[By mutual agreement, until recently the ordering of the authors’ names differed according to the place of publication, Gaiman’s first in North America, Pratchett’s in the UK and elsewhere. Those marked with an asterisk have Neil Gaiman’s name first.]
There are two main versions of the text: the Gollancz and the American/Corgi. After the Gollancz edition was set, revisions were made to the text for the Workman edition to make some of the references and humour comprehensible to the American reader and, in TP’s words, ‘here and there we just sharpened things up a little’. The latter version was also used, with a few further minor changes, for the Corgi edition. The German translation uses the Gollancz version, the other overseas publishers use the American/Corgi one.
UK hbk: Gollancz (jacket illus. Chris Moore), 17,700 copies on 10 May 1990 (0-575-04800-X)
Book proof: exists, but no knowledge of quantity, ? less than 100 copies.
46 pp. Sampler. No firm information as to quantity produced but probably about 300-400 copies
New edition with additional material: Gollancz, 2009 (978-0-575-08048-5) This uses Gollancz’s original text, with the additional material.
New edition containing the Corgi text, the first time Gollancz have made use of this, with wood engraving on cover by Joe McLaren. 13 March 2014 (978-1-4732-0085-2)
*Alternative binding, cover design and illustrations by Patrick Insole, with Neil Gaiman’s name preceding TP’s on cover, title and copyright pages, 29 October 2015 (978-1-473-21471-2) Fans were invited to choose their preferred design from one of three. Voting opened online on 23 July and closed on 3 August 2015.
The Illustrated Good Omens, illustrated by Paul Kidby, standard edition, with black cover: Gollancz, 23 May 2019 (978-1-473-22783-5)
Ltd edition, signed by the artist, numbered and slipcased, with white cover: Gollancz, 1,500 copies on 23 May 2019 (978-1-473-22782-8)
Special editions: Dunmanifestin, Occult (1,655 copies on 1 July 2019), Ineffable (666 copies, on 4 July 2019) and Celestial (24 copies, publication date to be confirmed)
Pbk: Corgi (cover illus. Graham Ward), 169,000 copies on 23 May 1991 (0-552-13703-0)
The first printing had Pratchett’s name first on the cover, and Gaiman’s second, but the reverse order on the title page. The title page was corrected in subsequent printings. The cover design was changed in 2006 and on other occasions. The 43rd reprint was put on sale on 11 March 2019.
Black/gold B format: Corgi, 2011 (978-0-552-15984-5)
A special printing of 25,000 copies with this ISBN was issued for World Book Night, given out on 23 April 2012 by volunteers across the UK, with details about Book Night, the authors, their books, and an unique identifying number.
Reissue (with red circular ‘label’ on front cover, with white lettering ‘AS HEARD ON RADIO 4’): Corgi, 11 December 2014 (978-0-552-17189-2)
Reissue, with new cover and ‘NOW A PRIME ORIGINAL AND BBC SERIES’: Corgi, 1 May 2019 (978-0-552-17645-3)
Special Waterstones edition with different cover: Corgi, 1 May 2019 (978-0-552-17672-9)
Book club: [BCA] Guild Publishing, c. 1991, 12,000 copies (CN 6407)
Fantasy & SF Book Club: 25th Birthday Library Collection, with new intro. by authors, 2003 (CN 114844)
*USA hbk: 1) Workman (jacket illus. David Frampton, design Charles Kreloff), September 1990 (0-89480-853-2)
*Book proofs: Type 1. xii, 324pp. 21.0 x 14.7 cm. in red paper covers. Contains the unrevised Gollancz text.
Type 2. xvi, 354pp., 23.0 x 15.3 cm. with red card covers, specially printed dustjacket. Contains the Gollancz text with the revisions for the American market.
Keepsake hardcover: HarperCollins/Morrow, March 2006 (0-06-085396-4)
This edition has two different covers, TP’s name being first on one and second on the other.
*US book club: Science Fiction Book Club Selection, November 1990 (jacket illustration as hbk), ?October 1990 (17631)
Hbk 2): William Morrow, 1 January 2006 (0-06-085396-4)
Available in two different jackets, black on white, with Crowley illustrated on the front cover and Gaiman’s name first on it, and white on black, with Aziraphale and Pratchett’s name first, with, at the foot of the front cover of the former, in red, ‘THE NICE AND ACCURATE PROPH” and of the latter “ECIES OF AGNES NUTTER WITCH”. The images appear in reverse order on the end-papers. Added to this edition is a Foreword, and at the end, ‘Good Omens, the Facts’ and two essays, one by each author, about the other.
