Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading.

Good Omens as been in my TBR pile for far longer than it had any right to be there for. With the recent release of the TV adaptation on Amazon Prime recently I felt it was the perfect time to dive in to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s comic fantasy novel describing the events preceding the end of days. In the past, I’ve struggled with co-authored books where subtle differences in writing style became apparent throughout. This always broke my enjoyment. On this front I was pleasantly surprised as Pratchett and Gaiman weave a story with no break in the narrative.fantasy6I absolutely loved this book and cannot understand why or how I have waited so long to read what is now a firm favourite book for me. The story follows the prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a witch who has the unusual talent of being the only person to ever predict anything with something close to accuracy. Her prophecies foresaw the end of days and all of the events leading up to it and the coming of the Antichrist. The armies of Heaven and Hell are amassing ready for the ultimate war.

The demon Crowley and meek angel Aziraphale have been on Earth ever since Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and were expelled from the Gardens of Eden. The two have spent aeons on Earth sowing the seeds of evil and good mostly respectively, though occasionally each sowing both for efficiency. Their relationship is built throughout the book developing a millenia-long friendship of two figures who are polar opposites in character.

The cast of supporting characters – Anathema Device, Newton Pulsifer, The Them, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to name a few are wonderfully-well crafted. Good Omens has become one of my very favourite books and I cannot believe I waited so long to read it. The comic timing, the fantasy, the science-fiction, everything about this book has been put together with a deftness of touch the only two of the best fantasy authors could produce. And while I am here, five episodes into the six episode TV adaptation of the book, and what a wonderful adaptation it is too! Yes there are some things in the book not in the series, some things in the series not in the book but nothing story-critical in either camp: both make for fantastic pieces of art in their own rights.

My rating:
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 31st May 2019

Friday Face-Off – 31st May 2019

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s theme is one I have been looking forward to sinking my teeth into. And as I have been thoroughly enjoying a comedy fantasy I’ve never read though wanted to for some time, this seemed the perfect time. The theme is a favourite fantasy novel cover of my choosing!

For this theme I picked Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A highly appropriate choice today given the release of Amazon Prime’s Good Omens series.

Cover A:

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Cover B:

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Cover C:

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Cover D:

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Cover E:

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Cover F:

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Cover G:

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Cover H:

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And the winner is… A DRAW!

Cover F features as it is another Joe McLaren cover that I happen to own. Such a simplistic but stunning design, I love it. Cover A is my other winner for the week. I love the duality of the cover that features in the story: angel and demon, good and evil, Heaven and Hell, black and white.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s theme is a cover that makes you think of summer: “One swallow does not make a summer.”

Friday Face-Off – 10th May 2019

Friday Face-Off – 10th May 2019

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a party, celebration or festival: “As full of spirit as the month of May.”

This week I went with Maskerade by Sir Terry Pratchett.

Cover A:

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Cover B:

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Cover C:

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Cover D:

party4

Cover E:

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Cover F:

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And the winner is… COVER E!

Another winner picked from a cover I own. It is one of a series of covers designed by Joe Mclaren, finished in a faux canvas material with embossed features inlaid with metallic foil details. This cover is absolutely stunning, as are all of the Joe Mclaren covers.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s theme is a cover featuring a fantasy beast: “The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!”

Friday Face-Off – 25th January 2019

Friday Face-Off – 25th January 2019

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s cover theme is a cover depicting a monk, priest or person of the cloth: ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.

For this theme I have gone with Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett.

Cover A:

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Cover B:

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Cover C:

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Cover D:

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Cover E:

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And the winner is… COVER B!

Firstly, it’s the only cover that actually features a priest. Secondly, it’s a Josh Kirby classic. Kirby is one of two artists (alongside Paul Kidby) so inextricably tied to Discworld that their works are almost unparalleled. A Kirby cover is always a winner in my book. Cover E is a close second as the cover I own.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s theme is a comedy cover.

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

Father Christmas’s  Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

Have you ever wanted Christmas to be different?

Turkey and carols, presents and crackers – they all start to feel a bit . . . samey.

How about a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, or a very helpful partridge in a pear tree? What if Father Christmas went to work at a zoo, or caused chaos in a toy store or, was even, arrested for burglary!?

