Written by Books

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Good Omens is one of those books that has somehow slipped past me for thirty years… until now.

The book was published in 1990, and at that point I’d read both comics written by Neil Gaiman, and at least the first Discworld book. So I knew who the writers were, and I shoe have been a shoe-in to read it then. I suspect that it was university that got in the way, and I didn’t read it.

I don’t know exactly when it was – perhaps around 2001 or 2002 – but I finally bought a copy of the paperback at Borders in Oxford Street. Neil Gaiman had perhaps been in, because my copy was stickered as “Signed by the author” and he had signed it (Terry Pratchett hadn’t). Despite now owning a copy, I still didn’t quite get around to reading it.

In December 2014 there was a big glitzy Radio 4 dramatisation of the book. They had lots of great names in it – and the authors both had cameos. But… because I’d not read the book, I didn’t actually listen to it. I nearly always prefer to read the books before I watch/listen to a dramatisation. That all went to pieces with Game of Thrones, and there are dozens of other examples where I’ve not stuck firmly to this self-imposed “rule.”

I did subsequently buy the CDs of the book. However, I still wanted to read the book first before I listened to the audio version. So the CDs remain their case.

Then news came that there was to be an Amazon/BBC TV production of the book. Again – a big starry cast. I had plenty of advance notice that it was coming. All I needed to do was read the book, and then I could settle down to the TV series. By May last year, Amazon was promoting nothing except their Good Omens adaption. And yet… somehow I didn’t find time to read it. (I did at least dust off my paperback, and manage remove a now year’s old “Signed by the author” sticker from the book’s cover.)

Then in January this year, it was the BBC’s turn to broadcast the series – the funding of the show meant that Amazon had got first dibs. This week, episode three aired on BBC2. And as of lunchtime yesterday, I can finally say that I’ve read the book!

(I don’t mean I read the whole book over lunch. My lunches aren’t that long, and I’m definitely not that fast a reader!)

I can’t really say that I can give you a reason why it has taken me the better part of thirty years to read a book that was absolutely aimed at someone like me in the first place. A book I knew about from the start and always had the very best intentions of reading.

Over the years I’ve seen multiple people, including good friends, reading copies and then thinking, “I should really get around to reading that myself.”

I did once hear of a reader whose favourite author was one of those crime writers who publishes a new book once a year like clockwork. This person would always buy the new title in hardback as soon as it came out. Then they would put that brand new book away in a drawer, having not read it. But they would then pull out last year’s book from that author, only then reading it!

I think that they loved the author so much, they lived in fear that there might not be anything else by that author to read, should something unfortunate befall them.

(On a similar note, I do have a number of Iain Banks – and all of Iain M Banks’ works – still to read. And he’s an author I loved – I bought The Wasp Factory when it first came out in paperback. The non-SF books are all in hardback too. And I know will enjoy the Iain M Banks books. I will get there – honest.)

I’m not really going to say what I thought of this book, because I suspect that if you’re reading this, and you’re the sort of person who likes Terry Pratchett and/or Neil Gaiman, then you’ll know the book far better than me, having probably re-read it dozens of times.

But I will say that I absolutely loved it. It somehow sparkles. There’s the wit and wordplay of Pratchett – with jokes a-plenty. And then there are those themes that Gaiman is so good at. It all blends together beautifully.

I’m now actually really keen to listen to the Radio 4 version and watch the Amazon/BBC TV version. I fear I may overdose in a very short period of time. That may not be a good idea.