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Usually I make a note when I happen to know the author (or in this case, one of the authors). It doesn't normally affect my review much, but in this case -- I last read this book before Terry went public about The Embuggerance. That's coloured my recent re-read, putting an edge on the humour that wasn't there last time round. Nevertheless...

This is one of the funniest books I've ever read, and yes, that includes Terry's other output. The Bible is true on a literal level, the Antichrist has just been born and Armageddon is coming, and a somewhat shopsoiled angel and demon would really rather it didn't, thank you very much. Aziraphale and Crowley have spent the last six thousand years doing their jobs on Earth, after that unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, and in the manner of undercover agents everywhere, have discovered that they have more in common with each other than their masters. They like humans, and they like the human lifestyle. They don't at all like the idea of returning whence they came. And so they decide to do something about it.

All of which was predicted by Agnes Nutter, Witch, who left a set of prophecies for her descendents. Very, very accurate prophecies written by someone who saw things but didn't necessarily understand what she was seeing. Her present day descendent knows that Armageddon is coming, and sets out to do something about the Antichrist.

Who just happens to be a perfectly normal English boy with a gang, and a dog. The dog is from hell, but the gang isn't, in spite of the collective opinion of the adults of the village. One too many swaps in the nursing home left the Antichrist as a cuckoo in the nest of a completely normal middle class family instead of the American diplomat's, and completely untended by satanic nursemaids to guide him in the wrong path. And thus the stage is set for a satire that mercilessly dissects all manner of things about modern life, and has enormous fun along the way.

Very much recommended.

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58) Jonathan Swift -- Gulliver's Travels

Or to give it its full and proper title, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. Like many children, I had an abridged version with just the Lilliput section (probably bowdlerised), and I'd also read excerpts from the other sections. I have very fond memories, and since the complete text is available on public domain ebook sites, I decided that it was time to read the whole thing from start to finish.

I don't have the background in history to know exactly who and what Swift was lampooning without having to look it up on Wikipedia, but it doesn't matter. His biting satire is just as relevant to today's politics, even if the exact targets have changed. There are places where the modern reader will probably cringe at Swift's own prejudices, but by and large this is a hilarious take-down of bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy that rings just as true now as it must have in 1726. The parody of the traveller's tales books popular at the time isn't quite as accessible, but it doesn't require very much effort to draw a parallel with modern writing. I found the fourth section dragged a bit, but that's partly because Swift had quite thoroughly made his point by then, and was repeating himself to some extent. But this book is a classic for good reason.

LibraryThing entry
Free public domain ebook at Feedbooks

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