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Book Review

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Aziraphale and Crowley go way back. Both played important roles in the Garden of Eden on the day of the first sin. Aziraphale was the angel holding the flaming sword. Crowley was the serpent. Since then, both have enjoyed thousands of years stationed on earth. They’ve known each other for so long, they’ve become friends. They sometimes drink together and share information that may serve each of them well in their jobs. Both find the things of earth far more stimulating and entertaining than the harps and pitchforks of their homelands. They’re alarmed when they learn the Apocalypse is at hand. They decide they must work together to save the world.

At an earlier time, Crowley learns about the Devil’s plan to swap his own child (the Antichrist) with a human baby. The Antichrist is supposed to be switched with an American diplomat’s baby, but a ditsy satanist nurse botches the job. Satan’s child ends up in an average family.

For 11 years, Crowley and Aziraphale keep a close eye on the boy they think is the Antichrist and do all they can to thwart the coming of the Apocalypse. When they discover their error, they quickly retrace their steps to the hospital where the switch took place. Coincidentally, they give a ride to a stranded young woman named Anathema, who is the descendant of an 18th-century witch named Agnes Nutter.

Before Agnes was burned at the stake, she wrote a book of prophesies that have repeatedly proved true. Anathema has been faithfully following these prophesies, especially as she sees more of them coming to pass in recent days. She accidentally leaves the book in Crowley’s car.

Witch hunters, psychics, newscasters and doomsday fanatics begin emerging as signs increasingly point to the Apocalypse. Adam Young, the boy who is actually Satan’s son, begins to feel a strange sense of power and leadership. He tells his nervous young friends his plans for the future. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are actually bikers and include one woman, begin their ride.

A witch hunter named Shadwell discovers Aziraphale has Agnes Nutter’s prophesy book. Aziraphale and Shadwell, along with Shadwell’s psychic neighbor, Madame Tracy, follow clues to the town of Tadfield where Adam Young lives. Crowley, stuck on the freeway in his mint-condition Bentley, destroys the car to get to Tadfield. Anathema, Newt (Shadwell’s apprentice) and the horsemen head there as well.

Adam has told his friends which parts of the world they will rule once he takes over. But then the boy realizes he will never get to enjoy the wonders of his childhood if he allows all of this to happen. He and his friends head for a nearby military base to explain why the world is in chaos and get help.

They and the other characters converge at the base. The horsemen have already begun to decimate the planet. Beelzebub and the Metatron (a spokesperson for God) appear, and Adam explains he doesn’t want the world to end.

The Metatron tells Adam that Armageddon must happen now, and this temporary inconvenience will be for the ultimate good. The Metatron and Beelzebub are confused by Adam’s reticence and try to convince him he can’t alter these plans. Aziraphale and Crowley challenge the reasoning of the Metatron and Beelzebub and engage in a battle of semantics.

The Metatron contends God does not play games with His loyal servants, and Crowly says the Metatron clearly hasn’t been paying attention if he believes that. Stumped, the Metatron and Beelzebub return to their respective places to seek further instructions. Adam has saved the world, for now.

Life returns to normal. Anathema receives a copy of Agnes’ second book of prophecies but decides not to read it. Shadwell and Madame Tracy become a couple. Crowley and Aziraphale return to their meetups. Adam, living as a normal child again, sneaks out after being grounded.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

The author depicts God as a distant entity playing a cosmic game of chess with the universe and its inhabitants. Aziraphale, heaven’s representative on earth, lies, curses, learns to dance in a gentlemen’s club and is often mistaken for a gay man by others. He likes earth and is unable or unwilling to defend God’s plans or character.

Whenever Aziraphale can’t answer Crowley’s difficult existential questions, he lamely falls back on the word ineffable to say it just can’t be explained. He’s disappointed in his people (God and the heavenly beings) because they want the Apocalypse to happen. He collects old books, including Bibles with typos.

Even after angering the leaders of hell, Crowley feels certain he will survive because the universe will look after him. Crowley rails on satanists because he finds many of them embarrassingly enthusiastic and thinks their ritualistic methods unnecessary. He contends that the Devil is rarely at fault for what happens on earth. Hell isn’t especially full of evil, just as heaven isn’t full of goodness. They are just two sides on a cosmic chessboard.

True evil and true goodness are found in the human mind. Crowley says he believes the biggest battle will be one where heaven and hell fight together against humans. He further assaults the idea of a loving God by suggesting God was toying with people when He put forbidden fruit in the garden. Telling inquisitive people not to eat it was a trick to make them do just that.

Crowley doesn’t do much to make trouble for humans because he believes they do that well enough on their own. Crowley and Aziraphale discuss their roles in the Garden of Eden. Both feel God overreacted to humanity’s “first offense,” and Crowley wonders why it’s so bad not to know the difference between good and evil.

Adam Young and his friends form opinions on witches based on things they’ve heard in Bible class or read in books. They play witch hunters and pretend to torture a compliant younger girl. Adam is critical of a God who would create people and then get upset with them because they act like people. He further asserts that if people weren’t told everything is sorted out after death, maybe they would spend more time sorting things out while they’re alive.

As Adam sneaks out after his grounding, he thinks there was never an apple that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it. Psychics, witches, witch hunters, satanists, voodoo practitioners, doomsday enthusiasts and other extremists abound. Madams use crystal balls and psychics talk about people’s auras. Demons pledge their allegiance to Satan, and a British freeway forms a symbol that translates into “Hail the great beast.”

A group of satanist nuns helps switch the babies in the hospital so Satan’s son can stealthily enter the human race. A nanny named Ashtoreth is sent to train the boy people think is Satan’s son. She teaches him nursery rhymes that end with the Devil conquering, virgins being violated and heaps of dead bodies appearing.

A witch hunter named Shadwell says the churches can’t be relied on to stamp out the evil one. If they did overcome him, they’d be out of a job. Newt tries to believe in God, along with other things, such as atheism, politics and the universe. Nothing gives him the dramatic experience he desires to convince him.

Anathema claims Agnes didn’t see the future but remembered it. A sincere but hokey televangelist sings absurd, campy songs on his show. He is preaching a fire-and-brimstone sermon when the Devil begins speaking through him. The Devil says heaven is spreading propaganda by saying it will win the celestial war and that people might as well send money to satanists so they have an equal chance of coming out on top.

A biker had to spend three months living in a hotel where all he had to read was a Gideon Bible. Now he’s a whiz at Bible trivia. After the failed Apocalypse, bigwigs in heaven and hell are pretending nothing happened.

Authority Roles

Crowley and Aziraphale both prefer earth to their places of origin and strive to keep it going. Both come across as thinkers who are much savvier and more complex than their masters. God is portrayed as someone without personality. He doesn’t really like the world but toys with the universe for his own gratification. At best, he is uninvolved in people’s daily lives. At worst, he is vengeful and manipulative.

Profanity/Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain. Hell is used often, both as a location and a profanity. The words d--n, s---, b--ch, p--ck, douchbag, b--tard, screw, p---ed and the f-word appear. Shadwell repeatedly discusses the number of the Antichrist’s nipples.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Most people think Aziraphale is gay, and the word faggot appears. Bestiality and orgasms are mentioned. Madame Tracy holds seances and entertains men, prompting Shadwell to call her names like whore of Babylon. Men sometimes telephone and ask her what she’s wearing. Newt begins to have sexual thoughts about Anathema. They soon have sex, as predicted in Agnes Nutter’s book. Madame Tracy decorates her place in erotic ways reminiscent of 1950s and ’60s sex kittens.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Miniseries Tie-In: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie or miniseries ideas or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a miniseries may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the miniseries differ, compare this book review with Plugged In's movie review for Good Omens.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

18 and up

Author

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Originally published by Gollancz (U.K.) and Workman (U.S.) in 1990, the edition reviewed was published by Harper and William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Released

On Video

Year Published

1990

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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