As we all know, Gods are immortal, so what happens when they find themselves in the modern era after almost everyone has stopped believing in them? What will their lives be like and will they conform to social norms, or still behave in the ways that they always have? Marie Phillips’ novel Gods Behaving Badly addresses this in a humorous satire about some of the major/most well known Gods of ancient Greece.
Gods Behaving Badly centers on twelve Olympian Gods living in present-day London. While some still act in their typical roles as Gods, many have been forced to find “human” jobs to keep themselves going, as their powers have begun to wane over time; the problem is that nobody really believes in the ancient Gods anymore, which is where they have always found their power. Therefore, instead of living high on Olympus, the Gods find themselves all stuffed into a single, run-down flat, squabbling like they always have in all the myths of the past. After the God Apollo upsets Aphrodite, however, she decides to play a cruel trick on him, using her son, Eros, to make Apollo fall in love with someone without any reciprocated feelings. This leads to a sweet and mortal relationship getting caught up in the dysfunctional and not strictly “acceptable” lives of the Gods (by modern standards, that is). But what happens when the world itself becomes put in danger by their selfish pursuits of angering one another? Will the Gods fight to regain power and save the world, or resign themselves to mortality after all these years of slowly becoming obsolete?
I had been meaning to read this book for quite some time, and just now finally got around to it; was it a masterpiece? No, but it was very fun and didn’t take itself too seriously at all. Knowing a bit about these Gods and Greek mythology definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel, as I understood some of the references and characters present already; more strictly speaking, I know just how unconventional and dysfunctional the Gods have always been portrayed as. But this erratic behavior was accepted of the Gods “back in the day,” yet once you put them into the modern day and age, it seems jarring that a celestial being would act as such. Hence, some of the humor to be found in Phillips’ work. While some of these attempts at showing the dichotomies of belief come across as inanely blunt, as well as a few predictabilities aside, the course of action unfolds in a smooth and creative manner. The only things that I could really gripe about when it comes to this novel would be some instances of slightly forced interactions and dialogues between characters that didn’t seem entirely natural (even if the characters are the embodiment of ancient Gods), as well as the overly saccharine epilogue, with its somewhat cheesy tying up of everything that wasn’t per say all that necessary. All in all, however, I enjoyed Gods Behaving Badly, and would recommend reading it at some point when you aren’t looking to engage in anything overly serious.
[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]