*US book club: SFBC 50th Anniversary Collection, no.30, March 2006 (978-0-7394-7414-3; 1206514) although the printed information in the book gives the publication date as September 2006.
*Pbk Trade: Berkley, March 1992 (0-425-13215-3)
*Mass-market pbk: Ace, May 1996 (0-441-00325-7)
*Reissue: Ace, 2001 (0-441-00861-5)
HarperTorch, 28 November 2006 (0-06-085398-0) Issued in similar double-version covers to the Morrow hardcover edition, but with the complete subtitle at the foot of each version of the cover, and they have the same contents as the Morrow edition.
B-format pbk: Harper 2007 (978-0-06-085397-6) two versions, as before.
*USA talking book: recorded by the American Printing House. Performed by Martin Jarvis, Harperaudio, 2009 (978-0-06-173581-3). Released by Audible.com on 20 December 2018 (ASIN B07L9F6877), when it goes to no.11 in the New York Times Audio Fiction bestseller list (December 2018)
Bahasa Indonesian: Good Omens / Pertanda-Pertanda Baik, trs. Lulu Wijaya, Penerbit PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, April 2010 (978-979-22-5622-2)
*Brazilian: Belas Maldições, trs. Fábio Fernandes, Bertrand Brasil, 1998 (85-286-0662-7) [licence signed in 1991 ? earlier edition?]
Bulgarian: Добри Поличби, trs. Svetlana Komogorova, Prozoretz, using the Kirby illustration for Wyrd Sisters, 2002 (954-733-130-2)
Chinese (Taiwan) (complex): 1) Muses, June 2008 (987-986-6665-04-2) (with transparent stickers) The cover has NG’s name first, the title TP’s
*2) (new translation): Ecus, December 2017 (978-986-359-408-6)
Chinese (mainland)(simplified): 1) Science Fiction World, not yet seen
2) Dook Books, October 2018 (978-7-5594-1836-4)
Croatian: 1) Dobri Presdznaci, trs. Marko Fančović, in Monolith 003, Zagrebacka Naklada, 2000 (953-6234-65-3), pp. 10-236.
2) Pirated by Stilos Izdavastvo.[not seen]
3) Dobri Presdznaci, trs. Marko Fančović, Zagrebačka Naklada 2010 (978-953-252-084-2)
Czech: Dobrá Znamení, trs. Jan Kantůrek, Talpress, 3000 copies in September 1997 (80-7197-099-9)
Dutch: Hoge Omens, trs. Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), 4,000 copies in 1994, Het Spectrum, (90-274-2907-3)
*New edition: Mynx, 2010 (978-90-225-5501-9) For some reason the names have been reversed on this edition, so that Gaiman’s appears first.
Estonian: Head ended, trs. Tiina Randus, Tänapäev, 2001 (998-5620-29-1) (published and reprinted, but copies never sent by publishers in spite of repeated requests)
Finnish: Hyviä Enteitä, trs. Marja Sinkkonen, Kustannus Oy Jalava, July 1992 (951-8954-84-4)
French: 1) De Bons Présages, trs. Patrick Marcel ‘From the American’, cover illus. Rowena Morrill, J’ai Lu, 16 February 1995 or 15 March 1995 (2-277-23892-9)
New cover, by Eikasia, J’ai lu, 20 July 2010 (978-2-290-315586-6)
2) cover design: rampazzo.com, Image/Rétrospective, Au Diable Vauvert, 1 February 2002 (92-84626-021-4)
New issue: Cover Studio J’ai Lu, Editions J’ai Lu, 11 May 2014 (978-2-290-08840-1)
German: Ein Gutes Omen, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Rogner & Bernhard, January 1991 (3-8077-0247-4)
Pbk: Heyne, 1 April 1997 (06/5894 and 3-453-12677-7)
Reissue: Piper, May 2005 (3-492-28505-8)
Complete edition: Piper, 2 May 2018 (978-3-492-28166-9)
*Hebrew: ששודות טושות Opus Press, 1993 (348-251, and the US ISBN)
Hungarian: 1) Elveszett próféciák, trs. Norbert Horváth, Beneficium, 1999 (978-963-859-145-6) [Expected in April 1999, but never published, as far as we know. Publisher no longer exists]
Indonesian: see Bahasa Indonesian
Italian: Buona Apocalisse a tutti!, trs. Luca Fusari, Strade blu/Mondadori, 29 May 2007 (978-88-04-54462-3)
Pbk: Piccola Biblioteca/Oscar Mondadori, 12 June 2012 (978-88-04-57991-5)
Japanese: [Guddo Omenzu], trs. Mizhhito Kanehara and Fumiko Ishida, Kadokawa Shoten, 2 vols, 5,000 copies on 31 May 2007 (978-4-04-791541-1 and 542-8)
Korean: Sigong-sa 2003. Publisher said sent copies, but none received. Out of print
New printing Sigongsa, 2015 (978-89-527-3378-8)
Latvian: Labas Zīmes (by Nīls Geimens and Terijs Prečets), trs. Vanda Romaševiča, Zvaigzne 2,000 copies on 5 March 2014 (978-9934-0-3877-8)
Lithuanian: Gera Lemiantys Ženklai, trs. Adas Macevičius and Elena Macevičiūtė, Bonus Animus, 2016 (978-9955-754-45-9)
Polish 1): Dobry Omen, trs. Jacek Gałązka and Juliusz Garztecki, CIA Books-SVARO, 1992 (83-85100-63-6). Before going bankrupt CIA had also acquired the licence to publish Eric and for that reason this edition contains an 8pp. extract from that book at the end.
2). trs. Juliusz Wilczur Garztecki and Jacek Gałązka, Prószyński i S-ka, 7,800 copies on 27 February 1997 (83-7180-097-5)
pbk: Prószyński i S-ka, April 2004 (83-7255-785-3)
Reissue Prószyński i S-ka, (83-7469-272-3; 978-83-7469-272-4)
*Portuguese: Bons Augürios, trs. Carlos Grifo Babo, Editorial Presença, no.25 in their Via Láctea series, November 2004 (972-23-3280-5)
Romanian: 1) Tritonic (contract 2006) published but not seen
Russian: Благие Знамения, trs. Margarita Yurkan, Eksmo 2014 (978-5-699-59223-4) (earlier editions not seen by me)
Serbian: Dobra predskazanja, trs. Dejan Papić, Laguna, 1,000 copies in 2001 (86-7436-017-3)
Slovenian: Dobra znamenja, trs. Boštjan Gorenc, Javna, 500 copies hbk, and 1500 copies pbk, 4 December 2010 (978-961-6767-80-4 hbk; -86-6 pbk)
Spanish: 1) Norma (published 1999, but not yet seen)
Norma, 2 May 2005 (978-8-479-04877-8)
2) Buenos Presagios, trs. María Ferrer, TimunMas/Scyla, 2009 (978-84-480-4025-3)
Massmarket format: Timun Mas, 8 November 2012 (978-84-480-0698-3)
Swedish: Goda Omen, trs. Peter Lindforss, Wahlström (jacket illus: Graham Ward), 5,000 copies on 5 September 2000 (91-32-32539-8)
Turkish: Bir Kiyamet Komedisi, trs. Hande Przylinski, Salyangoz Yayinlari, August 2007 (978-975-6277-88-1)
A stonking good read. Lenny Henry
The Apocalypse has never been funnier…. Mr Gaiman and Mr Pratchett are to be congratulated: their partnership has produced a riotous romp through Revelations, brimming with blissful daftness and wry one-liners. Clive Barker
Good Omens is an utter delight – fresh, exciting, uproariously funny, and yet with an underlying seriousness that makes it not farce but high comedy. Poul Anderson
A superbly funny book. Pratchett and Gaiman are the most hilariously sinister team since Jekyll and Hyde. If this is Armageddon, count me in. James Herbert
A badass delight… and one Hell of a funny book. Gene Wolfe
A gay, demented eschatological farce… dripping with silly allusions, throwaway footnotes, and broad swipes at the decline of the West. Hilariously naughty…. a best-seller in England and a book to watch here. Kirkus Reviews
It’s a wow. It leaves room in both the plot and the reader’s reactions for the characters to move around in and do unexpected but very human things.
It would make one hell of a movie.
Or a heavenly one. Take your pick.
