It has been a while now since I read it, but Good Omens was a book I had absolutely devoured in no time at all. I watched the 6 episode series when it first came out and then knew I had to read the book. The hubby was the opposite: he had read the book years ago and then watched the TV adaptation with me.
For those not caught up on the hype, Good Omens is a book co-written by authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the days leading up to Armageddon featuring an angel, a demon, and an 11 year old anti-Christ. In 2019 a TV adaptation was released with Neil Gaiman as the showrunner.
I could barely put the book down – it was really easy and enjoyable reading it. I found it absolutely hilarious, and loved the dialogue. It was just as sharp, quick, and witty like the TV show – mainly being Crowley the demon’s dialogue.
I kept reading sections and then thinking about the TV adaptation. Some sections made a bit more sense after having watched it on TV first, like Atlantis rising up and a sherbet sweet in a nuclear factory.
It was as if it was expected that one would have read the book before watching the show, so doing it the other way round (with the TV adaptation still fresh in my memory) made it more understandable.
More time is given to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the book compared to the TV adaptation, but for the scenes they did appear in on the TV show they sure packed a punch. Obviously the TV show was bound by budgets, whilst the book has the ability to use the imagination to go further.
Each Horseman/ woman is introduced in turn with their own chapter. There was more symbolism in the book, presumably as there was more time to do so, whilst the TV show didn’t go into as much depth. The children are able to defeat the Four Horsemen through symbolism – it’s not a big showdown in the book. Obviously for the TV show the ending needed to be a bit more climactic.
The TV Adaptation
This had really good casting: David Tenant as Crowley the demon and Michael Sheen as Aziraphale the angel were both amazing and had great chemistry – they play well both individually and against each other.
As mentioned previously, I loved the sharp dialogue and a lot of parts seemed to be taken straight from the book. It’s a good adaptation and brought things that Pratchett & Gaiman thought about but didn’t include in the book. Crowley & Aziraphale’s sequence of their years together was really well done.
As they are the main stars, Crowley & Aziraphale are the main focus of the show. Whilst the book is more focussed on the children, and as mentioned earlier, the Four Horsemen are portrayed really interestingly.
The book reads like a Pratchett book more than a Gaiman book, and Pratchett had a very strong narrative voice. A lot of jokes and nuances in the book are in the narration, and using God as a narrator in the TV show was good but not as well executed. Some jokes don’t always translate – the narrator helped but wasn’t fool proof. Frances McDormand did an amazing job at being the voice of God though.
The TV show captures the heart of the book. It’s the best Pratchett adaptation I’ve seen, but probably not the best Gaiman adaptation. It’s a faithful adaptation, and having Gaiman write and be the showrunner definitely helped with that.
This has inspired a fandom beyond the books. People who hadn’t read the book prior and are now are huge fans of the show. It definitely brought the book to more audiences. There is a massive LGBTQ+ following too.
Crowley & Aziraphale have a very close relationship, but are also presented as asexual beings (due to being an angel and demon) and a lot of people identify with the characters in different ways. It’s quite interesting, as neither the book nor TV show explicitly imply a romantic relationship, but both mediums are so open and friendly so people can get out of it what they want.
David Tennant now has as just many fans from playing Crowley as he does from playing Dr Who. And Neil Gaiman has the acclaim in his own country that he has in America.
It’s a book that means a lot to a lot of people, a book that people have grown up on and perhaps even based their morality on. That there’s a bit of good and evil in everyone, and that’s ok – that’s what makes us human. Even the image of the title, taken from Wikipedia, show the halo of an angel and the tail of a demon equally.
I was able to see and listen to David Tenant read an excerpt of the book at the Barbican during a Neil Gaiman event called Playing in the Dark, where there were readings and music by BBC Symphony Orchestra. You can read more about it here.
Season 2 of Good Omens is currently being filmed. Apparently Pratchett and Gaiman had plans on writing a second book together but never got round to it. So I’m super looking forward to season 2, especially if the cast are back as everyone was so well cast and did such an amazing job in the first season.