February 12, 2017

Rereading Gaiman and Pratchett's "Good Omens"

The last celebrity death of any kind that really made me cry was when I first heard the news that Terry Pratchett died. I knew it was coming, but it didn’t make it any better. I had spent hours and hours with him and in the worlds he created enjoying every minute and praising Offler, the crocodile god, that he was so prolific.

The funny thing is that when I first read this book, I didn’t read it because it was a Terry Pratchett book. I had read it because it was a Neil Gaiman book. A dozen years ago, or so a buddy first handed me American Gods, and this was after I graduated with a degree in English but I had not read either of these English chaps. I then went on to read all the books Gaiman had out, including this one. I remember liking it so much but it felt out of character – it didn’t remind me of Gaiman’s other books. There was a wit and playfulness that balanced out Neil being a little more serious.

Of course, it took me another seven years before I read any of Terry’s Discworld books and then I went and had to read fifty of those books. But then it was all over and there were a couple of posthumous books that trickled out but it is not the same to be looking behind you at the fun you had instead of looking ahead of you with that boundless anticipation.

But then a week or so ago, I was thinking of the great bit that opens Good Omens, where the reader learns that the birth of the world can be tracked so that the age of the world and star positions means that the earth has a zodiac sign. Specifically, that earth is a Libra. I went to track it down and then remembered with joy that though I had already read the book I had read it as a Neil Gaiman book and not as a Terry Pratchett book. It meant that there was a Terry Pratchett book I hadn’t read.

So, I looked and looked on all my shelves and of course I couldn’t find it. It also reminded me that a year ago, I told my wife I was going to organize my shelves, but that’s’ neither here nor there. So, I had to buy it again. And the payoff is worth it. Both authors can work with their strengths with both the more serious Gaiman and the playful Pratchett (and vice versa, Neil can be playful and Terry serious), so that all the main characters’ work with depth and sympathy and you get a good feeling for the Antichrist’s motivations. And even better, I had forgotten how it ended, so that was a nice surprise.

Sadly though, for Terry, the rest is silence. O, o, o, o.