Good Omens: (Not A) Book Review

Themes (Spoilers)

Before I begin this section, I will remind the reader of the purpose of this review. Consider the theme of good vs evil and how the novel suggests everyone is morally gray. However, I do not believe everyone is morally gray. 

My disagreement does not alter the book’s position. If we are to judge the book qua art, we should judge how well the book presents the position. Not whether we agree with that position – that is a separate issue. 

I will mention if I take issue with other themes in this book. However, I shall not go into detail. This review will judge this book as an art form, not a philosophical treatise.

The book’s opening makes one of the central themes obvious: the hypocrisy of organized religion. God gives people free will. However, he expects them to trust him for no reason. God expects them to have faith in him. 

Adam and Eve did not possess the knowledge of good and evil. When they sought it, God punished them by banishing them from paradise. How was he to know that was wrong? They were supposed to take it on faith and not exercise the full extent of their free will. Why give man free will if he wished to keep them ignorant and subservient to their faith? Truly ineffable.

The novel examines the themes of good and evil. Aziraphale and Crowley are on opposing sides of the divine war between Heaven and Hell. But neither are perfectly good or evil. The novel argues that everyone – mortal and divine – is sometimes good and bad. Nobody is purely good or evil – there is always some moral ambiguity or shade of gray.

Many are morally ambiguous because they lack the conviction to take a clear moral stance. However, not everyone is morally gray.  Many take a clear stance, for good or evil. The novel expresses this well. That counts more than anything.

The theme explores the difficulty of judging someone’s character based on appearance alone. The armies of darkness made the Antichrist into the form of an eleven-year-old child. Who could have known just by looking? Nobody. Not right until the day of Armageddon. 

Despite the intentions of the armies of darkness, the Antichrist grows up as an average rural English boy. Once he realizes his world-ending powers, he gives them up so that he and his friends can lead a happy life. That shows that not even the Antichrist must be evil. Even the Antichrist can choose between good and evil.

Another theme is that of friendship. Aziraphale and Crowley have been friends for 6,000 years. They do not let the fact that they are on opposite sides of the eternal war between Heaven and Hell impede a wonderful friendship! Isn’t that touching?

Their friendship helps illustrate a theme I mentioned earlier – that nobody is fully good or evil. Neither Aziraphale nor Crowley are truly good or evil. And that makes their friendship work! Crowley quips that his angelic friend is “just enough of a bastard to be worth liking.” 

Their friendship would not work were Aziraphale purely good or Crowley pure evil. That is why their friendship works. It is also one of the many ways Pratchett and Gaiman deftly integrate the novel’s several themes.

Adam and his friends have a tight-knit friendship in The Them. Adam is ready to destroy the world. Only his strong bond with his friends helps him rein in his powers and realize that he is terrifying his friends and not acting in their interest. That brings him down from the edge of Armageddon. 

Friendship helped save the day. It helped convince Adam not to end the world. It allowed Aziraphale and Crowley to help work together. You might think it sounds cheesy, but it is not. Friendship is important. It can bring out the best in us.

Another theme is that of free will versus destiny. Anathema Device makes much of the claim that the prophecies of Agnes Nutter are accurate. However, is this the case? Her ancestors have spent three hundred years analyzing her prophecies, and almost none seem to make sense – except in retrospect. 

Nutter’s writings make no sense. It is almost impossible to match them to anything in advance. However, it is possible to match them to events after they happen and then assume that is what Nutter predicted. That is not a prediction; that is a post-diction. 

It is easy to take seemingly random nonsense and make it seem to predict something that happened in the past. That is how Nostradamus appears to make predictions. That is how Nutter’s ancestors make it appear as though her prophecies are accurate.

It is easy to believe in prophecies if you take vague nonsense and only identify what that nonsense means after the events happen. It is easy to pretend that the nonsense was a prediction. The nonsense could have meant nothing or nearly anything.

Are destiny and free will two sides of a coin? Good Omens argues that. Aziraphale and Crowley both believe that they are likely powerless to prevent Armageddon. Aziraphale believes it is part of God’s ineffable plan, and Crowley believes Satan wants the end to come. Still, they try to stop it.

Why should they attempt to stop Armageddon? It would seem that God and Satan both wish for Armageddon. They both desire the last war to decide whether the universe shall be good or evil.

Crowley argues an angel should stop the triumph of evil. And is it not Crowley’s duty to stop the victory of good? Therefore, is it not perhaps part of the larger plan for them to prevent Armageddon? How are they to know? It is all very ineffable, as Aziraphale likes to say.

Near the end, Adam refuses to mobilize the Four Horsemen. Death claims Armageddon is “Written,” but Adam counters that what is “Written” can be crossed out and rewritten. Writing does not invalidate free will.

Aziraphale and Crowley maintain that an Ineffable Plan is inherently elusive and adaptable. Destiny is not something set in stone – it is whatever people make of it. Free will is what ultimately matters. Destiny said Adam was supposed to end the world. Yet, he chose not to.

Leave a Comment

Where Should I Send It?
Sign up for sci-fi/fantasy freebies & author updates.

I give my consent to receive email newsletters from Ed Scriver.

No, thank you.
No spam. Unsubscribe anytime. 100% secure.
Powered by