Dive into the fantastically funny world of Terry Pratchett, for a festive treat like no other. These ten stories will have you laughing, gasping and crying (with laughter) – you’ll never see Christmas in the same way again.

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading. 

As an avid fan of the works of Sir Terry Pratchett this book was a must order just as soon as I saw it come up for preorder. And because I am a sucker for a special edition, I went for the special version of this, complete with a nice red slipcase adorned with a gold-leaf effect design on it.
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Enough of that, though, on to the book. My main exposure to the works of Pratchett are his immense Discworld series, a personal favourite of mine. I love the fantasy elements, the humour and the slightly adult jokes and innuendo so subtly placed throughout. So how would I fare with my first try of Pratchett’s work predominantly for children.

Well personally I loved the book. It is filled with lots of fun, humorous short stories littered with Pratchett’s particular style of weaving magic and jokes together so well. This collection of tales is fantastic, ranging anywhere from the woes of a last-minute stand in shopping centre Santa, to a wannabe Arctic explorer making the most of the ice-melting milder weather.

The stories are well written, with a distinctly British flavour to them. Whether it be the style of the writing or the parodying of stereotypical English villages and small towns. Father Christmas’s Fake Beard is a wonderful collection of short stories, my only small gripe being that some of the stories aren’t Christmas themed, which you would easily be forgiven for expecting given the title. But don’t let that stop you reading this book either to your little ones or for yourself.

My rating:
goodread

Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett

Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett

“Murder was in fact a fairly uncommon event in Ankh-Morpork, but there were a lot of suicides. Walking in the night-time alleyways of The Shades was suicide. Asking for a short in a dwarf bar was suicide. Saying ‘Got rocks in your head?’ to a troll was suicide. You could commit suicide very easily, if you weren’t careful.” Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms


Men at arms brings things back to the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. And what a story to do it with. I am not going to bother beating about the bush or leaving it to the end to leave my overall opinions on this because. It’s pretty simple – I love it. This is the second or third time I have read this book, and yet somehow didn’t remember as much of it as I expected to. It’s great fun, it brings more of Sam Vimes’ character to the fore, alongside those of Nobby Nobbs, Fred Colon and Carrot the not-so dwarf. We also meet another City Watch regular in the making, werewolf Angua.
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So, to the story. The Night Watch has expanded and diversified at the instruction of Lord Vetinari to now include a dwarf, troll and a werewolf. A spate of mysterious crimes including theft of an unknown item and some grisly and hard-to-explain “suicides” (read: murders) spread throughout the city, all as Captain Vimes prepares to relinquish his position in the Night Watch as he prepares for his impending nuptials to Lady Sybil Ramkin.

Deceit, political wrangling and a nefarious criminal or two make for a good old fashioned whodunit story. I love the police procedural feel that it has alongside the now well-honed Pratchett humour. But it also brings in yet more connections to reality. Pressure from certain important members of society on the Patrician tried to divert the tenacious Vimes is not all that far fetched. History has shown too often that power, or money, greases the wheels of society, if not the palms. The inclusive, multicultural direction taken by the City Watch just feels so familiar with the direction the world has taken of late, as does, sadly the tensions between the trolls and dwarves.

There are no dragons, witches, or wizards here. And this book doesn’t need them. Yes, the Discworld is a fantasy series, but this story is so enjoyable, even without the stereotypical fantasy tropes. It does feature dwarves, trolls and a werewolf, but they aren’t what this story is about. To me, even less than the City Watch as a whole, this is the story of Sam Vimes. Who he is and how he works comes through in buckets. And running through it all, Men At Arms tells the story of how the topsy turvy city that is Ankh-Morpork works, where it’s come from, and a glimmer of where it might be headed.

I love the nods to the plethora of TV shows in the police and crime genre that Pratchett employs throughout the book. As a fan of crime and mystery, along with fantasy and comedy, the fusion of these normally very different themes is refreshing and funny. I love the growth of the City Watch characters, and the city itself seems to really come to life in the writing of this book. I think this is my favourite book in the Discworld series so far.

