What if the Olympian gods still existed and had merely been forced to go off and live in the sun? Or Jupiter, needing some high-powered help in his great comeback bid, had sired a new Hero upon an English suburban housewife? What if Betamax videos had captured the market? Well, young Jason Derry soon grows tired of slaying fabulous monsters and retrieving golden fleeces at the behest of his divine father, so when an eagle who can turn into a girl takes him for a chat with Prometheus the Titan, presently somewhat tied up in the Caucasus, Jason listens. Long ago, you see, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. He also stole The Joke. Gods, it seems, are a grim, serious bunch, and the only thing that stops them from totally dominating humanity is- -laughter. Soon, Jason is helping Prometheus, but Jupiter isn't worried; like all Heroes, Jason has a tragic flaw—he's a good boy and always does what his mother tells him. Still, even Jason eventually figures it out: If you're a Hero, the easiest way to get what you want is to beat up anyone who tries to stop you. And what does happen on Betamax worlds, anyway? The gods reign supreme, of course—and nobody laughs. Ever. Not quite in the Terry Pratchett league, though it's wacky enough and, in places, genuinely funny. Holt would travel better if he toned down his rather strident Englishisms (``jammy,'' ``duff up,'' ``knackered,'' etc.). Still: amusing stuff, especially for Anglophiles, and a vast improvement over the one-joke Flying Dutch (1992).
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