Laughing All the Way to Olympus


Ye Gods!, by Tom Holt – I’m currently in the process of reading Rick Riordan’s latest book, The House of Hades, but Holt actually wrote about Greco-Roman gods and demigod heroes in the modern world before Riordan ever did. In the world presented by this book, the gods have basically retired, although they are still able to affect events in the mortal world through the games they play. The main protagonist is Jason Derry, the son of Jupiter (with a few exceptions, Holt sticks to the Roman names) and a suburban housewife, who spends much of his time slaying monsters and going on quests. Really, I didn’t feel he was a very well-developed character, but the book as a whole was funny enough that it didn’t matter all that much. We find out that Prometheus didn’t just bring fire to humanity, but also humor, and it was really this that upset Jupiter. After all, a sense of humor makes it harder to take the gods seriously. The Titan teams up with the eagle who eats his liver (they’ve developed a camaraderie over the centuries) and Gelos, the spirit of laughter, to stop the gods from destroying humor. Gelos is an actual figure in Greek mythology, but not a major one. Plutarch reported that there was a shrine to him in Sparta, not a place I typically associated with laughter. In this book, Gelos is actually an alias for a brother of Saturn named Thing. The idea of jokes as weapons, while not original with Holt, is used to amusing effect. The gods typically act like you’d expect, with a lot of bickering and such, but I did find the characterization of Mars to be pretty interesting. Since warfare has greatly advanced and he hasn’t, he’s become quite nervous, and sometimes attends anti-war protests. The underworld is portrayed as essentially an extension of the London Underground, and I have to wonder whether this was influential on Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. As a mythology fan, I noted times when Holt stuck pretty closely to the myths as they’re generally known, and other times when he deviated quite a bit. For instance, he correctly identifies Lemnos as the place where Vulcan landed when thrown from Olympus, but his description of the Hydra is nothing like any version of the monster I’ve ever come across. He does provide an out for himself by saying that the myths were often edited by humans, though. And it’s not like there isn’t a lot of leeway when dealing with stories that were written in many different ways over the years anyway. Overall, quite a fun read.

This entry was posted in Authors, Greek Mythology, Mythology, Roman, Tom Holt and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Laughing All the Way to Olympus

  1. Pingback: Wight Supremacy | VoVatia

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