That’s what the characters have to do. Washington Post
One of the funniest books to come along in a good while…. a comedic masterpiece. If you enjoy a good, irreverent laugh, don’t pass it up. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (USA)
Offbeat and engaging…. Very irreverent and also very, very funny…. angelic wit and heavenly nonsense. North Shore Magazine
A bit of full-bore contemporary lunacy….a steamroller of silliness that made me giggle out loud. This is not, repeat not, recommended for use at your desk at your day job. San Diego Tribune
Irreverently funny and unexpectedly wise, this collaboration fuses fantasy and comedy into an untrammelled romp through the latter days. Highly recommended. Library Journal
Wickedly funny…. The theological debates top even Life of Brian. Good Omens is heaven to read and you’ll laugh like hell. Time Out
Hilarious Pratchett magic tempered by Neil Gaiman’s dark steely style; who could ask for a better combination? Fear
Not quite as sinister as the authors’ photo. The Times
Good Omens is frequently hilarious, littered with funny footnotes and eccentric characters. It’s also humane, intelligent, suspenseful, and fully equipped with a chorus of ‘Tibetans, Aliens, Americans, Atlanteans and other rare and strange creatures of the Last Days.’ If the end is near, Pratchett and Gaiman will take us there in style. Locus
This collaboration works very well, the humour of both authors meshes perfectly. The quirky asides that are typically Pratchett are there (the ones as footnotes work best being less intrusive) and there are marvellous snapshot images scattered through out (Gaiman’s comic-based influence perhaps) but otherwise it is impossible to identify particular creations with either author. They should do it again. Pauline Morgan
Next year, Good Omens turns 30. In those three decades, it has sold millions of copies around the world and been adapted for radio. Terry Gilliam once attempted to make a film of it and it is (probably) going to be a huge TV series later this year. Its authors, meanwhile, have both individually sold several million more books and had entire industries set up around them. But in the notes in the back of my copy of Good Omens, both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett insist that writing the book “wasn’t a big deal”. The thing they say we should remember is that “in those days Neil Gaiman was barely Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was only just Terry Pratchett”.
That’s not quite how I remember it. When I got hold of Good Omens, aged 14, I’d read just about everything Pratchett had published up to that point. The idea that he’d teamed up with a gothy longhair to write about the end of the world seemed about as big as book news got. By the time I realised the book existed in 1991, a year after it first came out, it was definitely a “big deal”. Unusually for a so-called fantasy book, it had received favourable reviews in the UK press (alongside the notice in The Times that generated the memorable cover quote, “not quite as sinister as the authors’ photo”) – and it was selling in huge quantities.
It had also launched in the US with considerable fanfare, and even more confusion. Publishers Weekly used the damning descriptor “zany”, while Joe Queenan in the New York Times seemed furious to be dealing with such an import. He first described the book as a cure for “the recurring disease of Anglophilia” – and then really put the boot in:
“Good Omens is a direct descendant of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a vastly overpraised book or radio programme or industry or something that became quite popular in Britain a decade ago when it became apparent that Margaret Thatcher would be in office for some time and that laughs were going to be hard to come by.”
I quote at length in humble appreciation of just how wrong we critics can be. It got worse for Queenan, who complained about “an infuriating running gag about Queen, a vaudevillian rock group whose hits are buried far in the past and should have been buried sooner”. Ah yes, Queen. Who recalls them now?
But I shouldn’t mock. It’s actually quite a witty review – and time embarrasses every critic sooner or later. My sympathy has limits, however. It’s hard to feel anything but chagrin when Queenan writes: “Obviously, it would be difficult to write a 354-page satirical novel without getting off a few good lines. I counted four.”
Oh really? Here’s four from the first four chapters:
“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.”
“Even a casual observer could have seen that these [model aeroplanes] were made by someone who was both painstaking and very careful, and also no good at making model aeroplanes.”
“Milton Keynes is a new city approximately halfway between London and Birmingham. It was built to be modern, efficient, healthy, and, all in all, a pleasant place to live. Many Britons find this amusing.”
“There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of manmade evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf. These dogs advance deliberately, purposefully, the wilderness made flesh, their teeth yellow, their breath astink, while in the distance their owners witter, ‘He’s an old soppy really, just poke him if he’s a nuisance,’ and in the green of their eyes the red campfires of the Pleistocene gleam and flicker.”
There are plenty more where those came from, as well as some fine running gags, quick (but wonderful) jokes about Welsh TV and several long and beautiful set-ups that only work within the context of the book. I almost pulled a muscle when I got to the end of the long sequence ending “I’ll call him dog” – but you have to be there. And I hope you do get there, because this is a funny book, no matter what Queenan says. Here’s a fifth “good line”:
“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.”
That isn’t just amusing – it is quietly profound. Which is the other big deal about Good Omens. Perhaps people bought it for the jokes, but my suspicion is that the novel’s gentle humanism and determined irreverence resonate with readers just as much as the one-liners. Pratchett and Gaiman are both capable of good writing – but more on that next week. For now, please feel free to continue to prove poor old Queenan wrong by posting more of your favourite lines from the book. I don’t think there’ll be any shortage. Sam Jordison, The Guardian, 15 January 2019
Is Good Omens one of the best collaborative novels ever written?
