CBR11bingo: Reading the TBR
I think my favorite thing about CBR bingo is that it motivates me to go the library and borrow the books that have been languishing on my TBR list. Good Omens is yet another in the long registry of “Why the hell (ahem) did I wait so long to read this book?” It seems improbable that this novel could be floating around the periphery of my awareness for as long as it has, and had it not been for the Amazon series, it might still be there. While I missed out on the Cannonball Book Club discussion of the novel and series, I’m happy to finally be catching up!
My initial instinct has been to label Good Omens as Hitchhiker’s-esque, given that it’s frickin’ hilarious in a similarly absurd and sarcastic manner. Many (most?) of the jokes land by mocking human stupidity, such as when a top fashion model thanks Famine for changing her life with his diet book, or when Crowley reveals he thinks of Satanists the way “a Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood Watch meetings,” or when the children are discussing whether witches live among them in Lower Tadfield. Brian explains:
“‘In our Sunday paper it said there were thousand of witches in the country. Worshipping Nature and eating health food an’ that. . . . They were floodin’ the country with a Wave of Mindless Evil, it said.’
‘What, by worshipping’ Nature and eating’ health food?’ said Wesleydale.
‘That’s what it said.’ ”
The seat of power!
What sets Good Omens apart is that it moves beyond the “people are stupid” angle (which I’m not knocking; that alone would still be sufficiently entertaining to me) to explore the concept of free will and other religious tenets. In a passage that sums the novel up, the authors write, “There were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn’t just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They’d come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully functioning human brain could conceive, then shout ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything.”
Nope. Can’t blame Satan.
There are plenty of subversive ideas to make by-the-book-Christians uncomfortable (and by subversive I mean, you know, different) but the real joy of the novel is in the friendship between Crowley and Azriphale. I know the internet, being what it is, wants to take this to the next level, but the authors are quite clear: “Many people, meeting Azriphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Two of these were wrong; Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets may have thought, and angels are sexless unless they really want to make an effort.”
Nevertheless, I haven’t seen this level of homosocial intimacy since Frodo and Samwise travelled Middle Earth, and while that marks this novel’s strength, it also sets up its biggest weakness. The plot moves forward at a pleasant clip, and plenty of other interesting characters make appearances, but the novel simply lags when the main pair is off stage. Whenever I read extended passages about Adam and his friends or Anathema and Newt or even the Four Bikers, I found myself wishing for Crowley and/or Azraphale’s next appearance.
I wish I could quit them.
I assumed this book would also work for the Banned Books bingo square, but my searches online only brought up protests about the
Netflix Amazon series, which led me to wonder, where the hell were these people in 1990? Do they just not read?
Yes, but the TBR is somewhat limited.
I was surprised, because looking at the list of complaints on the petition, all the issues these protesters had with the series are also reflected in the book: angel and demon are friends, check; try to stop the coming of the Apocalypse, check; Antichrist is a normal kid, check; God voiced by a woman, ch. . .
Shut the front door! God being voiced by a woman made the list of heresies? I seem to recall certain Christians also had a problem with Alanis Morissette playing God in the movie Dogma. You know who I don’t remember ever hearing anyone complain about playing God? This guy:
Totally accurate, apparently
So to sum up, Neil Gaman and Terry Pratchett wrote a hilarious fiction about the nature of human beings, highlighting our illogical tendencies and failure to take responsibility for our own actions. Book is turned into a series which prompts people to react illogically.