Tuesday 15 April 2008

it's the end of the world as we know it

Gods Behaving Badly
by Marie Phillips

With Dawkins, Hitchens and Gray et al getting stuck into religion of late it's thankful that fiction writers have the opportunity to lighten the tone somewhat. Remember those Greek Gods for example, whatever happened to them? In Marie Phillips comic debut novel they're alive and well. Well, not so well actually; and not so much alive as immortal, but certainly living in London and struggling to find a place in a world that doesn't believe in them anymore.

Apollo is a TV mystic, Aphrodite a telephone sex worker and Artemis a professional dog-walker (hunting and chastity having taken a bit of pummeling in the 21st century). The family now live in a dilapidated house in north London and the simple fact of the matter is that their once great powers are waning. Apollo's insatiable appetites will set in motion a series of events that will put the very future of life on earth at risk as he causes conflict amongst his fellow deities. As Aphrodite says 'All gods do revenge' and just as in the past it is us humans who are left counting the cost as collateral damage whilst the gods spar. Mild mannered Neil and the object of his affection Alice, a cleaner hired by Artemis, will become a modern day Orpheus and Eurydice, journeying to the underworld (via Angel tube station) and back again in their efforts to be together and save the world into the bargain.

Phillips has a lot of fun placing the classics in a modern world. Some work better than others and this is a fairly light comedy rather than a biting satire of modern life. Ben Stiller's production company have reportedly snapped up the rights for a TV adaptation. It's been quite a journey for Phillips herself who was working in a bookshop not so long ago but is now travelling the world promoting this novel. One might almost suspect divine intervention.

Marie Phillips also writes a very entertaining blog where she writes about all sorts, but mainly how much she fancies David Tennant.


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