Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's talk about that Lightning Thief dude....

Once upon a time, there was a pre-teen boy who discovered that he had magical powers. To learn how to use them he was shipped off to a special training place, where he met two best friends (a guy and a girl), a wise mentor, and a prophecy predicting a dark and deadly destiny.

And no. Believe it or not, this is NOT Harry Potter. (or Star Wars, or Eragon, or...)

We're talking about Percy Jackson.

Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy with ADHD and Dyslexia. He has been expelled from every school he ever entered. One day one of his teachers turns into a monster and he finds himself disintegrating her into a pile of dust. To his astonishment he then learns that he is no ordinary teen.

Percy is a demigod.

Demigods are the half god/half human offspring of one of the Greek Gods of Olympus (Unless your dad is Hades, who was sort of expelled from the holy mountain awhile past). Olympus is no longer in Greece - it's entrance is on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. There are Greek Gods and Monsters around every corner, and only the mysterious "Mist" hides them from the sight of ordinary humans.

So as Monsters chase Percy across New York, he escapes with his satyr friend, Grover, to Camp Half-Blood where young demi-gods learn how to fight and defeat monsters. At camp, Percy meets the centaur Chiron who will become his mentor, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, who becomes his other best friend (and... maybe more...).

He also finds out that he is the son of Posidon, one of the "big three." This turns out to be a bit of a sticky issue. Apparently after WWII the big three (Zeus, Posidon and Hades) agreed not to have any more children, because their offspring are just too powerful.

But it gets worse. About seventy years previously a prophecy decreed that the next child of the big three who reached 16 would have the power to destroy Olympus - or save it. The last child of the big three (a girl Zeus had in spite of the promise) was destroyed by monsters and turned into a pine tree. Yeah, very encouraging, thanks.

So it's up to Percy to fight off Monsters, traitors, Titans, and the biggest baddie of them all - Kronos, father of the Gods.

I have to say I really enjoyed this series. While it doesn't reach anywhere near Harry Potter's brilliance, it still sits rather higher than most YA literature published these days. It has an intriguing and usually at least somewhat unpredictable plot. The characters are memorable and easy to care for.

Plus it's just plain awesome for any fan of Greek Mythology to squeal over the appearances of all the gods, monsters and heros.

"Mr. D... likes parties... now what god... OOOH! I KNOW WHO THAT IS!!!!"

"Three old ladies with thread... ha, let me guess..."

"Girl with a bow and arrow... in the woods... surrounded by maidens... hmmm, this isn't hard to guess... ha! Look. Whaddya know! I was right!"

As far as appropriateness goes... although the series is directed towards a younger audience than Harry Potter, it does deal with what I find a very complicated subject. The union between gods and mortals. It is handled extremely tastefully, but there still remains the rather weird fact that the gods have unions with hundreds of mortals across the centuries, but are still married to immortal spouses. And then the humans, after the union results in a child (or two) usually go on to marry another human.

Maybe it's because families have become so splintered in our day and age. Having multiple parents in different houses with different spouses.... well it's become a bit normal for our society. I doubt "Percy Jackson" could have been published two decades ago - at least as children reading material.

I really liked the series. I'm definitely going to be watching for Rick Riordon's next books. But at the same time, I'm a little amused by the lack of Christian outcry, because imho, there is more to worry about in Percy Jackson than there ever is in Harry Potter.


Christina said...

I think the lack of outcry about the Percy Jackson books is because:

1., Rick Riordan specifies that the Greek gods and goddesses are not God (capital G) and are only really powerful/immortal beings that were CREATED,

2., Percy, while he's a rebel and doesn't always listen to his elders, genuinely cares for his friends and seeks to do the right thing,

3. Percy cares about his mom a great deal rather than blowing her off like some teens in books,

4. It does not glamorize the fact that all of these demigods, fathered/mother by immortals parents, are largely lacking one of their parents. It's actually a pretty big issue in the fight against Kronos, and struck me as very sad (I think it was meant to).

So....any other specific issues you want to bring up, I'll think about 'em. But those are the ones combatting objections I can imagine right off the bat. :)

Sarah R. said...

I enjoyed these books because my little brother left them laying around. Initially I found it a bit campy and tongue in cheek, but I came to enjoy the plot and the humor, also Percy has more initiative than Harry Potter (I do like HP too). The infidelity of the Greek gods has always bothered me even when first learning about mythology. I thought gods should be above such human behavior; but the gods in the Percy Jackson books don't behave much differently than the gods of the Greek myths. I suppose it's less troubling than Harry Potter because the existence of mythological deities is more far fetched than the existence of wizards.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Riordon's new series about the Egyptian gods, The Kane Chronicles? I've read the first book, The Red Pyramid, and it is similar to the Percy Jackson series in many ways but different enough that I didn't feel like he was copying himself too much.