Ancient Greece is considered the secular home to Western Civilization. The mythology of that place still resonates today, and sometimes in fun and funny ways.
That’s part of the basic premise of Michael G. Munz’s Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure. After the title incident happens, the Greek Gods return to Earth demanding praise and worship after being more or less invisible influences on the greater world. Why did Zeus die? For that matter, how did Zeus die? And why were the gods absent to begin with? Munz answers these questions and more in a rather humorous manner I found enjoyable.
Munz’s novel opens with Zeus watching another half-mortal child, pondering a potential fate he’s been told about but kept secret. After a visit from Daddy’s Little Girl type Aphrodite, he gets killed by something that pops out of a box. Zeus is immortal, but he somehow died all the same.
It turns out due to the (secret) prophecy, Zeus had forced the Olympians to withdraw from mortal affairs. With him out of the picture, Poseidon takes over as king and marries the newly widowed Hera, and the gods decide to return to Earth. After a few failed attempts to gain any notice, they hold a press conference and change the world. The gods return also means the return of various monsters, many of which have never been seen before since the gods kept making them but never got the chance to let humans fight them before.
These include creatures like razorwings. They look like cute fluffy white kittens with bat wings. They spit venom, attack in large groups, and 90% of them split into two new razorwings when killed. The other 10% of the time, they just go up in a big explosion. Fortunately, they’re still easily distracted kittens, so a giant ball of yarn or a laser pointer can often be used to make them go away.
That should give you an idea of the kind of humor Munz uses. Munz considers how changing times would affect both the gods and the mortals they demand worship from. The Muses have all added to their resumes. Thalia, the Muse of Comedy given a substantial supporting role, is also the Muse of Science Fiction. Dionyssus opened a casino and more or less runs Las Vegas. Athena wears an NRA jacket. Each chapter begins with a short excerpt from some source that would be a prose guide to the gods, or an interview one of them gave.
As an interesting side note, the gods immediately say that other pantheons, like the Norse and Egyptian gods, do not exist. Asked about Jesus Christ, and they get a wee bit anxious. Yeah, there is a Christian God. He sits this thing out. His followers don’t, as a small group of very devout Christians end up forming a rebel group that, in an attempt to reach young people, trains ninjas. They just cause problems.
Most of the book deals with two mortals, a genre-savvy video game played named Lief, and a TV producer named Tracy who happens to be Zeus’ daughter, working with Apollo and Thalia to bring Zeus back without alerting the god or gods who murdered Zeus in the first place. What follows is a trip through all aspects of the Greek pantheon, and a good deal of knowledge on the gods, their world, and their powers.
Munz actually has a rather meta style that worked well for me. He deals with a number of humorous digressions that point out how the plot works, where a good place to end a chapter is, or even to advise readers not to alert Tracy to where she is at one point. Why? Well, as Munz points out, Tracy can’t hear the reader, and if she can, there’s something a lot more serious going on for the reader than anything going on in the book.
I really dug this one, though I was a bit disappointed that a guy named Lief Karlson couldn’t summon a Norse god (even if the Olympians said they didn’t exist). Any book that includes a literal Idiot Ball as a plot point deserves praise if done right, so I’m giving this book nine turtle-frogs out of ten.
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