Zeus is Dead, by Michael Munz
How I found this book: Michael Munz caught my attention on Twitter with his witty quips. I’ve been a big supporter of him for a while now, and I’m thrilled by the way this book brought out all his humor and thoughtfulness. I’m also pleased that he’s gone from self-publishing to traditional publishing- that’s a route I’d love to see more authors take.
What I liked about this book: It was very unique. Why?
The author is unusually aggressive about breaking the “Fourth Wall” (aka, the separation between the reader and the characters/narrator). This enables a whole new kind of humor. It was very cheeky. For example, at one point the narration says (paraphrasing) “Intelligent readers may be wondering if this is all a devious trick! It may or may not be a devious trick. We won’t tell you. Of course, you may say… why bring this up at all if there is NO trickery involved? Maybe we just want to mess with you,” and so on.
At another point, a character asks, “Hey, is this some sort of ‘abandon the younger protagonists to stand on their own for dramatic tension’ thing?” In this way, the book was simultaneously it’s own story and a commentary on the art of story-telling. I also learned about “the idiot ball,” from this book. Apparently when a story line is fueled by a character’s stupidity, nerds on the internet say, “That character was holding the idiot ball.” In this book, the idiot ball is a literal dangerous magical weapon, which characters plant on each other as a tactic.
Overall the style reminded me of Terry Pratchett, only perhaps even wackier. The author is not afraid to shy from even the highest heights of absurdity. For example, there are deadly razor-winged kitten monsters (kind of funny) and because they’re white with red and blue wings, patriotic groups refuse to kill them even though they are a menace (extremely funny.)
The idealistic aspect of this book: I like the idea of friendship, rather than love, as being a driving force of change and improvement in someone’s life. I also like the way the humans had the courage to define themselves as far more than the pawns which the gods considered them to be.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book: I wasn’t too pleased with the characterization of the goddess Demeter. She was depicted as a doddering, kindly, senile old grandmother type, which helped along the humor… but wasn’t true to my own mental picture of this goddess. The tale of Persephone is my favorite from all of mythology, and Demeter’s role in that story is anything but feeble and doddering. She brings winter upon the entire world in an outstanding and powerful demonstration of motherly love! Where’s that Demeter, huh?
However, in general, I enjoyed the character portraits of the gods, and how they were updated for the modern day (like Dionysius being a casino owner in Las Vegas.) I also loved the strong female protagonist in this book (It’s really easy to win my reader loyalty with a strong female protagonist.) Her badass reactions to sleazy men who hit on her, were especially hilarious and awesome to me.
Read this book! If you have a good sense of humor and/or an interest in meta-exploration of the craft of writing, you will really enjoy it. This book has all the creativity and originality of self-publishing, but all the craft and professionalism of traditional publishing. We need more books like this on the marketplace.