Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Gods Behaving Badly" by Marie Phillips

So, you think the Greek gods are long dead and gone, huh? Well, think again, mere mortals - they're alive, if not so well, in the heart of London. Yes, all your favorites are here: Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Hera, Zeus, Eros, Persephone, etc. All crammed into one house that is well over 300 years old and showing every minute of it. And there's plenty of drama, as well as boredom, when you're forced to live with your family for that many years.

As the book opens, Apollo and Aphrodite are having sex, again, in one of the horrid bathrooms of the house. (Remember, the Greek gods weren't too bothered by incest and the like!). It's obvious that the whole house is suffering from a tremendous case of ennui, not to mention waning powers. No one believes in the gods anymore; they're forced to take mundane jobs, such as dog-walker, to make ends meet. Even gods can be evicted or chased for not paying their bills.

Apollo's newest venture is a reality-based psychic show. Who should be working at this studio but meek and mild Alice, a cleaner of the extraordinary sort. She's invited Neil, a sweet man whom she met while she cleaned his offices, to view the taping of the premiere episode. Alice obviously adores Neil and the feeling is mutual, though neither has made a move in almost 2 years. Alas, Apollo's debut is short-lived; his meddling aunt Aphrodite, feeling a bit put out by his recent behavior, has decided to have some fun with her nephew. She enlists the help of her son, Eros, who shoots Apollo with one of his magic arrows, thus plunging the god into the deepest love possible with the first person he sees. That person is Alice. However, Eros is now a Christian and doesn't have it in him to follow through with the second half of his aunt's nefarious plot; he does not strike Alice with an arrow that will cause her to hate Apollo. He believes in the free will of the Christians and wants to see what Alice will do.

After seeing her on the debut show, her employers promptly fire Alice, who was, after all, supposed to be working, not watching. She starts looking for a new position and decides to freelance at Neil's suggestion; guess which house she ends up first? You got it! Of course, this might not be entirely a coincidence...

This was a fun and different book for me. It's a debut novel by Ms. Phillips, and was fairly well written for such. I thought the plot was interesting, and I loved the snarkiness of the gods towards each other. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt, as is obvious by the way the gods treat each other. Actually, they seemed awfully human - plotting, backstabbing, and just plain bored. I would highly recommend this book for anyone out there looking for a new author; I'm hoping that this will not be the only work by Ms. Phillips.

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