Last Updated on March 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1437
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a collaborative novel published in 1990 by British authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In 1987, Gaiman sent Pratchett the first 5,000 words of a short story called “William the Antichrist,” which was inspired by Richard Crompton’s Just...
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Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a collaborative novel published in 1990 by British authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In 1987, Gaiman sent Pratchett the first 5,000 words of a short story called “William the Antichrist,” which was inspired by Richard Crompton’s Just William series. However, as Gaiman began working on The Sandman, the idea was set aside. Pratchett contacted Gaiman nearly a year after receiving the manuscript to inquire about the idea and the two decided to collaborate on a novel, which eventually became Good Omens.
The novel combines unique elements of both Gaiman and Pratchett’s writing styles, including Pratchett's signature footnotes and Gaiman’s extensive allusions. Good Omens is written in the traditional British humorist tradition and many of the international translations include additional footnotes to make the humor more accessible. Due to the reputations of both authors, Good Omens was highly anticipated by fans prior to its release. Upon its debut, it was positively received by both readers and critics, going on to be nominated for the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch opens just after the biblical Fall of Man has resulted in humankind’s expulsion from Eden. Crawly, the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve, converses with Aziraphale, the angel of the Eastern Gate of Eden. They reflect on the nature of good and evil and ponder what will become of humanity.
The novel then jumps ahead to the 20th century. Crawly, now taking a human form and going by the name Crowley, meets with fellow demons Hastur and Ligur in a graveyard. They inform Crowley that the apocalypse is coming and entrust him with the infant antichrist. Crowley, who has grown quite fond of Earth, reluctantly agrees to deliver the antichrist to a nearby satanic hospital. Hell plans for the antichrist to be raised by an American diplomat residing in Britain. However, satanic nun Sister Mary Loquacious accidentally places the antichrist with the wrong family.
As a result of their mutual fondness for Earth, Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to postpone the apocalypse for as long as possible. They do so by exerting opposing influences of good and evil on Warlock, the son of the American dignitary. However, on Warlock’s 11th birthday, Sister Mary’s mistake is revealed when the hellhound that was sent as a gift for the antichrist never arrives: Warlock is not the antichrist, but instead a normal human boy. Adam Young, the true antichrist, has grown up free from both divine and satanic influences in Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire. Adam and his friends Pepper, Brian, and Wensleydale, collectively known as “the Them,” spend their days leisurely playing games and causing mischief. When the hellhound arrives, Adam names it “Dog.” Since hellhounds receive their purpose in life based on their names, the hellhound becomes a completely normal dog.
After the mix-up is revealed, Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to find the real antichrist by returning to the hospital where the swap was supposed to have occured. However, the hospital has long since burned down. During Crowley and Aziraphale’s quest, they encounter Anathema Device, the descendant of the only accurate prophetess in history, Agnes Nutter. Anathema has religiously studied Agnes’s book, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, and has used the prophecies to track the progress of the apocalypse. By accident, the book ends up in Aziraphale’s possession after he and Crowley drive Anathema home as penance for breaking her bicycle. After obsessively poring over the book, Aziraphale discovers that Adam Young is the real antichrist and that events will unfold in Lower Tadfield.
Anathema rents a cottage near where Adam Young lives since Agnes’s prophecies also led her to Lower Tadfield. Anathema and Adam becomes friends, and she lends him a collection of occult magazines. The magazines inspire Adam’s imagination, and his latent antichrist powers begin manifesting via supernatural phenomenon. As Adam’s powers awaken, so to do the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pollution (who replaced pestilence after the discovery of penicillin), and Death. They form a biker gang called “Hell’s Angels.” It is their job to set the apocalypse in motion, and they begin preparing for the arrival of the antichrist.
Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer and Sergeant Shadwell, the only two remaining members of the historical Witchfinder Army, begin noticing the strange, apocalyptic phenomena occurring around Lower Tadfield. Shadwell dispatches Newt to investigate. After wrecking his car on the way to Lower Tadfield, Newt meets Anathema, who informs him that Agnes’s prophecies prepared her for his arrival. Together, they attempt to decipher the notes that Anathema’s ancestors have made about Agnes’s prophecies in the hopes of stopping the apocalypse.
As Adam’s powers continue to grow, he recognizes his role as the antichrist and begins talking about how he will reshape the world and divide it up among his friends. However, his friends point out that if he destroys the world, they will not be able to play together like they normally do. Adam, distraught over this possibility, returns to his senses and he and the rest of the Them set out to stop the world from ending.
When the Infernal Authorities discovers that Warlock is not truly the antichrist, they confront Crowley and demand an explanation. Crowley outwits Hastur and Ligur, the demons sent to bring him back to hell, and sets off for Lower Tadfield. Aziraphale contacts heaven in the hopes of getting advice on how to stop the apocalypse from happening. However, heaven has no intention of stopping it, and Aziraphale ends up discorporated. In order to get to Lower Tadfield, he possesses Madame Tracy, Sergeant Shadwell’s neighbor. Shadwell, Madame Tracy, and the disembodied Aziraphale then set off towards Lower Tadfield.
The Them, Crowley, Aziraphale, Sergeant Shadwell, Madame Tracy, Anathema, and Newt all arrive at the Lower Tadfield Air Force Base just after the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse have set nuclear armageddon in motion. After a brief struggle, Adam dispels War, Famine, and Pollution. Death informs Adam that he cannot be dispelled, since he is the “shadow of creation.” However, the apocalypse will stop now that War, Famine, and Pollution have returned back to “the minds of man.” Before departing, Death reminds everyone that though they have won for the moment, War, Famine, Pollution, and Death are never far away.
Aziraphale, now recorporated by Adam, and the humans prepare to celebrate, but Crowley reminds them that the apocalypse is not over yet. Metatron and Beelzebub, representatives of heaven and hell, respectively, arrive and confront Adam, Aziraphale, and Crowley. They attempt to convince Adam to go through with the apocalypse by reminding him that he is fated to destroy the world. However, Adam responds by saying that fate is ridiculous and that humans get to decide their own paths. Aziraphale and Crowley take advantage of Metatron and Beelzebub’s confusion and remind them that perhaps this is what God had planned for all along. A frustrated Metatron and Beelzebub then depart in order to consult with their respective bosses.
Just as everyone begins to think that the apocalypse truly has been averted, Satan himself begins amassing power and preparing to arrive on Earth. However, Adam stops this process and has his human father show up instead. Mr. Young confusedly apologizes for whatever mischief his son has caused.
The next day, Newt wakes up in Anathema’s cottage. A package arrives for him containing Agnes’s second book, Further Nife and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Concerning the World That is To Com; Ye Saga Continuef! Anathema wakes up and excitedly prepares to open it, but Newt asks her whether she really wants to continue being Agnes’s descendant forever or if she’d rather live an unscripted life.
Aziraphale and Crowley meet in St. James Park to discuss events. The world has returned more or less to normal and both heaven and hell are pretending that nothing happened. Crowley begins speculating that God is simply testing all of his creations and that the real final battle will be between humans and the divine. However, his tirade is interrupted by a mysterious man who simply says that God’s plans are “ineffable” and then departs. Afterwards, neither Crowley nor Aziraphale can quite remember what they had been discussing.
Adam returns to his human life in Lower Tadfield. Him, Dog, and the rest of the Them continue on with their lives as normal, playing games and causing mischief.