Sunday, September 18, 2016

Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest

Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest
by A. Lee Martinez
Recommended Ages: 14+

Having an epic quest in the modern world is a lot different from the experience you read about in the classics. Two young adults on the west coast learn this big-time when their boss at the Magic Burger restaurant tries to sacrifice them to his evil god, who has been banished by the other gods and only gets a chance to make a comeback once very 300 years. When the boss himself falls into the maw of a divine avatar made of raw hamburger, the Lost God sends Helen and Troy on a quest to retrieve an unspecified number of unspecified, enchanted objects within an unspecified period of time. Or, you know, die.

Anointed as official questers by the National Questing Bureau, the seven-foot-tall, horned female minotaur Helen - heir of a family curse going back thousands of years - and the impossibly perfect, too-good-to-be-true Troy hop into a finned Chevy Chimera and hit the road, bound for adventure. To progress on their quest, they must defeat a cyclops, brave a non-slaying dragon preserve, survive the mystery of the Mystery Cottage, and finally, duke it out with an orc motorcycle gang at a mythological theme park. Aided by a three-legged mutt, a trio of fates whose advice is mostly rubbish, and a government agency that may or may not be on their side, the pair must survive opposition from an evil witch, the wrath of various gods who want to stop the Lost God, and temptations including their growing feelings for each other - to say nothing of a final temptation in which the fate of the world, or at least a three-state area, will be decided.

This book is a steadily funny, romantic, knowing riff on the legends of yore. Except for a little PG-13 language, it's a family-friendly fantasy that explores an offbeat, parallel reality in which the firmament theory is established science, while the idea that the stars are distant suns orbited by other worlds is just an outdated myth. It's a bizarre mashup of a present-day world in which a gay biker orc is accepted by his gang, and in which a girl with full-blown minotaurism (horns, hooves, fur all over) just wants people to notice her for something besides her race. It blends well-aimed parody of the tales of Greek heroes with present-day social awareness and a touch of tongue-in-cheek. With a little more sex and profanity, you could mistake it for a book by Christopher Moore or Robert Rankin. Other authors whose fans should dig it include Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Rick Riordan, and Tom Holt.

This is the seventh book I have read by the Texas-based author of Gil's All Fright Diner, The Automatic Detective, and Chasing the Moon. His other books that I have yet to read are, trust me, on my to-read list, including Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain and The Last Adventure of Constance Verity.

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