As a child, I was enthralled by the stories of the Greek Gods. Zeus and the titans; Hercules and his labors; Aphrodite and her many lovers; these were stories that filled me with awe and wonder. I read books about these fantastic Olympians and their many scandalous, if not obscene, affairs with mortals. Yes, Western influence came at a very young age. Add some Hollywood movies (Clash of the Titans; Jason and the Argonauts) to this process of acculturation and viola! I was hooked on the Olympians for life.
Bulfinch was a buddy in high school. Edith Hamilton, a companion in freshman college. In this age of ICT and reality TV, I wonder the writers who could lure kids, my own included, into the realm of Greek mythology and the like. I found the answer to my question after reading Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief but with a few disappointments along the way.
Riordan writes energetically. His work on the first book of the 39 Clues Series was exciting. In the The Lightning Thief, he kept his style of writing with the same verve and energy. The trip which Percy took from Long Island to Denver then Los Angeles and back to New York was arrayed with monster attacks, magical gifts to ward off the beings from hell and enough nymphs to sustain him and his companions. Reading Riordan is indeed a roller coaster ride.
The intertwining of myth and reality was carefully designed that for once, you would believe that the gods do walk among us mortals. While this conceit is not new, Riordan picks out places in modern United States as setting to establish one's suspension of disbelief. Thanks to Holywood. I had no difficulty imagining the Empire State Building as a gateway to Olympus and Los Angeles as a route to the Underworld. The mythological monsters that thrive in stories and grow in the imagination populate these places and other city states in between. Medusa tends a garden with sculptures, apparently, victims of her deadly gaze. The furies are a couple of retired old ladies on a vacation trip. And the fates, yes, my personal favorite, can be found in common flea markets spinning and cutting one's thread of life.
If only for these trivialities, The Lightning Thief is an engaging read. Sadly, it is not entirely so.
What Did Not Work
Percy has dyslexia and ADHD. He's a darling despite the disorder. Then again, what educational research try to find out and understand for years, Riordan demystifies in one novel for young adults. Kids with special needs are sired by the gods. So if one kid can't read English, try using some Greek texts. Yeah, right. This conceit is not for me. Sorry.
Percy's friends, Annabeth and Grover, are characters I've met before. Think Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Both were cut from the same mould except that neither did any significant actions or decisions to push the story further on. If there were, I did not find it relevant to stand out in Percy's quest. In the end, both ventured into their own internal and external quests by leaving Half-Blood Hill -- the summer camp for godlings. As for the adult characters, none of them appealed or grew on me. Even Poseidon's surfer dude persona lacked the yummies. The villains are too predictable, besides. There was effort on the characters' part to show tenderness and sensitivity to each other but it just does not bring home the bacon.
I think I've read too many Neil Gaimans and Dianne Wynn Joneses and Eva Ibbotsons. I've watched too many Miyazakis as well. For the late tweener and early teener, however, Percy Jackson and The Lghtning Thief is probably the book to bring at bedtime or in a long trip to grandma's house on a weekend visit. My twelve year old son is actually carrying Percy wherever he goes and has put aside the required Newberry book this semester.
Now if that's a sign of hope, then let the disappointments rot in the basement.
My rating -- 3/5 Bookmarks