Reading Corner: Perched on Olympus

My first introduction to Percy Jackson was not finding the books in the library or even the movie trailer, but rather the studio’s incredibly long and lengthy file name joined by (what felt like) a thousand other long and lengthy file names all beginning with PercyJackson, or in some unfortunate iterations, Percy_Jackson. The differentiations as the file name made its way onward towards its final destination of OV (preferably) or VF (god no) were no less subtle and far more aggravating.

Percy Jackson quickly became a gigantic pain in my ass and my least favorite person ever.

As an aside, I am referring to the second Percy Jackson movie. I can only assume I actually had seen the preview for the first feature prior to my exposure to the monstrosity naming conventions of the second, but the entirety of 2010 remains an extremely hazy memory.

Anyway.

Time has since passed. Wounds have since healed. I would occasionally remember that I maybe wanted to read the books. That I was, let’s just say, mildly curious about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

My friend gave me most of the first series for Christmas.

I devoured them. I wanted to write a blog post about how #awesome it was that the last Olympian was Hestia, the importance and prioritization of hearth and home, but I had since found out about Heroes of Olympus and who has time to write a blog post when there are those books to read.

And so I read Heroes of Olympus, and that was when Nico Di Angelo crushed my heart in a stealth attack of feeling.

I seriously enjoyed these books despite the fact they were straight–seriously straight. I would use the “straight as hell” metaphor but it would be inappropriate to do so in this context.

But that’s okay. I’m used to my content being straight except when authors pull a surprise! We’re gonna reveal that Nico’s gay! Because he’s being forcibly outed! By Cupid!

Ouch????

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been forcibly outed–only casually accidentally outed because the person involved didn’t realize I would prefer to Not, y’know? But she thought I was out and probably didn’t think about how gay people have to out themselves to every new person they meet so I don’t count it.

But like–what happened to Nico? Ten times worse. Being forced to confront his love for Percy in front of a person he doesn’t really trust that because Nico doesn’t trust anybody.

Again let me just say–ouch.

Honestly, this isn’t really a good start.

I was desperate for Nico to find happiness and, at the end, Riordan indicates that he might be able to find young romance with some guy named Will.

I had forgotten who Will was. I had to interrupt my reading to google, Will Solace Heroes of Olympus.

Oh. That guy.

Wait. What guy?

You see.

The whole “dynamic” was shoehorned in. It was like Riordan knew enough to not let Nico end up alone, but didn’t know enough to understand that Nico ending up with the equivalent of some Rando would be really unsatisfying.

I know that Nico was never one of the Seven (an observation noted by Nico himself that did not fail to make my heart ache) but all the other seven kids had major pairings with people who actually had their own point of view chapters through multiple books–right?

No, they didn’t! Time to talk about Leo Valdez!

Leo was shoehorned into a romance with Calypso, a plot line that was entirely unnecessary and served primarily to give Leo a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend named Nico.

Their names even rhyme how could Riordan have resisted such a temptation? To this day, nearly 24 hours after finishing the last book, I do not know. I can only shake my head and tsk my disappointment his way.

Leo (very vocally) likes girls, but I don’t think it would have been so unbelievable that Leo could have liked boys too.

Leo’s insistence on his attraction to the ladies is the embodiment of overcompensation. His attitude reminds me of me when I was his age: I’m going to get married to a man! And this man is going to take care of me! And we’re going to have so many babies! And I’m going to be so happy in my nuclear family!

#classic

A lot of times in the LGBT stories that I’ve been exposed to, there will always be the person who is Out and the other who is Not. It’s so ingrained. The conflict of such a relationship always seems to be a driving point.

It’s so tiring.

I would have loved to have seen Nico, struggling with the fact that he’s gay, becoming close with Leo, who is struggling to realize that he likes guys too. And together, they would realize that they liked each other.

Instead of the ridiculous Hazel-Frank-Leo half-hearted love triangle, we could have had that.

Instead of Leo finding his way back to Calypso’s island to keep Percy’s promise, we could have had Nico meeting Leo in the underworld after he died. We could have had Nico promising Leo that he would see him on the other side just before Festus injects him with the cure to bring him back to life.

C’mon this is the stuff of romance.

