Did you ever wonder whatever happened to all those gods of bygone days? Like Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, you know, THOSE gods? Well, in Gods Behaving Badly, we finally learn what happened to them. They are alive and semi-well and living in London.
But because nobody believes in them anymore, they have lost pretty much all of their powers. They only have enough for the basics; Apollo can still keep the sun rising, Aphrodite can still keep lust in bloom, Artemis still has control of the moon, etc. But only that.
They now live crowded together in a tatty row house in London. Apollo is working as a rock ‘n roll guitarist, Aphrodite is employed as a telephone sex worker, Artemis does dog walking, Dionysus has a dark and awful bar which does pretty well — he brews his own beer and it is a killer! Hermes still works as a messenger, now on a motorcycle.
Two mortals, Neil and Alice, fall in love. Alice goes to work as a house cleaner for the gods, not knowing that they are gods. Apollo was shot by Eros and fell in love with Alice. She rejects him, he gets P.O.d and gets his father, Zeus, senile and living in the attic, to strike her with a lightning bolt. Poor Alice. She then goes to the Underworld where Charon now carries the dead to the Underworld using the subway instead of the ferry.
Apollo, trying to show off, shuts off the sun, plunging the world into absolute blackness, and immediately falls into a coma because he has used all his waning powers for the trick. His twin, Artemis, determines to go into the Underworld to persuade her sister, Persephone, and maybe even Hades himself, to help bring Apollo back to consciousness so he can bring back the sun. She takes the grieving Neil with her, who wants to search for Alice and bring her back to live with the help of the gods.
Artemis finally has that aha! moment when she realizes that the gods have lost their power because nobody believes in them anymore, and arranges an event at Nelson’s Column which will bring back their belief. Kinda like Tinkerbell, you know. Clap if you want Tinkerbell to live!
All in all, it was a funny book, very clever, and need I tell you that the romantic couple …… no. I will not. Read it yourself if you want to know if Alice is brought back to life.
Neil Gaiman deals with the gods issue in a darker, but fascinatingly shrewd way in his American Gods. Gods Behaving Badly doesn’t have much of a message, in the way that Gaiman’s book does, but it does have something to say about belief and the power of the collective consciousness, or collective unconsciousness, as it were. It is just a fun story, dexterous and witty.