Tonight, TBS is premiering a new show, Miracle Workers, based on Simon Rich’s novel, What In God’s Name?, a book about God deciding he doesn’t want to keep dealing with humans, so he’s going to destroy the Earth instead – leaving two angels, Craig and Eliza, the task of convincing God that humanity is worth saving. Since the novel wasn’t too long, I thought I’d give it a read before the show premiered on TV to see how good it was. I’m happy to report that it’s a genuinely entertaining read.
Welcome to Heaven, Inc., the grossly mismanaged corporation in the sky. For as long as anyone can remember, the founder and CEO (known in some circles as “God”) has been phoning it in. Lately, he’s been spending most of his time on the golf course. And when he does show up at work, it’s not to resolve wars or end famines, but to Google himself and read what humans have been blogging about him.
When God decides to retire (to pursue his lifelong dream of opening an Asian Fusion restaurant), he also decides to destroy Earth. His employees take the news in stride, except for Craig and Eliza, two underpaid angels in the lowly Department of Miracles. Unlike their boss, Craig and Eliza love their jobs – uncapping city fire hydrants on hot days, revealing lost keys in snow banks – and they refuse to accept that earth is going under.
The angels manage to strike a deal with their boss. He’ll call off his Armageddon, if they can solve their toughest miracle yet: getting the two most socially awkward humans on the planet to fall in love. With doomsday fast approaching, and the humans ignoring every chance for happiness thrown their way, Craig and Eliza must move heaven and earth to rescue them – and the rest of us, too.
I love comedies that are set in the afterlife. I love comedies that depict the afterlife as a mundane, bureaucratic system that doesn’t much care about humanity at all. It’s one of the main reasons I adore The Good Place and it’s a major reason why I enjoyed What In God’s Name? as much as I did. In this novel, God is depicted as a deity who… just doesn’t care anymore. It’s implied that he only created humans out of sheer boredom – as he only needed the Earth in order to mine some valuable mineral from its atmosphere – and he’s just gotten rather tired of running things and wants to trade running the Earth in for being the manager of an Asian Fusion restaurant. It’s one of those premises that’s delightfully kooky and only made kookier by the way the Earth can be saved. God makes a deal with Craig, an angel in the Miracles department, that if Craig can convince two specific humans to fall in love before the date the Earth is scheduled to be destroyed, God will call the whole thing off. From there, it’s a mad dash as Craig and Eliza, a colleague in the Miracles department – race against the clock to get these two humans to kiss. Naturally, the humans don’t make life easy for the Angels as both of them are highly anti-social and all around unappealing creatures. But, who said saving the Earth would be easy?
Most of the novel follows Craig as he, firstly, introduces Eliza to the Miracles department and shows her the ropes – allowing the audience a delightfully tantalizing glimpse into just how Heaven, Inc. runs – and then as he and Eliza work to save the Earth by making two humans fall in love. Craig and Eliza are brilliant characters; they work off of each other so well, each acting as a perfect foil to the other. Both of them are still idealistic about their work – a stark contrast to the attitude of indifference portrayed by most Angels, and God himself – and they both take immense pleasure in improving the lives of humans with their miracles, however small they might be. You completely buy the notion that Craig and Eliza would work this hard to save humanity because it’s made clear early on how much they love humanity and how much they love helping humanity. The two of them are the closest thing to our general picture of angels that this novel provides.
This novel is full of irreverent humor, mostly found in various facts about life in Heaven, Inc. I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, but they’re very good and Rich is able to build an entire world with Heaven Inc. that makes sense from a logical standpoint while also being completely and utterly bonkers in its detail. The actual narrative is a bit simple – two angels must make two humans fall in love – but the joy of the book comes from just how they have to accomplish that. From causing a train-workers strike, to giving people food poisoning, to breaking iPhones, these angels have to do everything in their power to get these two dumb humans together and it’s so much fun. Add to that the ridiculous events happening all around them at Heaven Inc. and you’ve got a book that’s delightfully funny and incredibly difficult to put down. I can easily see why this show would appeal to a TV network as a limited comedic series. The plot isn’t the interesting thing, it’s everything that surrounds it that’s delightful.
All in all, What In God’s Name? is a delightful read. It’s a quick and easy one – I was able to finish it in one sitting – but it’s superbly enjoyable, nonetheless. The characters are well-written and well-developed, the plot – while simplistic – is enjoyable and does leave you wanting to know what happens next, and – best of all – the worldbuilding is exceptional, filled with so much detail and so much humor. I really enjoyed this book, perhaps even more than I thought I would – and I expected to thoroughly enjoy it as it’s something squarely up my wheelhouse. I’m excited to see how TBS adapts the story and I really hope the series is good and does well because I feel like there are more stories that could be told in this world and with these characters and I’d love to see those stories.
4.5 out of 5 wands