So in the Last Olympian, a character dies. Not a major one, but a character dies. A lot of minor characters die off page in Blood of Olympus, but overall, practically everybody lives, and this makes me happy.

I am so glad nobody I loved or particularly liked died. I am tired of heartbreak in my consumable fiction so it was nice to know that they all ended up okay because I stayed up way past my bedtime to make damn sure they would be okay.

So I thought that was a good beat to end it on–with everyone alive, everyone finding love and a home.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be over the missed opportunity for Leo and Nico, but I was also thinking about the actual writing of the novels.

I would hardly say that it was anything to write home about, but it was so readable. It was consumable. And I wish that I could find a way to balance my artsy-fartsy writing with readable, can’t-actually-put-it-down writing.

But I do recommend the books and I do intend to read more of the author. Started the Apollo book just today, actually, though I have to wait until May for book 2 and who knows how long after that for the rest.

Reader’s Corner: King & Riordan

When I was a kid, I used to read several books at a time. I blame this on my home school education,  tv was a limited amusement, and that we used to belong to the Pizza Hut reading program: read x number of books and you get a free single-serving pizza.

I would read books that were beneath my reading level so I could chow through them in a single day, satisfactorily log it, and then read another one. Normally, I was reading other books that were not considered pizza fodder, though I took great satisfaction in logging those too.

Then I grew up. Got a major case of The Depression, and stopped reading!

I know, what a bummer.

I’ve actually been reading again for a while but not like I used to. Not like I did as a kid.

I’ve been starting small, again reading books below my age. For example, my coworker gave me the Percy Jackson books for Christmas. You’ll have these read over the weekend, right? She asked me.

Uhhhhhhh, I said, very intelligently.

To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. My mom had also given me two books that she wanted me to read, one of which was sitting on my shelf for over a month, the other languishing in my kindle for even longer. I also had my own list of to-reads which I had yet to get to–Amazon asks me how many stars I want to rate a book I’ve purchased but yet to read, and the guilt sets in.

I did not have the Percy books read over the weekend, but I did go through them at a good pace despite working full time, writing, being dog tired, and reading other projects.

Yes, I am back to reading multiple books at a time!

The primary book that I read while reading Percy Jackson was Joyland by Steven King. I chose to read Joyland to expand my genre horizons beyond science fiction and fantasy.

I consumed Joyland in a day and a half. Stephen King is a pretty good writer, obviously. His On Writing was one of the first books I read about the craft, though my thoughts are mixed on it now as an adult. I really enjoyed Firestarter, but couldn’t get into some of his more “heavier” stuff. Basically, I don’t read a lot of Stephen King for several reasons, and I started IT though stopped when I discovered what happens at the end of the novel.

I’ve never read any of Rick Riordan’s work before and, even though they are different genres written for different audiences, I couldn’t help but compare the two to each other craftwise.

One of the things I immediately noticed about Joyland was that it was not structured into chapters. The other thing I noticed is that, even though I could remember what happened as I was reading, the drama was written so smoothly it was sliding melted butter over bread. It’s the juxtaposition of feeling where you remember what happened–but you also don’t. The same sort of feel when you try to remember exactly what filled your hours on a weekend, but you can’t. The day was there, and it wasn’t. There’s just the feeling you had–that it was great or good or satisfying or bad.

I’ve always had this feeling when I’m immersed in a well written book. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m trying to write: how am I going to fill these pages when hardly anything is happening, when the plot is a slow boil? And here is Stephen King doing just that, nearly effortlessly.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining it right. Maybe if I finally bring in my point about Percy Jackson:

With Percy Jackson, I have the opposite feeling. I remember what fills the page because it feels very much like a video game. Each obstacle is like a punctuation mark. Again, this is probably because this is aimed at a (much) younger audience than myself.

But it also got me thinking about different writing styles, and the audience. Of course, you’re going to be changing your form and style as necessary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that my most mature writing is more like Riordan’s than King’s.

And there really is nothing wrong with that! But, especially since I am not writing for a younger generation, I want my writing to read more like King’s. Not in his voice, just the way people read the words without noticing the plot structure or other writing devices because they are so well hidden in the actual story.

It’s something that I’ll be aiming for in the coming months.