I have just finished reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
In this book we follow the exploits of an angel (with a little mischief in him) and a demon (with a little good in him) as they disobey orders from their respective superiors and work together to try to delay the apocalypse (which would bring to an end the lifestyles they have come to enjoy on earth). We also meet a professional Witchhunter, a young witch who possesses the one truly accurate book of prophecies, and the “Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called the Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness” who otherwise appears to a be normal, mischievous English boy who happens to able to instantly master any computer game he tries and doesn’t particularly want to bring about the end of the world.
Published 1655, Agnes Nutter’s book of prophecies, although accurate and correct, was not always as useful as one might hope:
It was obvious that Agnes had a line to the Future, but it was an unusually narrow and specific line. In other words. almost totally useless.
“She managed to come up with the kind of predictions that you can only understand after the thing has happened, like ‘Do Notte Buye Betamacks.’ That was a prediction for 1972.
“Most of the time she comes up with such an oblique reference that you can’t work it out until it’s gone past, and then it all slots into place. And she didn’t know what was going to be important or not, so it’s all a bit hit and miss. Her prediction for November 22, 1963 was about a house falling down in King’s Lynn.”
“Oh?” Newt looked politely blank.
“President Kennedy was assassinated, ” said Anathema helpfully. “but Dallas didn’t exist then, you see. Whereas King’s Lynn was quite important.”
There is also an important lesson on the hazards of burning someone with future sight at the stake for being a witch:
“Thirty seconds later an explosion took out the village green, scythed the valley clean of every living thing, and was seen as far away as Halifax.
There was much subsequent debate as to whether this had been sent by God or by Satan, but a note later found in Agnes Nutter’s cottage indicated that any divine or devilish intervention had been materially helped by the contents of Agnes’s petticoats, wherein she had with some foresight concealed eighty pounds of gunpowder and forty pounds of roofing nails.”
I got a good chuckle at the demon Crowley’s vintage Bentley in which any cassette tape left for more than a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums:
“Ah, this is more like it. Tchaikovsky,” said Aziraphale, opening a case and slotting it into the Blaupunkt.
“You won’t enjoy it,” sighed Crowley. “It’s been in the car for more than a fortnight.” A heavy bass beat began to thump through the Bentley as they sped past Heathrow. Asiraphale’s brow furrowed.
“I Don’t recognize this, “he said. “What is it?”
“It’s Tchaikovsky’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’,” said Crowley […]
They also listened to William Byrd’s “We Are the Champions” and Beethoven’s “I Want to Break Free.” Neither were as good as Vaughan Williams’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.”
I have read quite a bit of Terry Pratchett, including many of his Discworld books, but I had not yet had a chance to read Neil Gaiman so I am not able to judge his influence on this book. I did see a lot of Pratchett in this book and, although this is certainly not a Discworld book, the presence of the DEATH character (and the other horsemen of the apocalypse) and the descriptions of witches make it feel closely related. To me it felt like a cross between Discworld and Only Human by Tom Holt. An enjoyable irreverent romp, well worth the read.