Most people who try to predict the future get it spectacularly wrong. One person didn’t though; Agnes Nutter, witch. The book she left in 1655, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies, had been written shortly before she exploded and ruined several people’s days. But then they had been out to ruin hers. It not only predicts the day the world will end, it knows the precise time. Which if you’re interested, it will be next Saturday, shortly after tea…
Rewind several years though, and we first come across Crowley, an Angel who did not fall from heaven, more saunter vaguely downwards. He is charged with ensuring that the child Anti-Christ is delivered to the nunnery where he will be exchanged with the son of an American diplomat who is just about to be born. Crowley and Aziraphale, an angel, and after 6000 years of knowing each other, more of a friend now. They have planned that the Anti-Christ grows up never being able to decide between Good and Evil, hopefully postponing the end of the world. Except there is a muddle up. The family destined to get Warlock, receive a normal boy and Adam Young grows up in Lower Tadfield, utterly unaware of his potential powers.
If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends.
The world is changing fast though with the approaching Judgement Day. Armies are amassing, the four bikers of the apocalypse, War, Death, Famine and Pollution are assembling, the hell hound is summoned. All of these individuals are being pulled to the military base of Lower Tatton and are being pursued by the last remaining member of the Witchfinder Army, Newton Pulsifer and the multi-great granddaughter of Agnes Nutter, Anathema Device. Will Adam use his powers to bring about the end of the world…
Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.
I first read this many years (ok decades) ago, as I was a committed Pratchett fan. I really could not get along with it back then, having ventured out of the safe(ish) Discworld, I wasn’t keen on the dark elements that Gaiman had brought to the narrative. In 2013, the next Gaiman book that I picked up was The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Something in that book clicked for me and I have ended up reading and loving all of what I have read of his so far. Then Terry died in 2015, and I decided to complete my Discworld collection and read all of his books that I had not read.
This was one of them. This time I loved it.
To have the chutzpah of taking an epic prediction of the end of the world and inject lots of absurdity into it takes some doing and Pratchett and Gaiman managed to pull this one off. The humour is still school boyish though, something that they alluded to in the introduction in my edition. It lacks character development, but the interplay between them, in particular, Aziraphale and Crowley is quite something. Having come to love Gaiman’s writing now, I can see each of their voices woven through the narrative. Sadly this was the only collaboration that they did that made it print, it does make me wonder just what else they could have produced given time. Brilliant and destined to become a classic.