Author :  Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Date of First Publication :  March 2006  (Hardcover)

Publisher of First Edition:  William Morrow

Date of Publication for this Edition :  December 2006  (Mass Paperback)

Publisher for this Edition :  Harper Torch

ISBN 10: 0-06-085398-0

ISBN 13: 978-0-06-085398-3

No. of pages : 432

The Story:

Heaven and Hell had left their agents on Earth since the dawn of time on Earth — an angel to make sure things go right and a demon with the express mission to wreak havoc on mankind.  Things seem to be going so well for both through the centuries; but now the powers-that-be both above and below decide it is time for the showdown between good and evil.

Crowley, the demon had been charged by Hell to oversee the coming of the Anti-Christ.  But hey, he’s enjoying the twenty-first century and Earth is much more exciting than Hell.  Aziraphale, the angel, also in his comfort zone on Earth, finds himself much more comfortable being with humans than with the “hosts on high”.  Both are loath to see THE END.  So angel and demon strike an unlikely alliance to divert the Prophecies and avert Armageddon.

Only no one knows there was a mix-up in the hospital.  Both Crowley and Aziraphale try to influence the little boy, Warlock, to thwart his nature as an Anti-Christ.  Only too late did both realize that Warlock is just a normal boy;  it is Adam who is the Anti-Christ but he had grown up outside their influences.  So, Crowley and Aziraphale both race against time and the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse (Hell’s Angels) to see if they still stand a chance of saving the world.

The Review :

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett make a rollicking great writing tandem with Good Omens.  I had loads of laughs with this one. The authors must have had a ball collaborating on creating their funny version of  the Biblical Apocalypse.  And got paid for it too!  Lucky guys!

I wish I had read a Neil Gaiman and a Terry Pratchett book to discern which parts were influenced by which author; unfortunately, this is my first time with both and I had to pick up a co-authored book.

Crowley, a dapper demon  and the bookish angel Aziraphale are both lovable characters you wish you could get to know for real.  Despite the overall hilarity in this book, Gaiman and Pratchett throw in some philosophic bones to chew on from time to time, in their characters’ dialogues :  

“Well”, said Crowley….”haven’t you ever wondered about it all?  You know–your people and my people, Heaven and Hell, good and evil, all that sort of thing?  I mean why?”

“As I recall, ” said the Angel stiffly, “there was the rebellion and—“

“Ah yes.  and why did it happen, eh?  I mean, it didn’t have to, did it?”  said Crowley, a manic look in his eye.  “Anyone who could build a universe in six days isn’t going to let a little thing like that happen.  Unless they want it to, of course.  “

“Oh come on.  Be sensible,” said Aziraphale. doubtfully.

“That’s not good advice,” said Crowley.  “….If you sit down and think about it sensibly, come up with some very funny ideas.  Like : why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying “THIS IS IT!”?

“I don’t remember any neon.”

Metaphorically, I mean. I mean, why do that if you really don’t want them to eat it, eh?  I mean, maybe you just want to see how it all turns out.  Maybe it’s all part of a great big ineffable plan.  All of it.  You, me, him, everything.  Some great big test to see if what you’ve built all works properly, eh? You start thinking :  it can’t be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire……”

Well, why indeed?

To Read Or Not To Read :

Feeling bored?  Good Omens makes a good cure for a lazy weekend.  Its irreverent, wry wit,  goofy characters, wacky plotline, and footnotes about funny minutae just make this jocular bundle worth picking up.  Take this little aside for instance :

The end justifies the means, thought Aziraphale.  And the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. *

Footnote: * This is not actually true.  The road to Hell is paved with frozen door-to-door salesmen.  On weekends many of the younger demons go ice skating down it.

Unless you absolutely do not possess a shred of humor where Biblical prophecies are concerned or are a salesman of any kind—door-to-door and telemarketers included,  this book will tickle your funny bone.

Indeed, “the Apocalypse has never been funnier.” —- Clive Barker

My Mark :  Very Good!

Merrick” wasn’t too heavy on the gothic atmosphere so it was not difficult to decide to pick up another gothic-themed novel for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters”, was initially quite far down my TBR list before this challenge; but, being one mentioned in the pool of books the challenge host, Stainless Steel Droppings, had lined for himself, I decided to plunge into this heavy, page-laden book for my next read.

Author : Gordon Dahlquist

Date of Publication : 2006  (Hardcover edition)

Publisher : Bantam Books

ISBN-10: 0385340354

ISBN-13: 978-0385340359

No. of pages :  768

The Story :

In Victorian England, a rich plantation heiress receives an abrupt “dear john” letter from her beau.  In her pride, the stricken Miss Temple decides to follow her fiance to find out the reason for his rejection.  She tails him on a long train ride and arrives at Lord Vandaariff’s huge labyrinthine Harschmort Manor where a  masked ball is in full swing presumably for the engagement of Vandaariff’s daughter to the German Prince of Macklenberg.  She is mistaken as a woman sent to undergo a mysterious “Process” but is soon discovered to be a gate-crasher, deemed to have seen too much.  Suddenly Miss Temple finds her little adventure taking a dangerous turn when she is forced to save her own life.

