Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rated R

My ears have been used to the (mostly) clean listening of books for children and young adults for so long, that I truly was blushing while listening to Apollo and Aphrodite getting it on in the drafty bathroom of their London mansion in Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. I picked up this audiobook at a publisher event last summer at ALA, and had the narrator, Rosalyn Landor, sign it for a friend. The friend enjoyed it, but I don't think she wants to keep it because she was quick to pass it on to me!

The Greek Gods are living in squalor in 21st century London, their power waning, forced to earn a living. Aphrodite does phone sex, Apollo is working on a TV pilot as a psychic, Artemis walks dogs, Athena is putting together a Powerpoint that shows just when their last bit of power will vanish, and Eros volunteers at a local church while struggling with a belief in Jesus. Aphrodite decides to play a trick on Apollo (for some vindictive reason I can't remember) and forces her son, Eros, to prick him with an arrow: Apollo will fall helplessly in love with the next person he sees. This person turns out to be Alice, a nebbishy cleaner. Alice is in love with Neil, an even more nebbishy engineer, but he can't seem to declare his affection for her.

Through a series of circumstances, the Gods end up hiring Alice to clean for them, and when Apollo tries to seduce her, she rejects him. Apollo rouses a frail Zeus from his bed and Zeus slays Alice with a lightning bolt (because Apollo has sworn on Styx that he will not harm any humans). Artemis convinces Neil that he must be a hero and travel to the Underworld for Alice, where he will also save the human race and return power to the Gods.

There's a lot of wit and humor (as well as sex) in this story, and I enjoyed the conceit of the Gods unable to cope with modern unbelief. But after the first couple of jokes, it gets old pretty fast. I did enjoy the story once Alice finds herself in the Underworld, and then when Artemis and Neil follow her. Apollo has eliminated the sun in an attempt to show Neil his power, and that was giving me chilly Susan Beth Pfeffer flashbacks, which I enjoyed.

Landor just didn't send me though, although I think I'm being unfair (she was quite pleasant to chat with). She is a great character actress -- everyone was distinctly and consistently voiced, and she created a variety of English class accents. She kept the story moving at an appropriately light and sprightly pace, and was able to switch gears for the few times that a scene called for real emotion. As with most experienced narrators, she carries off cringy (to listen to) sex scenes with aplomb. But she had a whispery delivery that I found both hard to listen to at length and frequently too low in volume to properly hear. I got lazy listening to this: Its little-more-than-nine hours took me over a week to get through!

The deliveries of youthful materials have begun, so it's back to discreet, if any, sex and other childish things!

No comments: