and Crowley, sort of old friends, have discovered that the end is near. Armageddon is in the works, what with the birth of the devil incarnate on the horizon and the plan being that once kid devil is 11, he will set off the end times. Crowley and Aziraphale have both come to rather enjoy earth and humanity and decide they will try to stop this from happening. Their plan, involving a game of 3 card Monty only with babies, doesn’t exactly go off perfectly, which they won’t understand for 11 years. During those 11 years, the real devil’s spawn, named Adam Young, grows up in a lovely village called Tadwell, making mischief with his 3 friends. Adam really loves his village, has what you might call an idyllic boy’s life, and even his demon dog quickly learns the ways of just being a dog and loving it.
Meanwhile, a barmy witchhunter named Shadwell has taken on an apprentice named Newton Pulsifer. Newton is a young man who seems to have a gift for getting the opposite of what he wants. He heads off to Tadwell after reading some strange stories of events there (such as perfectly normal weather). Aziraphale and Crowley have also been to Tadwell in the hopes of finding birth records for the 3 babies they switched around and cannot find. Their superiors, who are getting a sense of Crowley and Aziraphale’s screw up and shenanigans on earth, are not happy. As it happens, a young witch named Anathema Device has also taken up residence in Tadwell. Her ancestor’s predictions, known as “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” had led her there to await the end times. Apparently, Agnes’ prophecies have been curiously accurate, which is precisely why no one ever believed her. As the paths of these people..? ..entities..?intersect in Tadwell, the final week of the world’s existence begins. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — War, Famine, Pollution (Plague fell out with modern medicine) and Death are on the way, riding motorcycles toward Tadwell.
The showdown in Tadwell is fantastic. As Stefon would say, this place has everything: demons, angels, the military, a witch, children, the middle aged, Death, a dog…. But most importantly, it has some really insightful thoughts on humanity, good and evil, the compulsion to choose a side, and the vital importance of free will. Throughout the novel, various characters comment on human beings’ extraordinary ability to make bad choices. Crowley has some great musings on this at the start of the novel, where he thinks back on his time on earth and marvels at the imagination of humans.
Oh, he did his best to make their short lives miserable because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up themselves.
Crowley recalls getting a special commendation for the Spanish Inquisition. He hadn’t actually been involved, but when he saw what humans were doing to each other there, he got drunk for a week. The thing about humans is, they have imagination.
That Hieronymus Bosch. What a weirdo.
Crowley and Aziraphale’s discussions show that the line between good and evil is not always very clear. The pair occasionally get mixed up about who is responsible for what. They both blame the other for policemen, and the matter of guns and their use is muddled. But the thing is, it’s humans who make the choices and they could choose differently. Nothing is written that cannot be crossed out.
All in all, this is an optimistic sort of view of the end times. Yes, humans have the imagination to do horrific things to each other, and we are actively screwing up the planet, but we could choose otherwise. As one character says, instead of taking a side, we can make our own side. We can think for ourselves. Perhaps our imaginations will lead us away from the brink. This is an immensely entertaining novel and I can understand why fans read and reread it. Thanks, Malin, for sending along TWO (!!) copies of it!