At that same time, a half blind assassin, Cardinal Chang, is at the ball with a mission to terminate a Colonel Trapping.  He creeps about for his quarry only to find him already murdered.  But who, why, and how are questions that leave him baffled.  A few days later, he is approached by a wealthy sophisticate  who asks him to find a woman, Isobel Hastings (Miss Temple who gave an assumed name) who is believed to be the killer of the Colonel.

Meanwhile,  Doctor Abelard Svenson of the Macklenburg Prince’s entourage loses his charge in Harschmort Manor.  His search leads him to conclude that  something sinister is brewing in the Vandaariff home.  His independent investigation suddenly imperils his life but his duty-bound nature forces him to continue to try to protect his Prince.

In pursuit of their own agenda, these three people stumble on a secret cabal whose sinister plans involve strange alchemical scientific processes and malign blue glass books which serve as a dire yet addicting repository of memories while relinquishing a person of the same.  Anyone who stares into its thin, crystal pages is stripped of their personal memories and turned into pleasure-addicted, compliant zombies, easily controlled and subverted to the group’s aims.

Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang, and Doctor Svenson propitiously meet and form an unlikely triumvirate bent on stopping this unholy cabal.

What follows is a merry chase with mystery, suspense, science fiction, and even a little romance.  Lest this be construed as simply a long, quaint narrative, Dahlquist has thrown in a good deal of  sex and a bit of gore in the mix which contrast quite nicely with its Victorian prudery and formality.

The Review :

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” is a brilliantly creative debut from author, Gordon Dahlquist.  It is a unique albeit outlandish novel that will, as you read, play out old-fashioned comic book scenes in your head.  Indeed, the narrative would lend itself very well to comic strip illustrations of its events, complete with “Boom!”, “Pow!”, “Whack!” sounds written on it.   And like an old-fashioned comic book, the heroes often extricate themselves from sticky situations after long dialogues with the villains, instead of each realistically  going straight into action to resolve the conflict.  Although an annoyance to some, it does have its charms, especially when executed with Dahlquist’s wonderful prose.  Besides, such an outdated style is quite at home with the book’s outré antiquated atmosphere as well.

Although the book has this unreal yet special flavor, its characters are surprisingly well developed, each discovering himself/herself as the adventure unfolds.

Division of the book’s chapters deal with the narrative accordingly from one character’s perspective.  So for instance, one chapter deals with adventures of Miss Temple, the next, those of Cardinal Chang, etc.  Being long chapters, the reader may find himself going back through a previous few pages to refresh his memory of the others’ experiences.  Still, it wasn’t much of an annoyance as, on the whole, the book had cast its charms on me enough to discount little bothers like this.

What is most captivating about the book is not its unusual plot nor its dark  steampunk  theme but its author’s ornate prose that gives so much allure to the novel.  His style is romantic yet explicitly descriptive, laced with intelligent humor and irony:

“His hair was pale but streaked with grey, long and greasy, combed back behind his ears.  His coat was fine enough but unkempt— in fact the man’s whole appearance gave the impression of a once-cherished article — a sofa, for example — that had been left in the rain and partially ruined.” — p. 155

“Moral perspective is what we carry around with us — it exists nowhere else, I can promise you.   Do you see?  There is liberation and responsibility — for what is natural depends on where you are, Bascombe.  Moreover, vices are like genitals — most are ugly to behold, and yet we find our own dear to us.” — p. 164

To Read Or Not To Read :

To enjoy this book,  be prepared to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow.  After all, it is fantasy.

Mind you, this is a lengthy novel, of which its chief fault (according to some reviews), is its wordiness and long-windedness.  For me, however, this is exactly the novel’s charm as it rests on Dahlquist’s excellent descriptive prose, without which a  book like this can become rather tedious and boring when rendered with a flat, indelicate hand.   Slash the verbiage and this may end up an unremarkable read — not bad, but not great either.

You must have the time to indulge in this book;  otherwise,  you’ll be better off with something else.

As An Aside :

For all my praises for this novel and despite its glowing reception by critics, Bantam Books, its publisher,  has written this off as a massive failure. The book failed to pull in the sales and lost Bantam over U$850,000, after having advanced two million U. S. dollars to the author for a two-book deal.

Most of those, however, who have put in the time to read the book, review this novel with praises.  Perhaps, in time, more readers will get to know this atypical literary work and appreciate it for its originality.

The sequel, “The Dark Volume“, must have already been released this year.   This definitely goes into my list of “must-haves” for 2009. 🙂

In A Nutshell :

This is one of the best books I’ve enjoyed this year.  Its strangeness and inventiveness coupled with Dahlquist’s superb writing skills really had me riveted.  A definite keeper!

