Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Release Spotlight: Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips

It’s a tough thing, to pull off something as silly as the down-on-their-luck gods of Olympus bickering and shagging in a fraternity-like house in present-day London, as slapstick as Aphrodite working as a phone-sex operator and Artemis as a dog walker. Even if it hasn’t been done before, it feels like it has—surely that was a Saturday Night Live or Monty Python sketch, right? But in her first novel, based on those details, Marie Phillips has created a satisfying popcorn read, one that’s more fun-smart than fun-foolish.

Driven from their lives of splendor, fortune, and power because no one believes in them anymore, the Greek gods are strapped with mortal concerns—rent, housecleaning, unglamorous jobs—and new godly ones, such as, every time they use their powers, their strength diminishes with no chance of replenishment. But since they are still gods, they’re relatively immortal, so living forever in that kind of life equals torturous boredom.

One of the opening scenes, in which Apollo and Aphrodite are having sex in the bathroom—while discussing redecorating and Ares, who’s demanding to come in to shave before work—is perfect in detailing the boredom everyone feels, the routines they’ve ground themselves into. In fact, that’s the main reason this book succeeds as something more: Phillips doesn’t just leave the characters at one level. Artemis meets with a real estate agent and tries to find the good in the tenement he shows her; she also dreams of death and what that would be like for a god. Alice, the mortal and mousy cleaner who winds up keeping house for the gods, forgets for a little bit her favorite hobby, Scrabble, and her crush, Neil, to fall for Apollo’s seduction.

Considering the end of the book is full of big action, including the changing of the beliefs of the entire human race, everything falls into place unbelievably quickly. But if what started as a good comedy turns into wild action, well, that’s okay—it may be popcorn, but it’s still gourmet popcorn.

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN-13: 978-0-316-06762
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub date: December 2007
Hardcover: $23.99

No comments:

Post a Comment