Review: Good Omens

Book: Good Omens

Author: Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

You know when all of your friends talk something up and then when you finally experience it, the reality is so much different than what had been conveyed that it kind of ruins it? That pretty much sums up my experience with Good Omens, an apocalyptic fiction novel by British authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of the praise on the inside cover hails this as supremely funny – the same praise my friends gave it – but for me it mostly fell flat. I might have liked it more if I didn’t go in with such high expectations, but here we are nonetheless.

Good Omens is a novel about the apocalypse, the battle between Heaven and Hell brought on by the birth of the Anti-Christ. The list of characters is incredibly long, but the novel is introduced as a story through the eyes of a demon and angel on Earth, Crowley and Aziraphale. Here the story shined, as the interactions between these two were the high points of the book. The humor they brought to the story was mostly the only humor I found in the entire novel, but it wasn’t enough to save an altogether dry story. The premise is essentially that these two realize they don’t want the world to end, so they begin to work against the mechanisms of the higher powers they serve to avoid the end of times. As they attempt this, many other characters are introduced; there are demons, angels, witch hunters, witches and many normal humans that make up the vast cast of this novel. One of my biggest complaints is that the authors did a poor job introducing each character. There was never any segue into a new POV and I had to eventually make a quick list of characters to keep things straight. Some important characters are brought up early on and then we don’t see them again until more than halfway through the novel. This made the read a bit confusing at times. I also strongly disliked the young Anti-Christ and his posy. Every time the novel switched to their part of the story I was yawning and had to force myself to keep reading. Overall, I found most of the characters to be very lackluster and boring.

Another big problem I had from this book was the pacing. When I started it, I was on 100% on board. I loved the banter between Aziraphale and Crowley as they participated in the bible story of Adam and Eve. After this opening scene, though, things really started to slow down and from here until the end of the book there were only a handful of sections that kept me fully engaged – mostly just the ones where Aziraphale and Crowley were the center pieces. One of my favorites was when they both got drunk and fell into deep conversation in the back of Aziraphale’s bookstore. Most of the book, though, was a bit of a slog for me. The first fifth of the novel covers events that took place years ago and then the rest covers events over the course of five days. Almost half of the entire novel covers a single day in time, but because of the vast amount of characters and threads that had to come together and be resolved, it took forever to get to the point. Overall, there were a couple sections that kept me engaged, but for the most part, reading this book was a chore.

Aside from all that I didn’t like about this book, there was some good things to find here. The premise was interesting and I think the story had a lot to say about the nature of good and evil. Like I mentioned before, the interactions between Crowley and Aziraphale were witty and funny and their characters were the saving grace of the book. The four horsemen of the apocalypse was another group of characters I found interesting and the events they were involved in were usually fairly engaging. There is a scene later in the novel where the four horsemen meet a group of Hell’s Angels and the two groups team up and ride together – this was hilarious and I wish there had been more humor like this. Lastly, I can appreciate the themes being touched upon in the novel – fighting against fate, good vs. evil and the innocence of childhood. Oh, and it was interesting how often the authors were able to work the word “ineffable” into a sentence. I didn’t know what it meant when I started the book, so at least I learned one thing from giving it a try.

Overall, Good Omens was a dud for me. I have struck out a couple times this year with Neil Gaiman, which is a shame because I really enjoyed American Gods and his retelling of old stories in Norse Mythology. Perhaps it’s time to give this author a break and return later. I haven’t given up, though, because I still hear so many good things from people I know. If you enjoy all of Gaiman’s novels I would assume you will enjoy this (I have never read anything else by Terry Pratchett so I can’t speak to that side of things). Perhaps I would have liked this more if I were British or had a stronger background in Christian teachings. Either way, this is not one I will be coming back to.

Review: Babylon’s Ashes

Book: Babylon’s Ashes

Author: James S.A. Corey

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys space opera, science fiction, space mystery, military sci-fi, or a long well written series set in the expanse of our solar system (and beyond).

As I flew through Babylon’s Ashes I once again found myself at home among the crew of the Rocinante. The plot picks up where Nemesis Games left off; Earth is struggling to stay alive after the rocks fell, the Free Navy has declared itself the new power in Sol under the leadership of Marco Inaros, Earth and Mars have combined forces to oppose the Free Navy and the crew of the Rocinante is back, ready to do what is necessary to help bring things back into equilibrium.

I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to The Expanse series, and it is nice to see the writing improve with each new novel. For those devout followers of the series – and I can’t see anyone making it this far without some level of devotion – you will find a lot here that feels familiar. We get to see the crew of the Roci back together again, along with a couple of new faces in the crew that readers will recognize and enjoy. We return to a multiple POV style of storytelling, but while the previous novels focused on a handful of them, this book had a dozen or so different characters through whose eyes we get to see this story unfold. Also, the universe the author has created with these novels has been explored in greater depth with each new release – the same is true here and I, for one, love that detailed world building.

Much of this story focuses on the human experience and how no matter how hard Holden may try, we always find a way to end up fighting over territory, segregating based on our origins and inevitably shooting at each other in order to prove that our way is the right way. This is where I really liked the change in the number of viewpoints. It was interesting to see how the war between factions looked from different points in the solar system. On one hand, we have Holden and the crew of the Roci, a familiar group whose ideals are tested in humanity’s most trying time. On the other hand, are Belters from across the system, some in favor of the actions of the Free Navy and some who are sympathetic to the plight of their fellow human beings. We also get to see things from the POV of those trapped on a dying Earth, passages that really evoked a feeling of helplessness, but that also showed small moments of human mercy and compassion. As much as I tried to enjoy the science fiction setting and not compare it to the real world, the “us vs. them” mentality that many people on both sides of this conflict displayed is a stark reminder of our current socio-political climate.

The plot was interesting and engaging, though this certainly felt like a stepping stone novel for the next book in the series. Nemesis Games was action packed, with the Free Navy rising to power and the rocks falling on Earth – it really changed the game in terms of how the story would progress.  Before that we saw the protomolecule epic unfold in the first few books, followed by the exploration of the new worlds through the alien gates. Babylon’s Ashes did not do a whole lot to progress the overall plot, but what it did do was allow everyone to come back together and it definitely set the stage for what is to come next. This is in no way a negative reflection on the work; the plot moved at a good pace, the characters were well developed and we get to see an interesting take on a galactic civil war in our own solar system. My only real gripe with the book was the writing of Marco Inaros, who I found to be a boring villain and a skin deep character.  Overall, this is a small complaint when compared to the good thing to be found here.

I am a little behind the eight-ball with my reading right now, so Persepolis Rising is already out – it has been for some time. Luckily, after reading 6 books in a series I can pretty much assume I am going to see it through, so I have already ordered the book and it is en-route to my house. Keep your eyes open over the coming weeks for a review!