Thursday 13 December 2007

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Published by Random House Canada

Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares. These are names we all know to as belonging to Greek deities. When brought to mind, these names invoke images of toga wearing beings, relaxing in a stunning temple, grapes and wine all around them as they use their powers to guide the world. Marie Phillips takes these characters and brings them kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.

Imagine if you will, a house in London. The exterior of the house in serious disrepair and in danger of falling down within a decade or less while the interior is such that it would make even the most filthy hovel seem like a show home. The occupants of this house are none other than the various Greek Gods and Goddesses who have been residing here since the seventeenth century, seemingly forgotten by the world.

Shadows of their former selves, these deities have very little power left and no idea how to fix the problem. In order to survive, they have taken on jobs usually reserved for mere mortals. Apollo for example is an overly dramatic TV psychic in addition to his usual duties as the God of the Sun. Artemis, in addition to taking care of Hunting and the Moon, spends her mornings walking dogs, and Aphrodite - Goddess of Beauty - is a phone sex operator. Ares seems to be one of the few exceptions but let's face it when you are the God of War you don't have time for a second career in this era.

This situation is bizarre enough but when Aphrodite gets irritated by Apollo one day and plots her revenge, Neil and Alice (two mortals) get dragged into it and all hell breaks loose. What follows is a non-stop tale filled with love triangles, plots, twists, hilarity and adventure.

I loved, loved, loved, loved this book. It's an absolute pleasure to read and I was laughing so much when reading it. It's brilliantly original. There are so many Gods and Goddesses squeezed into the run-down house in London that it makes for a lively setting. My favourite dynamic was definitely Artemis and Apollo who, like most twins, are very close and constantly in conflict with one another. Artemis is very level headed and practical where as Apollo spends most of his time thinking about sex and dealing with those who reject his attentions in imaginative ways.

After Artemis has an incident with a talking tree (formerly Kate who worked in mergers and acquisitions), Apollo is forced to swear on Styx that he will never harm another human. Reluctantly he complies but spends the rest of the book finding loopholes. In addition to the well-written deities, there are also 2 main mortal characters. Neil and Alice. Both seem unsure of themselves, reserved, shy even and when they find themselves drawn into the world of the deities, the results are comical. Their dynamic is most often a 'will they, won't they' situation, which is made even more complex when Apollo falls for Alice in a big way. Neil thought he was lacking confidence before; now he has to compete with a God, get his could-be-girlfriend back, and save the world!

The author paints a great picture. Her words fire the imagination and I often found myself forming great visuals in my mind as I read the book. My favourite setting in the book had to be the underworld though. I loved the obvious amount of thought put into it. Not only the aesthetics but also the way it works. As someone who lived in London for a few years and had to deal with the Tube on a daily basis, I found it fitting that it was the setting for the entrance to the Underworld.

A perfect book for those moments when you just want to unwind with a light read. Please note this book does contain some adult language and sexual content (usually surrounding Apollo and Aphrodite). Easily one of my most favourite reads ever! It reminded me at times of Terry Pratchett's writing which isn't surprising when you read the author's blog and discover that he was one of her earlier influences! As a hardcore Pratchett fan, I know I will be watching Marie Phillips for future releases.

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tinylittlelibrarian said...

Thanks for the review - I hadn't heard of this one, but it sounds really good!

Charlene Martel said...

I hadn't heard much about it either until I got a copy but it was definitely worth the read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!