My Mark  :  Excellent

Have an appetite for something original?   Look no further than “The Eyre Affair“.   Indulge in absurd reality to enjoy Fforde’s imaginative inventiveness and wry wit.

Author           :  Jasper Fforde

Date of Publication :  February 25, 2003

Publisher     :  Penguin

ISBN-10        : 0142001805

ISBN-13       : 978-0142001806

No. of Pages   :  384

The Story :

Fforde’s Britain is a surreal state where vampires and time travel are common realities; excursions into alternate worlds in books are possible; different versions of dodos can be had from a store; and bookworms are actual worms that feed on words.

This is the world of Thursday Next, a special operative of LiteraTec, a government agency in charge of, well, keeping everything literary, safe and intact. Thursday is a feisty, no-nonsense yet feminine literary cop who finds herself facing her greatest nemesis, Acheron Hades, the worst villain of all time.

A true villain who revels in being “differently moraled”,  Acheron is a SpecOps nightmare.  His latest caper, stealing the original Chuzzlewit manuscript and having his minion enter its literary portal to kidnap Mr. Quaverly for execution, has  Britain in an uproar, as the Dickens’ story is changed forever.

Thursday  Next must stop him as he sets his sights on his next victim,  Jane Eyre.  She must enter  Jane’s world to protect her, rid the world of Hades, and  thus preserve literature as it should be.

The Review :

Surreal yet charmingly quirky, Fforde’s novel is either a book one will really enjoy or a book a reader just cannot get into.    Fforde’s fantasy is just so different that one must like the wacky, the funny, and the outlandish to enjoy his world.

The heroine, Thursday Next, is a lovable  oxymoronic character, both vulnerable and tough.  This successful blend of opposite qualities renders her immediately endearing.  His villain, Acheron Hades,  is a unique sort whose amorality, style, and total contentment of his heinous nature makes him darkly fun and perpetually intriguing.

Fforde begins each chapter with little excerpts from writings of fictitious personalities from his world.  These  set the mood or clue the reader in on the chapter’s background— quite good devices for giving more information and rounding out the sections quite well.

To Read Or Not To Read :

It would be nice if one is more familiar with the literary works and authors Fforde liberally sprinkles references to throughout.  Unfamiliarity with them though, will not detract the reader from enjoying this humorously crafted oddball of a novel.

However, read only if you are inclined toward something really off the beaten track.   Don’t pick this up if you are annoyed, not in the mood for the surreal, or just do not fancy anything fantastical at the moment.  You may just miss Fforde’s clever prose and unusual wit (this, together with his fertile imagination defines his writing style) which requires a certain lightheartedness to appreciate it.

In A Nutshell :

The Eyre Affair”  is Jasper Fforde’s first novel, a cocktail of mystery, fantasy, suspense, murder, comedy and romance.  Its bold but successful concoction shows Fforde’s brilliant writing talent and guts in daring to push literary barriers.

My Mark :  Outstanding

I picked out this book  on a whim while waiting for my flight home.  And I’m not sorry I did.   It’s a zippy, enyoyable read that just made time fly by so fast.

Author       : Sophie Kinsella

Copyright : 2008

Publisher   : Bantam Dell

Publish Date: November 2008

ISBN               : 978-0-440-29691-1

No. of pages  : 430

Lexi Smart wakes up in the hospital after a nasty accident, to a fairy-tale-come-true. Last thing she remembers, she was a struggling sales rep with the occasionally skaggy underwear and bad teeth.  This was 2004.  Now she’s in 2007 with a great set of chompers, a toned body, a designer bag, and a drop-dead gorgeous husband.  Trouble is, she has no idea how she managed to suddenly  live a dream-come-true lifestyle. Amnesia has simply wiped out three years of her life.

As Lexi tries to live this seemingly marvelous life with her memories and perspectives still stuck three years ago, we see her hilarious yet valiant struggles to regain her lost years and attempts to understand how she came to be a corporate big boss with a wardrobe of designer clothes, an enviable social circle, and a Benz to boot.  To add to her confusion, in drops a nice but glamour-shunning architect who opens her eyes to the realities of her dream life.

This is a funny, bubbly book witht the right  type of levity only a few could really evoke.  Sophie Kinsella should be one of the best chick-lit authors around.  She’s got that perfect breezy, vivacious casual writing style that injects humour in just the right places.

Unlike a lot of chick-lit characters that come across as vacuous, shallow bimbos, Lexi is a smart, fun character — a woman you’d really like to get to know. Kinsella was able to balance quirkiness and fun with some depth and strength in her heroine.

Sophie Kinsella also does have some very cute romantic ideas—i.e. sunflowers. She also has some really hysterical ones.   I especially cracked up with Mont Blanc.  If you want to know what the blazes I’m talking about, dive into your favorite reading chair with your nibbles and a spend a few hours with this book.  It’ll be fun!

My Mark :  Totally Cool!

Sophie Kinsella talks about her book, “Remember Me” :