Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Read: Dec 1-6, 2010
Summary: Okay read, but really cheesy.
In my ongoing research of novels: both bestselling and good, I figured I should give this one a try. Sure it’s for a young audience, but I’m also a big Greek history buff.
Hmmm. The voice is engaging, and it’s certainly easy to read. The idea is great. The characters fine, not good but fine. The writing is stiff, and the plotting… oh the plotting is pretty awful. I really don’t understand why it sold so well. Perhaps it’s a vaguely educational angle?
Percy himself is likable, although he is unrealistically brave in this just-go-for-it-because-I-know-as-protagonist-I’ll-win way. The rest of the characters are pretty one dimensional, although they do fulfill the requisite positions.
The flip style is good, but not exactly ground breaking, and the sentences are clunky.
I’m a stickler for accuracy with regard to mythology. But mostly, that part isn’t too bad. Sure he completely goofed Satyrs, as they are hybridized horse people, not related to goats (although they are partial to the beasts). You can see my detailed post on Satyrs. And on a related note, Dionysus was lamely portrayed, missing out on any of the interesting nuances and dichotomies of the god. That’s the name of the game for this book — shy on nuance. Sure he throws in all sorts of figures from Greek myth, but very little of their subtle and interesting character is retained. But the modernized updates are sometimes fun. Even so, this wasn’t my big problem with the book.
The plot. The premise of modern day child of the gods is great. The overall arc of the plot is fine, that a war of the gods is brewing. It’s just they way the main quest is actually architected. The middle 50% of the book consists of a series of encounters with monsters literally concatenated with nary a thought as to connection or relevance to the overall story. In fact, you could delete quite a few of them and never notice. This is always bad writing. If a scene can be deleted without incident, well then, it probably should’ve been. The overall taste we’re left with is one of ludicrous coincidence, where everything just happens to the hero.
Then we get to the end. Can we say cheesy melodrama. There’s no real menace, or challenge. Things just kind of happen. Mostly the hero solves them by whipping out his sword disguised as a pen. It all works out. It didn’t have to be this way. Harry Potter is much better plotted.
Now I have to see the movie and compare. This may be a chore. I wonder if the series gets better, but I don’t have the interest to find out.