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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 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.

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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.

Plot Summary

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...

(The entire section contains 1437 words.)

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