First of all…I am going to break character for a minute. I tend to studiously avoid mentioning my politics on this blog–it’s not really the right place for it–but today, I have to. I have to mention here, before I delve into my review/drink choice, that I woke up and cried today. I cried through the biggest smile, tears running down my face in the most amazing, tumultuous explosion of emotions. What a wonderful day.
On that note, let’s talk about the Apocalypse.
I chose this book last night not realizing the decision was coming out today. I should have known, but I didn’t, and so now we get to deal with a comedic look at the end of the world. And, you know what? If I had known, I think I still would have picked this book, because I love it. And it’s funny. And everyone should read it if they haven’t already.
We already know I love Neil Gaiman. We also already know I love Terry Pratchett (even though I was sadly forced to concede defeat on a cogent post recommending Discworld…my ultimate decision on that front is read them and drink whatever the hell you want, because whatever you choose will probably fit). What I love more than anything is the two of them together! DEATH and hilarity, a lost Antichrist, and humanity as the ultimate reason between good and evil? It’s AMAZING!
OK. Let’s delve in to some of the details.
The book is, for the most part, about the last week of existence. The first portion takes place eleven years before this, when the Antichrist, aka “Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness” is placed into the hands of one Crowley, demon who (to quote) “did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards.” Crowley has been on Earth since the beginning and has thus formed an Arrangement with Aziraphale, a Principality, who has similarly spent more time in the field, as it were, than back at corporate. So they come to an agreement: both will attempt to influence the Antichrist and may the best man win.
The only problem? The kid they spend eleven years teaching isn’t the Antichrist. He’s actually just a bratty American. The real Antichrist is actually a kid named, wonderfully enough, Adam, who is living an idyllic life in small town England. But because of his protections, neither of them can find him. And so they call in their reinforcements to find him: the Witchfinder Army. Yes, both have the same reinforcements because both sides always assumed the Army was on their side.
Throughout the book, we are treated to Anathema Device, a professional descendant whose ancestress Agnes Nutter was a real Seer and left a book of prophesy for her family to use, for better or worse; Newton Pulsifer, hapless and well-meaning, a descendant of the Witchfinder General who *tried* to kill Agnes Nutter and also in a completely unrequited love affair with technology; Shadwell, last remaining Sergeant of the Witchfinder Army and professional curmudgeon; Madame Tracy, painted Jezebel and sometime medium; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the OTHER Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; and a dog named Dog. And all of them have a role to play…though some of those roles are short-lived and involve rather more fish than I believe some were expecting.
If I had to pick one quote to sum up this book, I don’t think I could. So I picked three:
-God movies in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time. (Footnote: *i.e., everybody.)
– It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
– Hell wasn’t a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley’s opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.
The whole novel is so quotable. It’s such a creative and often incisive combination of the best of Pratchett and Gaiman that you’ll laugh and think, and maybe even be inspired. A lot of people think you can’t be inspired by such things–they’re meant to be funny, after all–but you don’t have to write a story that’s all about message to inspire people. There were ideas here that I found profound even as I had tears pouring from my eyes from laughing. If you don’t think a piss drunk angel and demon talking about how gorillas have nests is hilarious, I just don’t know what to do with you.
And, no worries, the Apocalypse is averted. But not in the way you think. So that’s good.
Now…what to drink? I have three options for you. First is just in case you want to get blind drunk like Crowley and Aziraphale do when they find out the Apocalypse is upon them. The second is based on Adam as he makes the wonderful discovery that the world is bigger and more complicated than he thinks, and that he wants to make it better; and the third is for all the kids in the audience who know that there just CAN’T BE 31 flavors of ice-cream, even in America.
So…first up. Step one: Pick up a bottle of something strong. Tequila, Bacardi 151, Grappa…whatever you want. Are you a moonshiner? That works, and please share. Step two: Drink it. Preferably with a friend. Talk about WHATEVER COMES TO MIND. Step three: Use your divine powers to suddenly push the alcohol out of your system. (Or, for the human among us, pace yourself and keep a ton of water nearby. Also…eat while doing this. Something carby.)
Your second choice might sound silly, but make yourself one of these. Make several. Whatever you want. Why? Well…Adam is a good kid. He loves his home and his life and that love shapes him. Adam also happens to be the Antichrist, so he has more say over the world than most good kids. It’s a bit of a nature vs nurture argument, really. But while he’s making his discovery of the world outside Tadfield (his home), he eats lemon candies. So…why not combine childhood and adulthood in one drink?
Third, for those of you not particularly interested in alcohol, make yourself a milkshake. You can have vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate. Or chocolate vanilla, or even chocolate strawberry! Because maybe they have more flavors in America, but…that’s America.
OK, that’s it from me today! Please read this book. I cannot recommend it enough. Also…if you plan on getting married soon, I can only imagine how long the lines at the courthouse are, so…get there early. And congrats!
Tomorrow, we Shakespeare!