In this disarmingly matter-of-fact farce, the London-based author’s debut, the gods of Olympus are living in London and running the world with increasingly diminished powers.
The gods have been in London since 1665, when the Plague caused property values to drop. They thrived for a while, but by the present day their townhouse is crumbling and dirty. Now they must conserve their strength to perform their individual responsibilities for the world’s upkeep. They all also have appropriate jobs with which to while away some of their endless time—Aphrodite does phone sex, Artemis is a dog walker, Dionysus runs a nightclub. To get back at Apollo for a slight, Aphrodite makes her son Eros, who’s trying to become a Christian although he knows Jesus was no god, to shoot the sun god with a love arrow while he’s live on stage filming a pilot called Apollo’s Oracle for the psychic channel. Apollo falls for the least likely mortal, mousy Alice. A cleaner at the station, Alice is attending the taping with her friend Neil. Alice and Neil are in love but too shy to tell each other. Through Hermes’s powers Alice becomes the housekeeper at the gods’s house. Lovesick Apollo kisses her but she rejects him. Apollo has vowed to Styx not to harm mortals himself, so he manipulates a decrepit Zeus into sending a bolt of lightning to kill Alice as punishment. Then, wracked with guilt, Apollo visits Neil to apologize but ends up putting out the sun as he falls into a swoon. Artemis enlists Neil as a mortal hero to head with her to the underworld to regain Alice and save the planet. Phillips nimbly creates a present-day alternative universe where belief in the true gods has been replaced by a false Judeo-Christian ethos, and she does a particularly fine job envisioning an underworld that is neither heaven nor hell but simply eternal death.
Not for the pious, but lots of fun for everyone else.