My rating:
goodread

Lords and Ladies – Sir Terry Pratchett

Lords and Ladies – Sir Terry Pratchett

“In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.” – Terry Pratchett

As has been mentioned in previous posts, the Witches series of books within the Discworld book series generally aren’t my favourites. So I, somewhat inevitably, read through it in a more stop-start manner. But, when I eventually turned the last page in this, the fourteenth book in the series, I realised I really enjoyed it. This time out, I felt the key characters of Granny, Nanny and Magrat were better developed, and we got to know them better this time out.
20160526_192150Pratchett uses some more fantasy world favourites in this book. Alongside the core group of witches that this book centres on, some of the wizards of Unseen University and a return of Casanunda, the pint-sized lothario first seen in Witches Abroad all make appearances. And then there’s the protagonists of this book – the elves.

All throughout literature of all forms, good and evil has been a major factor of tales, especially in the world of fantasy. In this work, however, the author takes a new spin on things. Glamour and beauty causes a whole lot of trouble throughout this story. Lords and Ladies also deals with the idea of alternate fates and multiple universes where versions of ourselves exist simultaneously, living variations of the same life.

Following on from events in Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies takes a slightly darker turn, while still retaining all of Terry Pratchett’s usual wit and humour. The witches find themselves going in different directions once they return to Lancre, Magrat moving to the castle ahead of her seemingly-sudden upcoming wedding to King Verence II. Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are left to return to their lives in Lancre.

One theme of this story is the petulance of youth. It deals with the scenario of a gaggle of youngsters thinking they can do and know better than their elders. In this case, a group of girls attempt to become witches, thinking the Lancre coven are a group of silly old women, who know nothing of true witchcraft. They try to cast spells, and crucially, set into motion a sequence of actions, unleashing the elves on the world. With help from the Lancre locals, the trio of witches come together to defeat the elves, sending them packing back to their realm.

Another theme dealt with in this story is the past, and the question “what if…?”. What if things had been different? What if we hadn’t done or said that? Two key characters have history, and one of them wistfully reminisces and wonders about what might have been. It introduces an idea Pratchett uses again, that of the Trousers of Time. The idea here is that there are multiple ways the future can play out for us. It just depends on which leg of the trousers we head down. And in another life, in another world, every possibility that may happen will be happening.

This book did take me a while to read, probably setting myself up to enjoy it less than other books in the series. But I really did enjoy it, it was a fun read, with some fantastic character development. It also brings together figures from multiple of the miniseries within the Discworld. This was something different, helping to remind me that the whole series is interlinked, and shows how well written the books are.

My rating:
goodread

Small Gods – Sir Terry Pratchett

Small Gods – Sir Terry Pratchett

“What have I always believed?

That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.” Terry Pratchett

Small Gods is much like the earlier Pyramids, insofar as it doesn’t really fit into one of the core series’ within the Discworld. At a stretch they are sometimes classified in their own miniseries of Ancient Civilisations. This tale deals with the ideas of religion, belief and morality, and takes place in the empire of Omnia, ruled by the Great God Om.
2016-04-03 20.03.01One of the key threads of the story is that of belief. More important any given god is only as strong as the strength of belief in him. The more believers has, the more powerful they become. Small Gods, aside from being the book title, also refers to what happens to gods with little or no believers – they become small, weak, drifting in the deserts.

This, being the central premise of the book, really caught my attention as an unashamed atheist: that a god can only exist if enough people believe in them. I love how Pratchett deals with religion in this story. That anything that disagrees with the given religion is heretical and must be destroyed. I also like the way religion is described, with its hierarchical structure, and the power wielded at the top. Small Gods shows the intense levels of cynicism that the author viewed the world with, implying the religious books are not the words of the god handed to the prophets, but created by the head of the order to suit their needs.

This book also throws in atheists and philosophers from neighbouring empires. One premise Pratchett brings up over the course of the book is that of the power of knowledge, and its role in religious war.

The main character, the massively devout Brother Brutha is a wonderful, very well crafted character. While lacking in intelligence, he has a mind like a sponge and an ability to retain almost anything he sees. He pledges unwavering fealty to the Great God Om, even when he is at his weakest, and Brutha learns things that completely change his worldview, and that of his religion. The God Om himself also features heavily as he tries to regain his strength, along the Deacon Vorbis, the villainous head of the Quisition – think the Spanish Inquisition, only maybe more like the Monty Python portrayal!

