The Sea of Ithaki by Janus Christo

The Sea of Ithaki

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A retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in a post-apocalyptic Europe overrun with violent gangs and widespread ruin.

Christo makes his fiction debut with an adventure tale set in the age of austerity. The book opens with a brief retelling of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. This maps much of the action that will come later in the book. The protagonist here is also named Odysseus. In a joking reference to the present, Odysseus works as a Greek hedge fund manager. His once noble intentions have been largely replaced by his quest for ever larger sums of money. Odysseus leaves his family in Greece and travels to Germany on business when the electrical grid suddenly collapses and violent gangs roam the streets. After a confusing and implausibly brief period of chaos, Odysseus finds himself in a post-apocalyptic Europe, desperate to reunite with his family. He sets off on foot on a journey that loosely resembles that of Homer’s identically named hero. This solid premise could have been an entertaining and zeitgeist-mining adventure story. Unfortunately, the work reads more like armchair philosophy than momentum-driven narrative. Unprovoked, Odysseus ruminates on life, love, history, politics—just about any subject that he deems appropriately lofty. Plot, character and setting quickly become afterthoughts under the weight of endless editorializing. When the novel does focus on the plot, it manages to draw some creative parallels to The Odyssey. The Cyclops is replaced by a gang of cannibals led by a smooth-talking priest. Calypso appears as a character named Kallisto, a fellow wanderer who helps Odysseus to forget, however briefly, about his fear and depression. The novel further redeems itself to an extent with a surprisingly moving ending, but by this point, many readers may have lost their emotional investment.

A promising premise that gets mired in its own self-seriousness.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1480269644
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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