5 Reasons Why You Should Read Discworld If You Love Good Omens

Is anyone at all surprised that a) I loved Good Omens and b) I'm going to use it as a launchpad for rambling about Discworld?

good omens

How about Good Omens then? If you haven’t already found a way to watch this riotous joy of a show, then I can only tell you to drop everything and get yourself into a chair. It’s only six episodes – doable in a day, and especially doable in a weekend. Get on that. You won’t regret it.

If you have watched the show and are wondering what you can do to extend the joy that comes with having seen Michael Sheen and David Tennant bumble their way through the apocalypse, then I am here with a solution. And, if you know me at all, you won’t be surprised that the answer is Discworld.

Terry Pratchett was half of the creative team behind the original novel, along with Neil Gaiman. When they wrote it in 1990, his Discworld series was already up and running, with eight books to its name, and it is easy to see how the works influenced each other. With that in mind, here are five reasons that you should dip into the Discworld if you loved Good Omens.


1. Witches to die for

She doesn’t get much screen time in the show, but she’s one of the most important characters. I’m talking of course about Agnes Nutter, witch, who writes the book of Nice and Accurate Prophecies. Her descendant, Anathema Device (an occultist, NOT a witch) uses that book to actually help with the saving of the world whilst our main characters are up to their useless shenanigans.

Pratchett knew how to do witches, and neither Agnes nor Anathema would be out of place in any of Pratchett’s witch novels. If you liked Agnes Nutter and her no-nonsense attitude, then you will love Granny Weatherwax, who would only wish she had thought of it first if she saw Agnes blowing up a village of witch-burners.


2. Kick ass kids

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things about the show was the Them – Antichrist Adam and his gang of friends who essentially decided that they didn’t fancy the world ending just because a bunch of adults made a mess of everything. They resonate with the young people out there right now marching for climate change, because they’re the ones who know what must be done.

In Discworld, there’s another kid like them. Tiffany Aching is a witch-in-training, who we first meet attacking a monster with a frying pan, and it only goes uphill from there. Tiffany has that same innate sense of right and wrong as Adam and his friends, and the absolute will to fix the world and make the people in it better. She wouldn’t have been out of place in the little gang of Good Omens, but in Discworld we get to watch her grow up over the course of half a dozen books, and she is exactly brilliant as you’d hope she would be.


3. Subverting tropes

One of the joys of Good Omens is that it plays with tropes that we usually see in such epic fantasy adventures. My favourite, as I’ve already hinted, is that the main characters of Aziraphale and Crowley actually don’t have much to do with the saving of the world, in the end. If you took them out of the story, it probably wouldn’t have changed the ending that much.

Playing with tropes is something that both Pratchett and Gaiman have built their careers on, but in Discworld, Pratchett really had some fun with reader expectations. On a character level you have someone like Samuel Vimes, grizzly cop on the beat, who becomes less jaded as he goes along, rather than more. On the more general level, you have the city of Ankh-Morpork which is run on the assumption that the Patrician, Vetinari, is a benevolent tyrant, who actually makes the city a better place rather than a bad one. If you’ve ever found yourself tired of the way that stories are supposed to go, then you should check out Discworld.


4. Death

The Death of Good Omens is just doing his job, in the same way that the other horsemen are. We might not like it, but they are just following orders. Death is neither good or bad, although there is an argument to be made that he’s on the darker side here.

In Discworld, there is an anthropomorphic manifestation of Death too, but he’s altogether softer and less single minded than the one of Good Omens, especially as he learns and grows from interacting with humans. He makes an appearance in every single Discworld novel, even if only for a sentence or two, but he also has whole stories of his own. He’s one of the most beloved characters in the series for a reason. If you like your Grim Reaper to be a wisecracking yet thoughtful kind of guy, then you should check out his stories. He’s arguably Pratchett’s greatest creation.


5. No flinching from big ideas

Good Omens is about heaven and hell. The narrator is God, and by the end we have met most of her archangels, as well as Satan and his host of demons. The point of Good Omens is that neither of those things is wholly good, or wholly bad, and the trick comes in being human instead, and having a bit of the good and the bad inside you. What I’m saying is, Pratchett and Gaiman don’t flinch away from addressing ‘big ideas’, and putting their own spin on them.

In Discworld, there is more of the same. Pratchett covers literally everything at one point or another; organised religion, faith, belief, racism, sexism, transphobia and xenophobia are just a few of the subjects that the Discworld explores, often many years before any of them were really being discussed. He does it all in his gentle yet steely style and, most importantly, he never, ever, punches down.

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