'CAVEAT: Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.'
I'm...fairly certain that everyone is aware of my DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE for this book by now. But...if you're not, you will be. This might, possibly, be my most favorite book of all time. Ever. Unto infinity. It combines things that I like: intelligent, snarky comedy, angels and demons, and the apocalypse. Honestly, put angels and demons in pretty much anything, and I'm there. Do it well? Give them personalities and not just make them giant, boring forces of nature? And I will bear your children. So, y'know, I'm just saying. These two authors pretty much own me for having produced this book.
Now then. The book starts out, In the Beginning, which I have already recreated for you at the appropriate post. For those who don't want to go back and read that (shame on you and your house! Read it now!), basically, it's the Garden of Eden, shortly after the whole, 'Apple' Incident. Crawly, the demon who convinced Eve that fruit looked mighty yummy, and Aziraphale, the angel set to guard the Eastern Gate, are having a discussion. Each one wondering what they just did there, and Aziraphale, at least, feeling a bit guilty about having given Adam and Eve his flaming sword, for protection.
For further fall out from this, I direct you to this passage from later in the book. We are discussing Aziraphale's precious collection of 'odd' Bibles. This is a footnote:
'The Buggre Alle This Bible was also noteworthy for having twenty-seven verses in the third chapter of Genesis, instead of the more usual twenty-four.
They followed verse 24, which in the King James version reads:
"So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east gate of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," and read:
25. And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying 'Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?'
26. And the Angel said, 'I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next'
27. And the Lord did not ask him again.
It appears that these verses were inserted during the proof stage. In those days it was common practice for printers to hang proof sheets to the wooden beams outside their shops, for the edification of the populace and some free proofreading, and since the whole print run was subsequently burned anyway, no one bothered to take up this matter with the nice Mr. A. Ziraphale, who ran the bookshop two doors along and was always so helpful with the translations, and whose handwriting was instantly recognizable.'
Anyway. So, Aziraphale and Crawly (who changes his name to the more appropriate Anthony J. Crowley at the soonest opportunity) are left on earth after the whole Garden thing goes south, as their representative sides' agents on earth. They spend a good four, five thousand years kicking the crap out of one another, we presume, until they come to The Arrangement. Meaning, both of them realized that their time and energy could be better spent, that neither of their 'bosses' really cared who did the miracles/tempting (seeing as how Crowley is, actually, an angel who 'did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards', he can still do miracles), so long as it got done, and that they had more in common with one another, than with the beings who were on their 'side'. So they became friends.
The story picks up with the, well, the beginning of the end. Crowley is called to a meeting, in a graveyard, with two Dukes of Hell. He arrives, stylishly, in his 1926 Bentley, which he has had, mint perfect, since it came off the line, doesn't need petrol, ever, and somehow manages to turn all cassettes left in it to Queen within a fortnight. To his great dismay, he's handed the infant antichrist, and told to deliver him to his new family so they can get going with this whole apocalypse thing.
Crowley delivers, reluctantly, the infant to the hospital, and flees. After he leaves, the nun he handed the baby to (who happens to be an airhead), manages to give the antichrist, not to the American diplomat's family, but to Mr. and Mrs. Young, of Lower Tadfield, England. So, while all the forces of Hell are watching the diplomat child (who, painfully, gets named Warlock), the antichrist is being raised in the middle of nowhere, Britain.
Crowley, having done his job, turns to Aziraphale for ideas, since they've both gone native, and really would rather the apocalypse didn't happen, thank you very much. This is where the Drunken Conversation of Awesome happens.
The boys decide to try and counter the hellish education meant for little Warlock (who, you will recall, is actually a perfectly normal baby, and not the antichrist at all. Just badly named.), in the hopes that he will turn out normal, and not, y'know, Evil. Which they proceed to do, for eleven years.
At the antichrists eleventh birthday, he's supposed to get a pet Hellhound, which will find him and be the beginning of the end. Then all his powers start to kick in, and, well. Sky turning to blood, seas boiling, etc. All sorts of nastiness. Crowley and Aziraphale attend Warlock's party (Crowley comes as part of the catering staff, and Aziraphale attempts to be a magician. It doesn't go well, especially for the dove Aziraphale stuffed up his sleeve. But don't worry, Crowley miracles it back to life later.), to see if their plan did any good.
Only....no Hellhound. So Crowley 'phones home'.
'He opened the car door, flipped on the radio. "I-should-be-so-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky, I-should-be-so-lucky-in- HELLO CROWLEY."
"Hello. Um, who is this?"
"DAGON, LORD OF THE FLIES, MASTER OF MADNESS, UNDERDUKE OF THE SEVENTH TORMENT. WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?"
"The hell-hound. I'm just, uh, just checking that it got off okay."
"RELEASED TEN MINUTES AGO. WHY? HASN'T IT ARRIVED? IS SOMETHING WRONG?"
"Oh no. Nothing wrong. Everything's fine. Oops, I can see it now. Good dog. Nice dog. Everything's terrific. You're doing a great job down there, people. Well, lovely talking to you, Dagon. Catch you soon, huh?"'
