The screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel Good Omens premieres on Amazon Prime on May 31st. The book is worth a read and, from the sound of it, the show will live up to the tone of the book.
Good Omens is a short comedy about the apocalypse published in 1990. Despite its age and brief length, the fandom has flourished with over 2000 fanfics on AO3 and hundreds of pieces of fanart and cosplay published online. Why is this little book from almost 30 years ago still kicking around and getting an Amazon adaption? Because it’s amazing. Now if you’ll just follow me for a bit here I’ll outline the seven reasons why Good Omens is worth your time.
1 The Wit
There’s a dry sort of humor in the book that’s hard to describe. It’s very Neil Gaiman, very Terry Pratchett, and incredibly British. My favorite example of this is Crowley’s description, which states that he’s “an Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.” Other bits include DEATH’s name, which is constantly spelled in all caps, the excessive use of sarcastic footnotes, and the generally bureaucratic tone of both Heaven and Hell.
I’m not sure how much of that can translate over to the show from the books, but at the very least it looks like they got the tone right judging based on the trailer. Gaiman has seemed fairly enthusiastic about the show. From interviews I’ve read, it sounds like they went to great lengths to keep Terry Pratchett’s parts as true to his words as possible.
Some critics seem to indicate the latter is a detriment as books translated for the screen too closely can sometimes drag, but for me it feels respectful to the source material. Stay tuned for my review after May 31st for my thoughts on how well it worked in the end. It’s my favorite book of all time so I may be biased, but I’ll try my best to be honest about how the translation to the screen plays out.
2 The Ship
Crowley is a Demon. Aziraphale is an Angel. Fandom feels very strongly that they’re in love with each other. In the books the romantic nature of their relationship isn’t canon, but it’s damn close.
While their employers are on opposite sides of Armageddon, the two of them both love Earth above all and have formed a deep friendship with one another as a result. There’s also very strong queer coding on the pages that seems to have translated at least partially to the screen.
The Verge has described it as a “gay cosmic rom-com” so, if anything, the queer coding has been ramped up a few notches for the show.
Good Omens is, at its heart, a cosmic gay rom-com, with bad-boy Crowley tempting Aziraphale to get out of his comfort zone and enjoy life, while Aziraphale simultaneously lures him into being a better, less selfish person. The duo haltingly come together, fall apart under the strain of the events around them and their conflicting moralities, and inevitably come together again to save the day and each other.
Crowley/Aziraphale is OTP. It’s an OTP of OTP’s. If you read the book I’m sure you’ll hop aboard the good ship Crowley/Aziraphale. I can’t wait to see what type of chemistry Tennant/Sheen have on screen together. It looks great so far.
3 David Tennant (Show Only!)
Alright. So you don’t have time to read the book right now. That’s fine. I’ve got a show-only reason for you to give this story a shot.
From the sound of early reviews it seems David Tennant is in top form as the demon Crowley. I obviously can’t quite verify this bit yet as I haven’t seen it, but I do know that Tennant is incredibly talented. He was fan cast as Crowley within fandom for many years before he was ever officially offered the role, and he looks damn fine in all the promo materials.
4 It’s A Light Read (Book Only!)
The book is only 288 pages. Seriously. It’ll take less time to read it than it will to actually watch the show. I read it over the course of two afternoons and I’m an incredibly slow reader (each GRRM book takes me like 2-3 months, no lie). If I can slam it out in two afternoons, the average person should be able to do it a lot quicker.
Don’t let the brevity of the book fool you, though. This book has a lot of depth for a comedy. Which brings us to our next point…
5 The Mythology
Good Omens is quite obviously based on the Christian mythos. But it has a unique spin on a lot of it and is essentially its own canon despite the common biblical dressings. If you like to sink your teeth into new universes with strong mythology, this is the story for you.
There is a reason that this short little 288 page book has spawned over 2000 fanfics, hundreds of pieces of fanart, and tons of cosplay. It’s deep. It’s thorough. It’s fun to play in. Come join us in this incredible sandbox!
6 The Fandom WANTS YOU
This fandom has been around a while. I stumbled into it around 2012 and started writing for it in 2013, but there were people in the fandom a good twenty-ish years before me producing high quality content.
We’ve been chugging along just fine for almost thirty years now, but we’re also relatively small. When I look around at my fellow book readers, we’re generally satisfied with the content we have, but we’re also eager for fresh faces to join us and enjoy this creation just as much as we do. We want more content. We want more fic and art and cosplay. We want more meta on the mythology and more squeeing about how perfect Crowley and Aziraphale are for each other.
The Good Omens fandom is not here to gatekeep. We want you to join us and we look forward to your fan works.
7 The Blend of Gaiman and Pratchett
In an afterword to the book, Neil Gaiman stated the following about how the Good Omens came into being:
We were both living in England when we wrote it. At an educated guess, although neither of us ever counted, Terry probably wrote around 60,000 “raw” and I wrote 45,000 “raw” words of Good Omens, with, on the whole, Terry taking more of the plot with Adam and the Them in, and me doing more of the stuff that was slightly more tangential to the story, except that broke down pretty quickly and when we got towards the end we swapped characters so that we’d both written everyone by the time it was done, but then we also rewrote and footnoted each other’s bits as we went along, and rolled up our sleeves to take the first draft to the second (quite a lot of words), and, by the end of it, neither of us was entirely certain who had written what. It was indeed plotted in long daily phone calls, and we would post floppy disks (and this was back in 1988 when floppy disks really were pretty darn floppy) back and forth.
It’s truly a collaboration and you can feel the mix of their styles bleeding into one another. If you like either of them you’ll likely enjoy this and have a good introduction to the other author’s tone and style.
So… will you join us on this merry comedic apocalyptic adventure? Please do! I promise you that you’re in for an ineffably good time.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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