I discovered Rick Riordan’s Olympian series not long after the third book was released, though I put off giving the series a go until more of the books had be published because Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire long, long ago burned out any willingness on my part to get involved in anything longer than a trilogy before all the books had been released. I was excited about the series, but realistic, and while I pride myself on not being a genre snob, I have to admit that I do tend to automatically shy away from books or series that seem “too” popular. Because I don’t want to ever turn my nose up at a book based on other people’s opinions, I made myself read the first book once it was clear that the author would finish the series.
I remember not much liking it, but because, hey, Poseidon! I decided to try again a while after, in preparation to seeing the movie version. Really ought not have done so, because I discovered again that I didn’t much care for the book and I was set up to dislike the movie for changing so much as well as embracing what I think of as lazy writing. (Underworld beings as villains? How . . . original. I mean, the story was already written for you! Why did you have to change so much??)
This isn’t to say that I did not enjoy Kevin McKidd’s portrayal of Poseidon on the big screen. The opening scene where they pay homage to this statue as he’s coming out of the water? Pretty much makes the movie for me — even if Kevin makes too fair of a Poseidon for my taste.
Now, I know that a poor representation of the gods as characters is an age old story telling issue that goes back to Homer, that it is not a problem brought about by millennia of monotheist-dominated cultures. That said, it wasn’t Riordan’s writing itself, or even what could be seen as irreverence that bothered me — why should he write reverently about divinities he does not worship? While I feel I have an onus to write respectfully of gods and spirits, even when having them fulfill an antagonistic role in a story, and while I wish more pagan or pagan friendly writers shared that goal, I certainly don’t expect anyone else to. I simply enjoy stories more when respect is granted — yes, even while I know that a fictional representation may be just that: fiction. At the same time, I know the spirits and gods can use whatever tools come to hand, and if any of Them ever decided to use my fiction as a tool through which to reach someone, I want that tool to be respectful.
Considering the complexity of the interactions I’ve had with Dionysos (the relationship between Poseidon and Dionysos is, at best, a Mystery that I have on hopes of getting into words, and am not even going to try, but it has not ever been easy or necessarily pleasant, these brief interactions) the fact that the portrayal of Dionysos in the series was the most off-putting for me and thus is what turned me away from them after the first three books is somewhat amusing.
But then I was chatting about them in brief with Terence a while ago, and trying to explain why I didn’t care for them. And I thought: the series is finished now. Why not try again?
I’m not sure what’s changed about them, so much. I’m only halfway through the second book (for the second time) but I’m finding them entertaining-enough. I love, even without having read them, how they’ve brought an awareness of Poseidon to the minds of people who might not have come across Him. Yes, I know, fiction . . . but I don’t care. And I don’t hate how much easier it is to find trident images and pendants and jewellery now that it was twenty years ago.
So, to sum up: yay Poseidon!