SALT LAKE CITY — Way back in 1990, Terry Pratchett was the well-known and much-loved author of the best-selling "Discworld" series and young Neil Gaiman (who was 30) was the up-and-coming creator of the critical darling comic book series, "The Sandman." As Gaiman tells it, the idea for "Good Omens" was his, but it was Pratchett who asked if they might collaborate on it.
“It was like Michelangelo phoning and asking if you want to paint a ceiling together,” Gaiman said in an interview.
Together, they gave the world "Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch," a wacky, good time of a read about the apocalypse — or at least an attempted apocalypse. Part of the fun of this rollicking novel is trying to identify when you're reading Gaiman and when you're reading the great and tragically late Pratchett, but the true joy of this book is just settling in for the wild ride.
With "Good Omens" finally getting a TV adaptation starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen starting May 31 on Amazon Prime, we decided to look back at the pair's work, sharing our five favorites from each of the authors.
I know I'll catch it for this one, but I can't help it: I'm a "Neverwhere" woman. Granted, I listened to this while living in London, so as I walked the London above (and sometimes, below), I traveled much of the same ground as — and with, since I was listening — the book's protagonist Richard Mayhew, he of the "perfectly ordinary life." In "Neverwhere,” it doesn't take long for Richard's life to become extremely un-ordinary as he discovers the London Below — the Underside — and embarks on a spooky adventure that winds through a fantastical and sometimes horrifying London. You'll never look at Blackfriars Bridge quite the same.
2. "The Graveyard Book"
"The Graveyard Book" won Gaiman a Newbery Medal, Britain's Carnegie Medal (the only book to win both prizes) and a pack of other awards. Crack open the first page and it's easy to see why: The man Jack's hand held a knife in the darkness, and that hand and that knife go on to do terrible things. But somehow, little Nobody Owens — "Bod" for short — escapes and toddles up to the local graveyard. There the ghostly inhabitants take him in and raise him as their own, even as the man Jack works to hunt him down. It's a (yes) heartwarming tale with plenty of creepy moments that will keep readers young and old hooked 'til the last page.
A fairy tale with sky pirates, a fallen star in human form, a sweet farm boy on a quest, an evil witch and pack of mostly murderous aristocratic brothers? Yes, please. The story bounces along, and Gaiman's high English, rather Tolkien-esque prose plays well with the at-times giddy silliness of some of the characters, especially those wonderful sky pirates. Plus, the 2007 film starring Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer is one of those rare cases where the movie is as much fun as the book. Read the book; see the movie!
Although Gaiman's other well-known children's book, "The Graveyard Book," involves a murderer and ghosts, I still say "Coraline" is the creepier of the two. Toggling between the real world and a mirror world, the story follows young Coraline who, like so many kids, is annoyed with her parents and wishes her life was somehow better. When she finds that seemingly better world on the other side of her home wall, she thinks she's got it made, until she realizes the cost of "perfection." It's a thrilling, chilling read that will make you think about what you value in your life.
5. "Anansi Boys"
Gaiman's love of myth gave us "Anansi Boys," a jaunty story that features the West African trickster god Anansi (who also makes an appearance in Gaiman's "American Gods"). When Londoner "Fat Charlie" Nancy discovers he has a brother — a good-looking, charismatic brother named Spider — in the wake of their father's death, his life takes a series of turns that he and the reader couldn't have guessed. This one's got a crooked talent agent, dealings with the dead and a wild trip to the Caribbean.
Although the fourth book in the "Discworld" series, "Mort" often ranks No. 1 in fan affection. It's also the first "Discworld" book where Pratchett's perennial character Death is a leading figure. In "Mort," Death, who always speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS (as Death would), takes young Mort on as his apprentice. Unfortunately for Death, Mort isn't quite as good at not getting involved in the lives and deaths of the souls he's sent to collect as is Death himself. The book is full of Pratchett's classic one-liners (“He'd been wrong, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower.” ), and you'll come out feeling, if not warmly toward, then sort of chummy with Death.
This is not a "Discworld" book, but stay with me. "Dodger" contains whiffs of Pratchett's trademark wit, but the story is largely a straight adventure story, with the lead character inspired by Dickens' Artful Dodger. It's fast-paced, and if you're a fan of seedy Victorian underworlds and foggy London streets, this one's for you. I highly recommend "Dodger's" audio version, read by the always-wonderful Stephen Briggs.
3. "The Color of Magic"
The one that started it all — and I do mean all. By the time we lost Pratchett to Alzheimer's in 2015, the author had published 41 "Discworld" books, something he likely could never have foreseen when "The Color of Magic" came out in 1983. "The Color of Magic" set the stage for all the madcap, irreverent adventures to come, introducing readers to Discworld, a massive disc that sits on the back of four even more massive elephants, who (stay with me) stand on the shell of the even more massive sea turtle, Great A'Tuin, as he swims through space.
4. "Going Postal"
Only Pratchett would name his main character — the romantic lead, for heaven's sake — Moist von Lipwig. Moist (I know) is a con man of great skill and ability, but even the best get caught, and when he does, he ends up not dead as he expected but rather as the postmaster general in the Discworld city-state of Ankh-Morpork. It should be an easy job, but of course, what fun would that be? Fans of Ankh-Morpork's Machiavellian overlord Havelock Vetinari will be happy to know he features prominently in "Going Postal," and his interactions with Moist are especially a joy.
5. "I Shall Wear Midnight"4 comments on this story
This is the fourth book in the "Discworld" series about Tiffany Aching, who is now a 16-year-old witch and deep in the day-to-day, generally unglamorous work of her job. Anti-witch sentiments are on the rise and Tiffany finds herself facing problems on all sides. Tiffany is one of those characters who is simply good company: funny, self-deprecating and resourceful, and she really shines in "I Shall Wear Midnight." Plus, what a great title.
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