Humor is incredibly difficult to write. Writers lack visual cues, tone and tenor of voice, environmental and other elements often needed to strike the funny bone. I’ve read incredibly unfunny writing, even when it tried so very hard to be funny, and I’ve read some pretty funny stuff too. Good Omens, luckily and happily, is in the latter category. It’s very, very funny, and a nice change of pace from my usual reading.
Good Omens was a chance book. I hadn’t read anything from Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett when I picked it up, but thought I would give it a chance due to a “Buy 2 Get One Free Sale” at Books-a-Million. I absolutely love when I take a chance and it pays off. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does it’s a wonderful feeling for a book reader. I'll admit I don't take too many "chances." More often than not I read a book because of some kind of recommendation, whether that be word-of-mouth, top book list, or something similar.
The most entertaining aspect of Good Omens is its memorable and distinct characters. Although the narrative and its nuances feel a bit opaque at times, the book’s various characters provide all the entertainment necessary to overlook some of the problems that inevitably come along with a fidgety narrative. Good Omens is populated with reluctantly loyal angels and demons, bureaucratically creative witch hunters, an adolescent and unknowing antichrist, Satanist Nuns, and the list goes on. It’s quirky but not in a trite way. In other words, it's not quirky for quirky's sake, which trap some storytellers fall into. As long as outlandish and unexpected things happen, then that must be creative and entertaining, they mistakenly think. Gaiman and Pratchett successfully avoid that trap and display some refreshing creativity.
Coming back to my original point, Good Omens is genuinely funny. In fact, I laughed out loud several times, which I almost never do while reading a book, even if I would consider it funny. It pokes fun at a lot of belief systems and a lot of different kinds of people, but the humor does extend beyond simply being harsh or spiteful. There is wit to be found here. The theology in the book is total fantasy, which is appropriate for a book of this sort. From an angel giving away the Flaming Sword to Adam to a devil named Crowley infatuated with Queen, this book takes significant theological license and the authors are clearly having a good time.
Good Omens is a fun book. Its humor and its characters memorable. Reading it reminded me of a book I read years ago called Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, a fun variation on a theme. I realized I missed that kind of book; I have a tendency to read to some pretty heavy and heady stuff, and Good Omens step away from my ordinary.
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Adaptation, Please: Dracula