Monday, March 31, 2014

Gods Behaving Badly: A Review

Gods Behaving Badly
Written by: Marie Phillips
Paperback: 293 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Language: English
December 2007
Genre: Fiction

Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse--and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ.

Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees--a favorite pastime of Apollo's--is sapping their vital reserves of strength.

Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?


I have always been fond of Greek and Roman mythology. When I was a kid my dad would cuddle up with me on a blanket in our backyard and point out the various constellations. And then we read who Andromeda and Orion were. My obsession with mythology continued with Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans starring Mr. Harry Hamlin. I decorated my room with sheer curtains around my bed just like Andromeda and began carrying around a stuffed owl I affectionately called Bubo.

One of the things I have always loved about mythology is the idea of the old gods living in modern day. Technology has given way to new gods and there are those long forgotten but by a few and thus have no power anymore. Belief = power and it is no fun if no one believes you in anymore. Not really in any case.

This is how Gods Behaving Badly begins. Artemis, the Virgin Huntress, is now a dog walker and bumps into one of her brother Apollo’s many failed conquests, whom he has turned into a tree because she spurned his advances. Its Daphne all over again and Artemis is tired of it. Tired of it all really. See, no one believes in the Gods anymore and now they live in a shambling house with peeling wallpaper. It’s quite the fall from Olympus.

Aphrodite is a phone sex worker with “Venus” by Bananarama as her ringtone. Dionysus runs a nightclub, Apollo plays at being a psychic on TV, and Eros has become a born again Christian. Their powers are mostly gone, but hard times and few followers have not made the gods humble…especially not Apollo. After being slighted by Apollo or perhaps just because she is bored, Aphrodite schemes to get even with him using her son Eros to shoot an arrow of love at Apollo and then another at his new love so that she will hate him. But things don’t go exactly as the Goddess of Love would have liked as her son cannot shoot Alice, his new object of desire and figures he will give Apollo a good fighting chance.

Alice is just a simple custodian and after being fired from her job at the studio where she first meets Apollo, whose love is completely foreign to her (after all she is far more interested in Scrabble and her friend Neil), she somehow ends up becoming the new housecleaner for the Greek Gods Household. It is not a decision her would be boyfriend Neil is too keen about. Eventually Apollo is spurned yet again and though he no longer has the ability to curse the mortal women who refuse to fawn over him, he does have a fairly powerful dad named Zeus. Wacky sitcom like craziness ensues with a trip to the Underworld, having the Sun go out of existence, and learning that sometimes being a hero doesn’t mean you have to look like Hercules.

Things I loved: As sitcom/reality show like as the whole book is, the behavior between the household full of Greek Gods rings pretty true when compared to the mythology. There is infighting, rampant affairs, destruction of the poor mortals, and plenty of backstabbing. This is about the Greek Gods after all which makes the Kardashians seem almost angelic. Even as fall as they have fallen, the gods still do not understand why they have to play by the rules and still believe that they are far better than the average human even if they are a glorified dog walker (though to be honest Artemis is far from the worst and actually feels bad for mortals most of the time). The jobs and personas that they have in modern day still rings true just like I was happy to see Nathan Fillion as a Fedex like Monarch as Hermes in the latest Percy Jackson film. You roll with the times. Xena also handled this fairly well whenever they did modern day episodes.

The romance between Alice and Neil is sweet. They are two awkward people who fall in love and it is beautifully understated. They are probably the only sympathetic characters in the entire novel.

Things I didn’t love so much: The story is constructed as a whole as if this were Fiction 101 and the author’s first stab at writing a novel and it glaringly shows at times. The characters lacked any real depth, it tried a little too hard to be funny and clever, and oh yeah there is that giant plot hole of the Sun goes out (though we are talking about the Greek Gods still being around, so perhaps I am just nitpicking). As a whole this is American Gods lite, chick lit beach book style that perhaps lovers of the Kardashians would enjoy. For me it had a great concept that fell flat which is unfortunate because there are some great glimmers of something that could have been great.

I also had a hard time that Alice didn’t know any of the Greek Gods. Really? In a world full of Clash of the Titans remakes, Xena and Hercules, and well even Disney’s Hercules you would think people would know names such as Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite. Come on people. Even if she thought that they were all a bunch of nutters (which I totally get) you must have some precursory knowledge here. Things you gleaned from the interwebs. It just takes me out of the story which is unfortunate.

I also hated Athena’s portrayal . Sorry gang, she’s my favorite (See Bubo reference as Bubo was hers). Suddenly the goddess of Wisdom is a bookish nerd (complete with glasses) who cannot get her ideas, thoughts, or possibly even feelings across because she is doomed to know the answers, but not be able to communicate it. Instead she speaks like she found every big word in the dictionary. I just hated seeing her become such a one dimensional cookie cutter (though everyone else was, but she was absurdly so). Yes she knows the plot and we cannot have her sharing it with everyone, so she becomes a gibberish filled Cassandra. Le sigh.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I like the idea, but in the end poorly executed. Just not my cup of tea, want less fluff.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: For more Greek mythology try Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Til We Have Faces by CS Lewis, Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton, or Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B Cooney

2 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

No comments: