All Hell Broke Loose–Almost

Thoughts on Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Suppose, at the end of the work day, you and your close friend are meeting for coffee. Sitting in your favorite indie café, you’re enjoying a decaf au lait. Your friend sighs, “I have had a day that shouldn’t have ended this well.”

“What do you mean? What happened?” you ask with a twinge of concern.

She slumps back in her chair, taps her spoon on the saucer a few times, then slowly stirs her coffee before saying, “I know it’s silly, but—”

“Never silly. Go on.”

“Well, I was leaning over the bathroom sink this morning and fumbled my moisturizer bottle. It shattered and some of it stuck in the drain. What a mess!”

“Oh, no!”

“Oh, yes. The clean-up cost me half an hour.”

“I hate when that happens.”

“And since I was late to the building’s gym, some guy had taken the elliptical and I had to use the old treadmill.”

“That’s crappy.”

“And, then, on the way to work, I realized I’d left my office keys on the dresser at home. I was sure the day could only get worse. All bad omens, don’t you think?”

What can you say? Do you believe in bad omens? The mishaps were minor, but they sabotaged your friend’s routine. No wonder she was relieved to be venting with you over big cups of creamy coffee.

What if her day had started with good omens? Would she have noticed? What is a good omen, if it exists? A sunny 70˚ day? A pristine sidewalk despite all the dog walkers? Easy entrance with one swipe of the hotel’s keycard? A clean rug with no hairballs?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett entitled their 1990/2006 (updated) collaborative novel, Good Omens. The title seems to contradict this wacky fantasy’s narrative in which all signs and portents point to an imminent Apocalypse/Armageddon/End-Time about to occur shortly, very soon—now, actually. It features the arrival of an unwilling Antichrist, plus the demon-serpent and archangel present at Creation (but enjoying their stay on Earth, thank you very much.)

As I was nearing the end of the novel, I realized the authors were fond of their improbable characters and did not want to kill them off. While finding ways to save them, Gaiman and Pratchett satirize many if not most institutions in the UK and the USA, like the Church, the Military and Police, Education, Modern Technology, and Japanese Cars. Via a number of incidents and accidents, the novel’s main characters thwart the Divine Plan’s end game and maybe will live happily ever after…until The Divine Plan resets.

I have enjoyed many of Gaiman’s works, such as Neverwhere, American Gods, and Stardust, and Pratchett’s The Color of Magic, In Good Omens, the authors’ combined storytelling genius and irreverent humor have enriched an entertaining adventure  affirming a few basic “good omens’ to treasure daily: love, the natural world, and a sleek, black Bentley if you can get one.



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