Percy Jackson and the Way Too Consistent Olympians

I really didn’t intend this blog to just address a bunch of specific novels, but if it occurs to me, and relates to writing… why not?

When it comes to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I has mixed feels, I must confess, and I must also confess a bit of apprehension about sharing them, because so many people LOVE these books.  I mean, lots of action, memorable characters, and of course, it’s educational.  I mean, look at all the ancient Greek mythology you learn!

And that’s my number one problem.  While not claiming to be an expert, I do consider myself more educated in Greek mythology than the average person.  Can’t remember what I did yesterday, or what I was supposed to do tomorrow, but I can tell you all about Aphrodite’s birth, or what happens when you kill two snakes mating.  (Hint: the gender change surgery industry could save a lot of money by cooperating with snake farms.)

Am I going to complain about accuracy problems?  No!  They were fairly accurate, or as accurate as one can be when there are several versions of the original myths, all with their fair share of contradictions.  They were simply… too consistent with the original stories.

See, here’s the premise.  The gods from ancient Greece are all real, and are now centred in America (Americentrism by definition, though justifiably) and are all going about their business as usual.  The “as usual” part is the bit that bothers me.  In many, many instances, the gods are acting EXACTLY the way they did thousands of years ago.  I mean, I don’t object to static characters as a whole, but there is NO WAY an intelligent being is going to perform the exact sequence of events it did before, particularly when it failed.  They’re simply retelling these stories with a modern twist, and, while entertaining, is hard for me to swallow.

Example:   Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and sex, is married to Hephaestus, the god of the smith.  He’s actually quite an ugly fellow, making for an unusual match, and possibly for that reason, Aphrodite engaged in an affair with Ares, the god of war.  I mean, who else but your classic bad boy, right?  Hephaestus began to guess that something was up, so he forged a magnificent trap, a net, and hung it over their bed.  As planned, the net falls and catches Ares and Aphrodite in the middle of a “session”, and Hephaestus brings everybody in Olympus out to laugh at them, much like a reality TV show.  Rick Riordan jumps all over this, and decides that now, Hephaestus controls a big reality television channel among the gods in modern times.  I like this!  Very clever!  If they left it at this, I’d have been happy.  But, this is revealed after a scene in which Percy and crew are accidentally caught up in a net he made intended for, guess who, his wife Aphrodite, who is apparently STILL cheating on him, after thousands of years, with the same guy, and apparently, has still not figured out the net thing.

There have even been cases of previously  defeated characters being resurrected from the dead without explanation.  Medusa.  The creepy guy who ties people to beds and forces them to fit.  I believe the cyclops with the fleece died as well, though I could be wrong.  (Actually, I haven’t gone to any effort to confirm my memory of this stuff; I’m sure some ancient Greek mythology buff more knowledgeable than myself, or Percy Jackson’s biggest fan is going to tear me a new one with all my factual inaccuracies, but I’ve got the general stuff right anyways.)

Now, this next bit isn’t a flaw exactly, but seems like a wasted opportunity.  Why is Percy the son of Poseidon?  Okay, sure, he needed to be the son of one of the big three.  Zeus was too obvious; you don’t want to make your main character TOO heroic.  But… what about Hades?  Think about it.  When the god of the underworld, hell, is your dad, the relationship issues are way easier to justify.  Hades is actually quite often misunderstood and portrayed; he was never evil exactly, he just got a dirty job.  But everyone, everyone, is going to be against him, and therefore, Percy is going to be an extension of this.  And just think about the inner conflict opportunities!  “Is my dad evil?  If he is, am I?  What does having the powers of death and judgment MEAN for my character?”  This would all go perfectly well any and all prophecies (a totally overdone literary technique, IMO) regarding him saving or dooming the world.  I mean, it would obviously throw off the plot in numerous places but… I dunno.  Doesn’t it seem more interesting to you?

Perhaps Rick has already thought of this and discarded it for some reason; I don’t blame him in the “Son of Poseidon” respect.  But I think if he wanted to do a modern retelling of Greek myths, he should have set it up better.  In fact, if he’d just done it, without referencing the characters and stories as being the same ones from the originals, and simply said “Here are some weird characters with familiar names, watch them do stuff!”, I would have felt just fine about it.

I was much more impressed by his lesser known Egyptian series, The Kane Chronicles, though perhaps because I know next to nothing about Egyptian mythology.  However, after reading it, I can tell you that Bast is badass, and Anubis is sexy as hell (no pun intended).  Actually, I’m probably too old to say that now.  Ah well, he was sexy when I read him.  Anyway, go ahead, read ’em both, particularly the Egyptian one.

 

 

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Warm Bodies

I’m back!  Yes, I see you there, looking over your shoulders, whispering to your friends, “I thought she was dead!”  No, I am in fact still here, and as busy, easily distracted, and frankly, lazy, as always.  I never promised to be consistent.  And of course, I flatter myself that anyone out there has been anxiously awaiting another post from The Loracle (me).  However, if you are, don’t be afraid to bug me about it.  I need to be nagged.  Anyway.

This is SO late in coming, but I thought I’d write something about Warm Bodies, the novel and the film.  Why?  Because it’s… weird.  And easily misunderstood.

So, what is it?  It’s a zombie love story, to sum it up.  Yes, you heard me.  I won’t go so far to claim it’s the beginning of a genre because, for one, I’m not confident of a genre emerging from it, and for two, such a thing may very well have existed before.  (Actually, I think the movie poster may have made Your Favourite Martian video about a zombie falling in love, or perhaps it was the other way around.  I’d show you the pics for comparison, but I can’t get the bloody pic insertion thing to work, so you’ll have to do the work yourself.  It’s a funny video; you won’t mind.)

Now, if the idea of a zombie love story makes you shudder, I have some explaining to do (spoilers ahead).  Firstly, the story was 100% necrophilia free.  No sexy corpse contact… well, unless you count the kiss at the end, but that quickly progressed to non-corpse-ness.  How, exactly?  Well, now I’m going to explain the general concept for Warm Bodies style zombies, which was a very unique concept, and also, very philosophical.  Basically, at some point in the near future, humanity had begun to die.  Not actual physical death, but to lose the traits most valuable to life: emotions, hope, appreciation of nature and art, and most importantly, love.  Essentially, they became the sort of zombie people casually talk about: “Man, that guy is a total zombie.”  “Yeah, I’m kind of a zombie in the morning.”  I think Shaun of the Dead may have had a similar theme; that people’s lives got so monotonous and mind numbing that people just became zombies.  If you’re super into realistic zombie concepts, then this story isn’t for you.  In fact, nearly everything in the story is a metaphor for or a reference to a philosophical concept; I won’t spell it out for you though.  Well, except in the case of Julie.  This girl enters the story, and is the exact opposite of the deadness that is zombification.  She is life, through and through: bursting with emotions, hope, a love for art, and is, of course, the love interest.  Through “unusual circumstances”, the two are thrown together and love happens.  It is in fact, the progression of this love that reawakens the “life” within the zombies, and essentially cures the plague.  Unfortunately, this is not clear in the movie, (understandably, as such concepts are hard to show, and they were probably wary of more monologue; still though, they could have done a better job) and I’m sure many people walked away going, “What the heck?  Why did being nice to the zombies suddenly cure them?  That’s just stupid.”  Well, now you know.

Another major objection to this story is the same objection to vampire love stories.  “Zombies are MONSTERS.  They’re not SUPPOSED to have feelings!  We should just shoot them!  This is degrading the concept of the zombie!”  I disagree.  I think, were this to become a genre to some degree, it would expand the concept of zombies, not degrade them.  Using vampires or zombies as romantic figures doesn’t prevent them being used as monsters or villains in other literature.  I seriously doubt that zombies will become as popular as vampires, simply because… they’re not as sexy.  I mean, R was adorable, millions of girls surely are in love with him (especially when portrayed by Nicholas Holt; SUCH a good acting choice!), but zombies still don’t have that dark sex appeal of vampires.  Regardless, if you want to use trolls (been done), ogres (been done) or demons (been done) as protagonists or positive characters, all the more power to you.  And if you want to write stories of them tearing people apart, go right ahead.

This story is actually compared to Twilight quite a lot, said to be “Twilight, but just with zombies.”  Such claims cannot possibly be made from people who’ve actually read the novel.  It was quite intelligent all the way through, and in other ways than being philosophical.  Much of it was tongue in cheek, an aspect clearer in the movie.  I actually didn’t get the BLATANT Romeo and Juliet reference until watching the movie with my best friend right after finishing the Romeo and Juliet unit in school.  When the balcony scene came on, we laughed and laughed…  And this isn’t even mentioning the other hilarious moments throughout the movie and book.

“Wow, this seems like such a good book/movie combination!  Seemingly flawless!”  Not so fast.  Honestly.  You can’t expect that I, the Loracle (please, let this catch on) would see no flaws in either the movie or the book?  Let me describe a single scene in the movie for you.  R and Julie are being chased by a throng of angry… Bonees?… (honestly people, that’s the name you chose?  You don’t think ANY 13 year old is going to find ANYTHING amusing about that name?) and, in classic movie style, must jump off a high place into a pool of water.  R takes the brunt of it and sinks into the water.  As a viewer, you’re mentally trying to figure out whether he can die or not from drowning (does he even breath?) but, hooray!, Julie retrieves him, and he’s just dandy.  Then, they apparently completely forget that there’s a group of angry, terrifying monsters right above them who are, for some reason, not jumping in right after them, and engage in a totally adorable, romantic, quite well done, kiss, which I will admit gave my R-loving heart shiveries.  Of course, Julie also forgets to have this awkward but totally necessary conversation beforehand (which was at least mentioned a little in the book):

“If I kiss you, will I, like, die?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, will you pass a disease or anything to me?”

“I dun-”

“And do you think it’s weird anyway?  Because, I mean, you are kind of a corpse.  I mean, no offence; you look really good for a corpse, but still.  It might be a little creepy.  Ah well, anything once, right?  No, wait, hold on.  Promise you won’t, like, eat me?”

“Wha-”

“I mean, I know you’re nice and all, but you DO eat people.  So, like control yourself, okay, because if you bite me, I’ll be pissed.”

“… Okay.”

(I think the main reason I was so much in love with R was because he didn’t really talk back.  THAT’S a man.)

And then kisses could commence.

Anyway, after the non-safety stamp approved kiss, Julie’s father comes out and shoots R.  This absolutely delighted me, because I just loved terrible situation that puts the dad in.  I mean, imagine if Rick caught that blonde girl making out with a zombie in The Walking Dead?  Just… terrible.  Anyway, he’s shot and… he bleeds!  Hooray!  He’s human now!  Everyone is happy and goes to share the good news.  Except… nobody cares that R is SHOT.  Even he is just sort of smiling along, all the while he’s bleeding out.  Nobody thinks to patch him up, and it is apparently unnecessary.  I preferred it in  the novel when he starts bleeding from all the wounds he had amassed as a zombie.  I mean, to cover up the scent of Julie, he reaches down into his ARM and pulls out some ARM GUNK and smears it on her face.  (As if that small amount will do it.)

So, that’s Warm Bodies for you.  A philosophical, tongue in cheek, unconventional romance.  I approve.