Nature or nurture? That’s the question at the core of this funny take on the coming of the apocalypse, written by two masters of humorous speculative fiction—the late Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The end of days is coming. What if the Antichrist responsible for seeing it through had been switched at the hospital and was raised as a normal kid? Would he be evil enough? If not, how would the apocalypse play out? After a chapter that shows the reader the mix up at the hospital, the bulk of the book takes place over a few days that are supposed to be the last few days of humanity.
There’s an extensive cast of characters including the “gang” of Adam the anti-Christ, the four horse-persons of the apocalypse, angels and demons, witches and witch-hunters, and other sundry characters. However, the characters that most carry the tone and message of the book are Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel.) With these two, the authors inject some Taoism into an otherwise Biblical world. That is to say, pure evil and pure good are rarities; there’s always a bit of good amid the bad, and vice versa. Aziraphale can be grumpy, and Crowley’s proclivity to be mischievous has its limits. Being in similar positions, the two bond as low-level managers working for Coke and Pepsi might get on because they face similar demands and have similar complaints about management.
Running through the book are mentions of a book called, “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.” This witch’s prophecies are quite unusual in that they are invariably correct, and yet are specific. That is, the prophecies aren’t “right” in the sense that astrologers are often “right” by making vague statements that offer no disprovable propositions. This might lead one to believe that the book would be a marvelous guide for making predictions. However, there is still the issue of having been written centuries ago. Items like automobiles and cellphones, that play a major role in life today, were unfathomable. Furthermore, it’s usually not clear who, exactly, a given prophecy applies to. In short, the medieval writing style results in the fact that the prophecies usually only make sense after the fact.
I’d recommend this book for readers of humorous speculative fiction.