Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Atlas' Revenge

by Robyn and Tony DiTocco


PJ is the kind of surf-loving, snowboarding Californian student liable to call people "dude" at the slightest provocation. He leaves his essays until the last minute, sleeps and eats badly, and has girl trouble. Not the obvious choice of a hero to save the world, then.

However there are signs that things are not right with the world, as earthquakes and natural disasters begin to take place with unnatural frequency. Somehow Atlas has escaped his fate of holding up the sky, and the 12 Labours of Hercules have been undone. It falls to PJ to complete the Labours and figure out what is going on.

So PJ faces the Nemean Lion, the Lernean Hydra, Amazons, the underworld, and all the rest. But he does so with the help of the gods, so there's never any feeling that he's about to fail. He muddles through many of these tasks thanks to their help and a bit of luck, rather than this being some sort of epic struggle on the part of our hero. There's something a little too didactic about the way PJ goes through the Labours in order. It's as though teaching readers about the myths is more important than telling a good story.

At the end of a day's questing he returns to his normal life, where questions of who he should date and whether he will be on time for work are at least as important as the imminent end of the world. He's currently dating the highly-strung Cate, but keeps bumping into Andi, his ex-girlfriend from the first book in the series. In Atlas' Revenge, destiny is not too subtle.

PJ's roommate is the laid-back Julius O'Malley, whilst the lazy yet demanding Mr Never is his boss where he works part-time as an animator. The mythical world and the real world overlap in this book in a way that's reminiscent of the writing of Tom Holt, although in Atlas' Revenge the effect is more dramatic than comical.

Interspersed with PJ's tasks are a number of riddles, clues which often don't make much sense until it's too late. The story is well-paced and it offers various elements of mystery, such as the question of the curious drawings that PJ does in his sleep.

However Atlas' Revenge is missing a few things that would make it more involving. The characters are a weak point: PJ is very happy-go-lucky, Andi seems thoroughly ordinary, and Zeus is perhaps too nice. Many original Greek heroes were compelling because in spite of their strengths they tended to have fatal flaws that led them to do terrible things, like slaughtering their kin or eloping with the one woman who would bring war and death down on their people. None of the characters in Atlas' Revenge have this kind of complexity or pathos. Hecate may be capable of evil, but she falls into the old supervillain trap of gloating too much when she could just as easily kill PJ and have done with it.

Atlas' Revenge is a diverting enough mixture of ancient Greek and modern American cultures, but it's a light story that lacks the depth that would make this a truly gripping read.

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Male Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson