BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast an adaptation of Good Omens, a fantasy book written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in 1990. Despite being a massive fan of both authors, I’ve never read the book. That sounds crazy because it is. So I recently borrowed a battered copy from an avid fan who shares my love of Pratchett and Gaiman and read it.
Unfortunately, I don’t love it.
I wanted to. I hoped that a book by my two favourite (living) authors would be the Holy Grail of Books but it just wasn’t. I could not put my finger on one thing that put me off. I felt there was something a little diluted about it, the creepy darkness of Gaiman was tempered as was the humorous digressions of Pratchett. It seemed as if a series of events were happening instead of a discernible story, as if we were forever building to the climax without any ups and downs. I suppose that when you mix two great but still differing styles the edges will become blunted. And when you’re writing a book about the apocalypse what is there to do but build to the greatest of climaxes?
None of this is to say this isn’t a good book. It is. It is a bloody great book. It has humour and satire and wonderful characters like Crowley, Anathema and Aziraphale. You should read it. And you should go listen to the radio drama which is what I am going to do.
I think ultimately the weight of expectation crushed it for me. Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy both as a reader and a writer. You expect to read (or to write) greatest book of all time to when you should simply relax into the created world as it is. Don’t look for the answer to the mysteries of the universe (it’s 42 anyway). Let the story be.
Have you ever been disappointed by a book you had high hopes for?
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