A very entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking read, Small Gods is one I rate highly within the series – I only find it a shame that both this and Pyramids are the only books of their kind within the Discworld series.

My rating:
goodread

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” – Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad is the third instalment in the miniseries following Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat, a trio of witches from the mountain kingdom of Lancre. And this book deals with stories, and their importance in the world. It also deals with good and bad, and travel.
2016-02-29 13.01.26Pratchett seems wholly-comfortable with his direction for the series by this stage, and his wit and humor shine through. While travelling the Disc, the witches discuss the possibility of witch airlines using giant broomsticks. They start coming up with names, and Pratchett’s wonderful wit shines through, as the suggestions are puns of real airlines such as Three Witches Airborne (TWA) and Broomsticks Airborne (BA). While the scene isn’t central to the main story it just shows the wit that has become synonymous with the Discworld series, and also shows the wonderful way in which Terry Pratchett merges aspects of the real world into his work.

The main thread of this fun little yarn is all about stories. And more importantly, the power of stories. While we, humans, create stories all the time, do we really control and shape them? Whether that story is the story that is life, or if it is a book we write, how much of them is shaped by us? Or as Pratchett alludes to – do they shape us? A sobering thought, especially for bookworms like myself. I have read many books, and a lot of them have left a mark in some way on me, Some good, some terrifying (thank you Stephen King).

Witches abroad is a wonderful tale, littered with references to classic stories and fairy tales. But the spin Pratchett adds to these is part of the charm. It looks deeper into the stories, adds a little back story to the characters that their original fairy tales never did. Stripped down to its core, this book is a classic good versus evil tale with a healthy dose of fairy tale whimsy. But then the author comes in with the heavy machinery to put his touch on. And in this sense, I don’t mean it in a negative way. He comes in firing on all cylinders with sarcasm, wit and humour that I love about the Discworld series.

In the two previous books featuring the witches, I was left feeling lukewarm. This outing, is very much third time’s a charm! I really enjoy this book – it’s great fun, and I love the injection of beloved fairy tales to the narrative. And on top of this, I am really warming to the three key characters. I felt like I wasn’t quite getting to know the trio of witches fully, but this time out we learn more about them and their lives, and more importantly their very different personalities.

The witches still don’t make for my favourite mini-series within the Discworld books, but compared to the first two books involving them, this is a world apart. At this stage, I am definitely beginning to like the witches more and more.

My rating:
goodread

Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

“…no-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away… The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.” – Terry Pratchett 

Reaper Man is the next book in the Discworld series, and upfront I am going to give my opinion – I love this book. And that’s no exaggeration. Officially, this great little book sits within the Death series, but it has cameos from the wizards of Unseen University and a few appearances from Sergeant Fred Colon of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
wp-1453731647321.jpgThis book moves off in a different direction for Death as a main character, and that for me is a key part of why I really like this story. It brings up the idea of making the most of life. As Pratchett has shown in past appearances, Death has an interest in the human condition, and almost displays slight glimmers of humanity in himself. This, however, presents a problem – Death isn’t isn’t meant to show compassion, interest or any of the other features of the human condition. Death is the end. That’s it. So universal forces are brought in to strip him of his role, his purpose. And his immortality.

So what does the former reaper of souls do know he has time on his hands? He sets out to experience life. Death has always had a curiosity about humans, and their lives, but only when he has a finite amount of sand slowly trickling from the top bulb to the bottom of his life timer, only then does he truly start to live. Much as we tend to do in reality.

But why? Why do we so often wait until we have precious little time left, to make the most of it? Because we are, at the heart of it only human. But with His new found time, Death turns his hand to labour. He makes friends, he lives a life. All the while, the dead aren’t staying fully-dead. Without Death to shepherd them into the great beyond, they are forced to walk the world. And some of them prefer it this way.

This book rates highly for me, as I am a keen fan of the Death subset of stories from Terry Pratchett. He is a likeable character that only gets better the more we see him, and the more subtle human traits he picks up. Throw in the wizards as well and this is a fun travel around Ankh-Morpork and outlying settlements. Once again, the locations feel a bit richer, the characters a little deeper as Pratchett really gets to grips with the direction and future ideas for this epic series.

My rating:
goodread