But, of course, there is no Hellhound. Rather, the Hellhound has found the *actual* Antichrist, and, fitting itself to its masters unconscious desires, turned itself into an adorable, small, yappy mutt. This does, however, make Crowley and Aziraphale aware that they have, somehow, managed to mislay the antichrist. So they head off to the hospital where he was switched, to try and track where the real antichrist went.
A tip: Don't drive with Crowley.
'The car's engine coughed into life and the car leapt forward, forcing Aziraphale back into the seat.
"And then what?" he said.
"And then we find the child."
"And then what?" The angel shut his eyes as the car crabbed around a corner.
"I suppose - get off the road you clown - your people wouldn't consider - and the scooter you rode in on! - giving me asylum?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing - Watch out for that pedestrian!"
"It's on the street, it knows the risks it's taking!" said Crowley.'
'At least cars were better than horses. ... The only horses he could be seen riding on business, in the old days, were big black jobs with eyes like flame and hooves that struck sparks. That was de rigeur for a demon. Usually, Crowley fell off. He wasn't much good with animals.'
So they head off, back to the hospital which is in the countryside somewhere. And then...they get there. But things have changed.
'They got out of the car. Thirty seconds later, someone shot both of them. With incredible accuracy.
'Crowley sank down with his back against a statue. Aziraphale had already toppled backward into a rhododendron bush, a dark stain spreading across his coat.
Crowley felt dampness suffusing his own shirt.
This was ridiculous. The last thing he needed now was to be killed. It would require all sorts of explanations. They didn't hand out new bodies just like that; they always wanted to know what you'd done with the old one. It was like trying to get a new pen from a particularly bloody-minded stationary department.
He looked at his hand in disbelief.
Demons have to be able to see in the dark. And he could see that his hand was yellow. He was bleeding yellow.
Gingerly, he tasted a finger.
Then he crawled over to Aziraphale and checked the angel's shirt. If the stain on it was blood, something had gone very wrong with biology.
"Oh, that stung," moaned the fallen angel. "Got me right under the ribs."
"Yes, but do you normally bleed blue?" said Crowley.
Aziraphale's eyes opened. His right hand patted his chest. He sat up. He went through the same crude forensic self-examination as Crowley.
"Paint?" he said.
"What're they playing at?" said Aziraphale.
"I don't know," said Crowley, "but I think it's called silly buggers." His tone suggested that he could play, too. And do it better.'
At which point the boys find themselves in the midst of a team-building exercise for some corporation, and, because he's Crowley, he turns all their paintball guns into *real* guns.
'"That was a pretty low trick," said Aziraphale, as they strolled through the empty corridors.
"What'd I do? What'd I do?" said Crowley, pushing open doors at random.
"There are people out there shooting one another!"
"Well, that's just it, isn't it? They're doing it to themselves. It's what they really want to do. I just assisted them. Think of it as a microcosm of the universe. Free will for everyone. Ineffable, right?"
"Oh, all right," said Crowley wretchedly. "No one's actually going to get killed. They're all going to have miraculous escapes. It wouldn't be any fun otherwise."
Aziraphale relaxed. "You know, Crowley," he said, beaming, "I've always said that, deep down, you're really quite a-"
"All right, all right," Crowley snapped. "Tell the whole blessed world, why don't you?"'
They find the idiot-nun-turned-entrepreneur, and discover that they have no way to track down the antichrist. They are, emphatically, boned.
'"Doesn't bear thinking about it, does it," said Aziraphale, gloomily.
"All the higher life forms scythed away, just like that."
"Nothing but dust and fundamentalists."
"That was nasty."
"Sorry. Couldn't resist it."'
Crowley decides that the best course of action is to head home and get some sleep.
'"You don't need sleep. I don't need sleep. Evil never sleeps, and Virtue is ever-vigilant."
"Evil in general, maybe. This specific part of it has got into the habit of getting its head down occasionally."' (Crowley actually slept through the entire 14th century.)
Apocalyptic-y stuff goes on, yadda, (you need to read the book for these parts, people), and then we get back to Crowley, and his flat.
'In fact the only things in the flat Crowley devoted any personal attention to were the houseplants. They were huge and green and glorious, with shiny, healthy, lustrous leaves.
This was because, once a week, Crowley went around the flat with a green plastic plant mister, spraying the leaves, and talking to the plants.
He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.
What he did was put the fear of God into them.
More precisely, the fear of Crowley.
In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn't look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. "Say goodbye to your friend," he'd say to them. "He just couldn't cut it..."
Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.
The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.'
(Which scene led me to the following macro.)
MOAR APOCALYPSE STUFF! THE FOUR HORSE PERSONS OF THE APOCALYPSE! A HELLHOUND NAMED DOG! ATLANTIS RISING FROM THE SEA! TIBETANS DIGGING TUNNELS! A PROFESSIONAL DESCENDANT AND A WITCHFINDER! ANGEL RIDING A MOPED INSIDE A PAINTED JEZEBEL!
CROWLEY AND AZIRAPHALE BEING AWESOME LIKE NOBODIES' BUSINESS!
READ THIS BOOK!