The Washington Post
Gods Behaving Badly: A Novelby Marie Phillips
Even more disturbingly,
Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ.
Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees-a favorite pastime of Apollo's-is sapping their vital reserves of strength.
Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?
The Washington Post
The New York Times
British blogger Phillips's delightful debut finds the Greek gods and goddesses living in a tumbledown house in modern-day London and facing a very serious problem: their powers are waning, and immortality does not seem guaranteed. In between looking for work and keeping house, the ancient family is still up to its oldest pursuit: crossing and double-crossing each other. Apollo, who has been cosmically bored for centuries, has been appearing as a television psychic in a bid for stardom. His aunt Aphrodite, a phone-sex worker, sabotages him by having her son Eros shoot him with an arrow of love, making him fall for a very ordinary mortal-a cleaning woman named Alice, who happens to be in love with Neil, another nice, retiring mortal. When Artemis-the goddess of the moon, chastity and the hunt, who has been working as a dog walker-hires Alice to tidy up, the household is set to combust, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Fanciful, humorous and charming, this satire is as sweet as nectar. (Dec.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Olympian gods have fallen on hard times. Their power is fading, and as a result they have been living in a house in London for the past 300 years, working at menial jobs and squabbling among themselves. Artemis hires a mortal woman named Alice to clean the house. Apollo falls in love with Alice, and when she rejects his advances, he tricks Zeus into killing her. Artemis takes Alice's boyfriend, Neil, through the portal to the underworld. First they have to get past Charon, conveyor of the dead, and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. This accomplished, they confront Hades, who gives Neil a choice-save the world or save the woman he loves. Phillips imagines a hilarious world that explains all that is inexplicable in our own. She invokes the power of legal precedence, human and godly love, and the power of faith to bring this story to its conclusion. Well written and entertaining, this book is recommended for most libraries.
Joanna M. Burkhardt
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Read an Excerpt
Gods Behaving Badly
By Marie Phillips
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2007 Marie Phillips
All right reserved.
Chapter OneONE MORNING, WHEN Artemis was out walking the dogs, she saw a tree where no tree should be.
The tree was standing alone in a sheltered part of the slope. To the untrained eye, the casual passerby, it probably just looked like a normal tree. But Artemis's eye was far from untrained, and she ran through this part of Hampstead Heath every day. This tree was a newcomer; it had not been there yesterday. And with just one glance Artemis recognized that it was an entirely new species, a type of eucalyptus that had also not existed yesterday. It was a tree that should not exist at all.
Dragging the mutts behind her, Artemis made her way over to the tree. She touched its bark and felt it breathing. She pressed her ear against the trunk of the tree and listened to its heartbeat. Then she looked around. Good; it was early, and there was nobody within earshot. She reminded herself not to get angry with the tree, that it wasn't the tree's fault. Then she spoke.
"Hello," she said.
There was a long silence.
"Hello," said Artemis again.
"Are you talking to me?" said the tree. It had a faint Australian accent.
"Yes," said Artemis. "I am Artemis." If the tree experienced any recognition, it didn't show it. "I'm the goddess of hunting and chastity," said Artemis.
Another silence. Then the tree said, "I'm Kate. I work in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs."
"Do you know what happened to you, Kate?" said Artemis.
The longest silence of all. Artemis was just about to repeat the question when the tree replied.
"I think I've turned into a tree," it said.
"Yes," said Artemis. "You have."
"Thank God for that," said the tree. "I thought I was going mad." Then the tree seemed to reconsider this. "Actually," it said, "I think I would rather be mad." Then, with hope in its voice: "Are you sure I haven't gone mad?"
"I'm sure," said Artemis. "You're a tree. A eucalyptus. Subgenus of mallee. Variegated leaves."
"Oh," said the tree.
"Sorry," said Artemis.
"But with variegated leaves?"
"Yes," said Artemis. "Green and yellow."
The tree seemed pleased. "Oh well, there's that to be grateful for," it said.
"That's the spirit," Artemis reassured it.
"So," said the tree in a more conversational tone. "You're the goddess of hunting and chastity then?"
"Yes," said Artemis. "And of the moon, and several other things. Artemis." She put a little emphasis on her name. It still hurt when mortals didn't know it.
"I didn't know there was a goddess of hunting and chastity and the moon," confessed the tree. "I thought there was just the one God. Of everything. Or actually, to be honest, I thought there was no God at all. No offense."
"None taken," said Artemis. Unbelievers were always preferable to heretics.
"I have to say you don't look much like a goddess, though," added the tree.
"And what does a goddess look like, exactly?" said Artemis, a sharpness entering her voice.
"I don't know," said the tree, a little nervously. "Shouldn't you be wearing a toga or something? Or a laurel wreath?"
"You mean, not a tracksuit," said Artemis.
"Pretty much," admitted the tree.
"Times change," said Artemis. "Right now, you don't look like somebody who works in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs." Her voice indicated that the clothing conversation was closed.
"I still can't get over the fact that you're a goddess," said the tree after a pause. "Wow. Yesterday I wouldn't have believed it. Today ..." The tree gave an almost imperceptible shrug, rustling its leaves. Then it seemed to think for a bit. "So does that mean, if you're a goddess," it said, "that you can turn me back into a person?"
