Good Omens: Angels, demons, witches, prophecies, the end of the world – this one’s got it all. Given that it’s a Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett collaboration, there’s the expected dose of whimsy, some classic mishap, and quirky personalities. The Antichrist, Adam, gets misplaced by the nuns in a typical sleigh of hand maneuver gone wrong. Raised by the Youngs in village called Tadfield, without the whisperings of demon Crawley and angel Aziraphale to steer him, Adam’s a simple kid. The hell-hound sent to him turns into a small dog, named well ‘Dog’. While the four riders of Apocalypse meet, Adam’s imaginations spur an unusual news cycle – that of UFOs, Atlantis, and a secret society of Tibetans digging tunnels worldwide.
Crawley and Aziraphale – who have grown friendly over the years and rather fond of the Earth – are racking their brains to find Adam. Crawley may be responsible for your horrid morning commute, jammed lines and technological havoc, but he’s on the right side of this. Meanwhile, as the armies of good and evil group, Agnes Nutter’s granddaughter Anathema is rummaging through her prophecies to stop the end of the world. Newton Pulsifer, like his grandfather – who was partially responsible for Nutter’s death – is in the witch finder’s army. As all the forces converge in Tadfield and Adam becomes privy to his reality, the end ensues. There is plenty of crazy and overall it’s a light, breezy read but it falls short of the magic that you expect from the duo.
Ps: The adaptation on Amazon Prime is quite decent.
Beastly Tales from Here and There:
These aren’t ordinary tales with staid morals for kids, but fanciful ones that rope in much of the animal kingdom. You have unlikely friendships, treachery, greed, tenacity and more in the verses that flow in these pages. Kindness gets the louse killed. The tortoise wins but the hare gets the limelight; the nightingale dies trying to please its tutor, the frog. The beetle bests the eagle, the rat the Chinese zodiac. In each, you see a reflection of human traits and their ways. Aptly, the commentary is just as crafty and cunning as the race it personifies.
The Best of Saki: Reading Saki is like taking a masterclass in writing short stories. The prose is vivid enough to transport you to the scene yet crisp enough to command just three pages. The set up is aristocratic, as in the case of Wodehouse, but there’s something dark and sinister lurking in Saki’s stories, which set them apart from any one else. You have hunting tales, blackmail, she-wolfs, Pan, reincarnation, talking cats and more. The characters change colours swiftly and adeptly towards an unexpected ending. None are likeable per se but they showcase human nature in myriad forms. Even the kids in these stories are far from cuddly, innocent beings but are rather sharp, shrewd and even malicious.
Clovis, the protagonist in many of these tales, is always up to some mischief that would make the British purse their lips – be it imparting an unrest cure, helping aunts get rid of guests with elaborate means or finding ways out of unruly corners. There’s smiles and smirks more than outright laughter that they provoke. Saki’s characters aren’t silly or whimsical rather entitled asses, with a well-endowed wit, which makes for such pleasurable reading. It’s as Tom Sharpe says, “Start a Saki story and you will finish it. Finish one and you will start another, and having finished them all you will never forget them.”