Growing up, my sister was a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy. I on the other hand couldn’t be bothered with it. I was too much of a realist and always found the book covers totally weird. I was sure based on the cover that I would not like what was inside (I know, I know, “one should never judge a book…”) Lucky for me now, I have a son who is quite the fan of science fiction and fantasy; giving me the opportunity to discover some of what my own childhood judged too harshly. Our latest sci-fi read we can’t put down is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. We’ve just finished book one, The Lightning Thief , and have a wasted no time starting book two, The Sea Monster .
The Lightening Thief introduces readers to Perseus (Percy) Jackson, a 12-year old boy plagued with ADHD, dyslexia, and a bad temper. Just as Percy thinks he might make it through a school year without incident (6 schools in 6 years), he is attacked by a monster who a moment before was his pre-algebra teacher. As a result of evaporating his teacher Percy is asked not to return to school in the fall. The assault by his teacher, though unsettling, was the beginning of a series of odd and revealing events. Over the next few weeks, Percy learns that his best friend is a satyr, he’s attacked by a Minotaur, his mother evaporates before his eyes, he goes to live at a camp for demigods known as Camp Half-Blood, he discovers his Latin teacher is a Centaur, and after 12-years of knowing nothing about his father learns he is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. As if all of that wasn’t enough to leave a tween exhausted and in need of therapy, Percy is sent on a quest with the hopes of preventing civil war amongst the big 3 gods, Zeus, Poseidon & Hades.
The Lightening Thief is an action packed adventure story and crash course in Greek mythology. The familiar ancient mythologies are all contained within, but with a contemporary twist. Camp Half-Blood, inhabited by mythical dryads, wood nymphs, satyrs and centaurs, sits on the Long Island Sound. Mount Olympus, which follows the hub of Western civilization, is currently located on the non-existent 600th floor of the Empire State Building. The entrance to the underworld is accessed via a Hollywood recording studio. Medusa runs a diner and statuary on a deserted New Jersey highway. Ares is a biker who would give the Hell’s Angels a run for their money. And Percy, despite his initial skepticism of it all, risks life and limb, suspends disbelief, asks for the gods help and in the end finds himself a hero on par with Jason or Odysseus.
Oh Science Fiction, I’m sorry I judged you so harshly and unfairly. I am learning the error of my ways.
So for those of you who grew up loving science fiction, mythology, and fantasy or for those of you who in your literary hoity-toityness scorned your siblings for reading such drivel, let Percy Jackson and his pre-teen brand of heroism reintroduce you to this genre.
A final thought… for those of you who might consider skipping the book for the movie, I advise that you READ the book. In a moment of pride I sat with my kiddo who, reflectively announced, that he much preferred the book of The Lightening Thief to the movie. The book, he noted, has lots more detail and adventure than the movie. With that said, see the movie if you choose, but definitely read the book.