This Weeks Thoughts On. . .
The fine folks over at Black gate Fantasy provided the inspiration to try this story out. And I’m sooo pleased they did, because it’s an absolute gem.
Jacob Green can see dead people. Lots of them . . . everywhere!
A good deed at the scene of a car accident turns bad. Very bad. So much so, that it’s not the victim of the crash who is in dire need of help. And when Jacob pursues the offender into a disused tunnel under a bridge, he finds out to his cost that the tunnel isn’t disused at all. It’s a conduit leading to an in-between place where those who have passed on live out their unlives as they did before they died: A place called Necropolis.
Of course, not only should it be impossible for Necropolis to exist, but its denizens can’t possibly allow Jacob to leave now he knows of its existence.
Things look bleak until one of the undead winds up murdered. And because of his unique perspective, Jacob is pressed into service as a detective to help solve the case.
That’s when things start getting really complicated, and Jacob spirals from one disaster to another, somehow only just managing to keep his head above water . . . and all the time, he’s watching and waiting for the first opportunity to escape.
How does he fare?
Find out, in this action packed, roister-doister tale that sits easily on the eye and dark humor funny bone (Think of a blend of RIPD and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and you’ll be on the right track).
A great story and superb debut novel from an author I shall gladly read again.
Having read the book, a cunning and exceedingly funny conspiracy by two of the most humorous guys on (and off) the planet (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) I had high expectations for the TV adaptation.
Ouch! (Yes I know . . . I’m an idiot!)
True to form, cutting satire, wit, and a heady imagination don’t translate well from print to screen. A shame, because the story – based on “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” – expounds the story of the birth of the son of Satan and the coming of the end times. A terribly important even, I’m sure you’ll agree, and one that would concern all right-minded people.
The thing is, it concerns the two representatives of heaven and hell left on Earth since the times of the Garden of Eden even more. Aziraphale – the angel, and Crowley, the serpent who tempted Eve – have become quite accustomed to living amongst humans. And even though they’re supposed to be polar opposites reporting back to their respective “HQs” in preparation for an eventual Armageddon, they’ve become firm friends; cutting corners here, slipping the odd false report in there; taking credit for mankind’s perverseness or ingenuity when the mood takes them.
As such, when the antichrist is born and the end times loom, they go out of their way to put the proverbial spanner in the works. Their solution? Swap several children born at the same time so the antichrist grows up as a normal child in an average family in a quaint English town.
What follows is pure magical mayhem as the monumental balls-up is unearthed and Crowley and Aziraphale struggle to put things right against an increasing avalanche of woe. Also, credit where credit’s due: David Tennant and Michael Sheen do incredibly well portraying our two main protagonists, Crowley and Aziraphale in a cast comprised of swings and roundabouts. Some characters are superb, hitting the mark exactly. Others? – Oh dear!
But the thing that really spoiled it for me was the “back voice.” In the book, the authors address YOU, the reader, with witty expose and details that draw you in. Here’s an example:
“It wasn't a dark and stormy night.
It should have been, but that's the weather for you. For every mad scientist who's had a convenient thunderstorm just on the night his Great Work is finished and lying on the slab, there have been dozens who've sat around aimlessly under the peaceful stars while Igor clocks up the overtime.
But don't let the fog (with rain later, temperatures dropping to around forty five degrees) give anyone a false sense of security. Just because it's a mild night doesn't mean that dark forces aren't abroad. They're abroad all the time. They're everywhere.
They always are. That's the whole point.
Two of them lurked in the ruined graveyard. Two shadowy figures, one hunched and squat, the other lean and menacing, both of them Olympic grade lurkers. If Bruce Springsteen had ever recorded “Born to Lurk,” these two would have been on the album cover. They had been lurking in the fog for an hour now, but they had been pacing themselves and could lurk for the rest of the night if necessary, with still enough sullen menace left for a final burst of lurking around dawn.”
This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the book and helps set the scene of two demons waiting for Crowley to arrive with the antichrist babe. When you read it in context, you can’t help but smile at the images conjured in your mind. It’s pithy; it’s punchy; and certainly puts you in the mood for what follows. When I watched this part on the TV, however, I cringed. It totally ruined the atmosphere of what I’d originally imagined and to me, was a nails across a chalkboard moment that broke the magic . . . as do a minority of the characters.
But there you go. THAT’s why reading + imagination are often far superior to a screen production.
(For an in-depth review - see my latest article over at Amazing Stories).