Novelists rarely collaborate successfully, but the stars aligned when Terry Pratchett rang Neil Gaiman back to discuss the idea of Just William as the Antichrist
Is it hyperbole to call Good Omens one of the most successful collaborative novels of all time? Certainly, it’s a success: it’s clever, funny and has stayed in print – and stayed relevant – for almost three decades. More than that, it is deeply beloved. When we chose it for the reading group this month, I knew the book mattered to a huge number of people (myself included) – but all this happy month we’ve had huge numbers of people visiting for the first time, to share their love for the book.
It’s hard to think of any other collaborative novels that have been so successful. There’s George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody, which gave us the concept of “Pooterism” and has been haunting the aspirational middle classes since 1892. More recently, you could argue for The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, which has come to define an entire genre (steampunk) and won great praise and awards, as well as legions of fans. There’s also Rama II, which Arthur C Clarke wrote with Gentry Lee; it is good, but not quite as good as Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.
Otherwise, I’m struggling. If you want to be cheeky, you could include the Bible, which has also sold quite a few copies and had some influence. If you want to stretch the definition of collaboration you could also consider the work of hands-on editors: Gordon Lish and Raymond Carver, or Max Perkins with Thomas Wolfe and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Most collaborations have not been career highlights. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the (relatively) recent release of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs – but no one is going to remember that instead of On the Road or Naked Lunch. Meanwhile, did you even know that Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford joined their considerable forces together to try to write a science fiction novel? The resultant book – The Inheritors – is enjoyable, but it isn’t exactly Heart of Darkness or The Good Soldier. Nor did it score with readers; like And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and so many other collaborations, it was conceived primarily as a money-making scheme. When Ford and Conrad started plotting together at the turn of the 20th century, both were facing numerous financial embarrassments; Conrad was even contemplating taking up his old life as a sailor. Their idea was that they’d cash in on the success of writers such as HG Wells by producing a scientific romance certain to set tills ringing. The public rewarded their cynicism by condemning the book to the obscurity it has lived in ever since.
The contrast with Good Omens is obvious. While both Pratchett and Gaiman’s humour is often sarcastic, the book is anything but cynical. It’s warm and human, full of rage and righteous indignation, as well as delight in well-told jokes and well-placed silliness. “We didn’t do it for the money,” Pratchett once said. “It was done by two guys who didn’t have anything to lose by having fun.” (Although he also enjoyed noting: “But, as it turned out, we got a lot of money.”)
The story of Gaiman and Pratchett’s collaboration has been told often, partly because it was such so unusually successful. From the very beginning they realised, as Gaiman once told Michael Chabon (in an interview that is worth enjoying in full) that the “Venn diagrams” of their minds overlapped. They shared “headspace”. And so when Gaiman sent Pratchett the first 25 pages of a book he’d written about Just William as the Antichrist, Pratchett called him to say: “Tell you what, either sell me the idea and that opening, or we can write it together because I want to find out what happens next.”
“And,” Gaiman continues, “I said, we are going to write it together, because I am not stupid … It was like Michelangelo phoning and asking if you want to paint a ceiling together.”
Pratchett, meanwhile, had the patience to work around both Gaiman’s busy schedule writing The Sandman comic series, as well as his younger friend’s nocturnal nature, even if the answerphone messages he left him most mornings generally began: “Get up, you bastard.” They shared plot ideas over the phone and sent each other floppy discs in the post, competing to get to the best scenes first, footnoting each other’s copy and swapping characters and rewrites until neither was sure who wrote what and where the jokes came from.
And so here we are. When she wrote about Good Omens in 2015, Justine Jordan said: “In retrospect, it seems amazing that two such singular and prolific creative energies could share the writing of a novel: an extraordinary congruence of hard work, good timing and readerly luck.” If it weren’t for the novel’s subject matter, I’d be tempted to call it a miracle.
Sam Jordison, The Guardian, 29 January 2019
The TV series Amazon Prime/BBC TV
Released 31 May 2019
The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion
with contributions by Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins
UK hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-5829-6)
US hbk: William Morrow, 21 May 2019 (978-0-06-289835-7)
The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book
UK hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6125-0)
Waterstones special, with an extra deleted scene (10 pages) and signed by NG: 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6523-4), unsigned copies with -6125-0 ISBN on the jacket, but including the extra 10 pages, also exist
Ltd edition, white cloth boards, extra deleted material, 1,000 signed copies: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6522-7)
Pbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6126-7)
Draft/ proof? almost black cover with the same design as the limited edition, lettering reversed out in white and the word DRAFT over bottom right corner: Headline, 2019 (978-1-4722-6126-7)
US hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6125-0)
Pbk: William Morrow Paperbacks, 11 June 2019 (978-0-06-289690-2)
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