Artemis had been expecting this question.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but I can't."
"Why not?" said the tree.
The tree sounded so despondent that she couldn't bring herself to reply, as planned, Because I don't want to. "A god can't undo what another god has done," she found herself saying instead, much to her own surprise. She hated admitting any kind of weakness, especially to a mortal.
"You mean that guy was a god too? The one who ... did this. Well, I suppose it's obvious now. I kind of hoped he might be a hypnotist."
"No, he was a god," said Artemis.
"Um," said the tree. "Could you do something about that red setter? I don't really like the way it's sniffing around me." Artemis pulled the idiot dog away.
"Sorry," she said. "So what happened exactly?"
"I was just taking a walk yesterday and this guy came up to talk to me-"
"Tall?" said Artemis. "Blond? Almost impossibly handsome?"
"That's the one," said the tree.
"What did he say?" said Artemis.
The bark on the tree seemed to shift slightly, as if the tree were making a face.
"I, um ..."
"What did he say?" Artemis asked again, allowing a hint of command to enter her voice.
"He said, 'Hello. Do you want to give me a blow job?' "
A blow job. Why did people do these things to each other? Artemis felt faintly sick.
"I said no," continued the tree, "and then he said, 'Are you sure, because you look like you'd be good at it and I think you'd really enjoy it.'"
"I'm very sorry," said Artemis, "about my brother. If it were up to me he would not be allowed outside unsupervised."
"He's your brother?"
"My twin. It's ... unfortunate."
"Well, anyway, I just walked off, and he followed me, and I got a bit scared and I started running, and then the next thing I knew ... here I am."
Artemis shook her head. "This isn't the first time something like this has happened," she said. "Rest assured, we will be having words about it."
"And then he'll turn me back?"
"Absolutely," lied Artemis.
"No need to tell my family back home what happened, then," said the tree. "Good. Maybe I should call in sick at work though. I can't really go in like this. I had my phone with me; it should be around here somewhere. Could you dial my boss's number and hold the phone to my trunk?"
"Mortals aren't going to be able to understand you, I'm afraid," said Artemis. "Just gods. And other vegetation. I wouldn't bother talking to the grass, though. It isn't very bright."
"Oh," said the tree. "Okay." Artemis gave the tree time to absorb this information. "Why aren't I more upset about this?" it said eventually. "If you'd told me yesterday that I was going to be turned into a tree, I'm sure I'd have been really, really upset."
"You're a tree now, not a human mortal," explained Artemis. "You don't really have emotions anymore. I think you'll be much happier this way. And you'll live longer, unless it gets very windy."
"Except your brother's going to turn me back."
"Of course he is," said Artemis. "Right, then. I'd best be getting on. I've got to get these dogs back to ... my friends." "It was nice meeting you," said the tree.
"Likewise," said Artemis. "Bye, then. See you soon. Maybe."
The pleasant look on her face vaporized before her back was even fully turned. The dogs saw her expression and whimpered as one. But they had nothing to fear from Artemis. It was time to go home and find Apollo.
Excerpted from Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips Copyright © 2007 by Marie Phillips. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Marie Phillips was born in London in 1976. She studied anthropology at Cambridge University and worked as a researcher at the BBC. More recently she worked as an independent bookseller while writing Gods Behaving Badly.
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This book is a pleasant read. The beginning knocks you about a bit and lets you know right away what kind of book you're dealing with, and that is in-your-face, pull-no-punches kind of writing. It is fun to watch the characters develop, both the unknown romantic ingenues (of sorts), and the well-known gods, who are well-developed and altered to fit into today's world with their ancient attributes and charms. The story takes a while to get going, but it does keep one guessing as to what the final outcome could possibly be...will Zeus be released again, will Apollo and Aphrodite make up, will the gods die out? These are potentially big questions that are treated to a kind of Showtime/Cinemax answer. It's fun, it's light-hearted, and it's one that I'll more than likely regift to a non-relative at some point.
This should have been a cute, funny, interesting read, a fish-out-of-water story about bored and impish gods. Instead it was tedious and boring, and I couldn't get into any of the characters. It went from boring to downright silly, and the outcome was less than satisfying. I would not recommend it to anybody, and gave it to the trashman as soon as I finished it. I kept hoping it would improve, but it didn't. A clever idea that never came off.
Despite its surface similarity to Neil Gaiman's ''American Gods,'' the two books couldn't be more different. ''Gods Behaving Badly'' takes that basic concept -- pagan gods of old forced to live and take jobs among us mortals -- but puts a ''Four Weddings and a Funeral'' kind of spin on it. This is a character-centered romantic comedy, and it's very good at what it does. The gods are as shallow, petty, and self-centered as ever, and the mortals they interact with -- Alice and Neil -- while not terribly well-rounded, adequately fill the roles of 'mortal who enrages the gods' and 'reluctant hero' respectively. Marie Phillips has crafted a light, amusing read, and I hope there will be more to come from her.
You will giggle and say things like "That is SO whatAphrodite would do!"
Enjoyed it but i never pictured apollo that way before
This was a great book! I loved it so much! I want to give a seven star if I could,espessialy because I love to read something that has greek mythology in it.
i thought it was a great book. not too long and a little funny