And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Or the moment I’ve all been waiting for. (That’s right, I’ve been waiting for this so long that I’ve become plural! Can you handle us right now?) Apollo finally shows up in the fourth chapter of Michael Reads Percy Jackson: The Titan’s Curse, a.k.a…
Thalia Torches New England
As a Seahawks fan, I can get behind this title.
First off, as the chapter begins, Percy helps me understand a bit of why he’s so irritated at Bianca’s decision. He’s projecting his own abandonment issues on her. Does this go back to how he felt growing up without his real father, or is there a bit of missing Tyson in there, too? I’m guessing more the latter, but it’s probably a mix. It’s not exactly an invalid criticism he makes of Bianca. I wonder what it says about me that I didn’t even think of this angle? Aside from me being the youngest child in my family and never having needed to look after a sibling, I mean.
Primarily, though, this chapter is about Apollo, so that’s pretty much all I’m going to talk about for the rest of this post. Strap in, folks, because I might get a bit self-indulgent here. Will you enjoy that? Of course you will! Let’s give it a nice ol’ spiffy heading, in fact:
Spiffy enough for ya? Good.
First thing’s first: I needn’t have worried. Riordan’s Apollo is quite different from my version in Zeus Is Dead. Secondly, I like Riordan’s take on him! (Of course I’m partial to my own, but we always like our children better than others’, right?) Riordan’s is more of a free spirit, acts younger, and is a lot more carefree than mine. But it makes sense. The guy has literature, music, and poetry in his divine portfolio, and IS one of the younger generation of gods. And, thankfully, Riordan didn’t cut him from the same cloth as the Party Ponies from the last book. (In case you didn’t read that post, they bugged me.)
One thing I did when writing Zeus Is Dead is to have some of the gods change over the past 3,000 years. Demeter has gone a bit senile, and Apollo has matured a little under the weight of all of his godly responsibilities. (With being the god of the sun, healing, literature, music, prophecy, poetry, archery, etc., he’s become a bit overworked and picked up the nickname “multi-purpose god” from Artemis, who thinks he’s an over-achiever.) So he chooses to appear a bit older now than Riordan’s Apollo (late twenties, usually), and rather than jeans, loafers, and sleeveless t-shirts, he’s described as “comfortably dressed in a formal, Eddie Bauer sort of way.”
I realize it’s unfair to say that Riordan doesn’t do updating on some of the gods’ personalities as well, of course. Dionysus is prime evidence of that.
Two more differences to contrast the two Apollos:
1) Riordan’s Apollo drives the sun chariot. My Apollo has his automated so he can be freed up to deal with other duties while the chariot runs. Also, he’s got more than one now so he can swap them out in short notice in case there’s a break-down. But I did like how Riordan’s Apollo can change the shape of the chariot based on his needs.
2) Bursting into haiku isn’t something my Apollo does, but I actually would have liked to have done more with that aspect of the god. I’d intended to do more with that at first. I was going to have him quote song lyrics on occasion, but I couldn’t find a good way to work them in, and wound up editing out every single instance. He does make literary references, and the musical & poetic aspects come into play for him in other, smaller ways, but it’s not a huge part of his characterization. I like that Riordan found time to play it up with his version.
Yet being derived from the same source material, the Apollos are similar in a lot of ways, too. Riordan and I both made archery something of a competitive issue between Apollo and Artemis, since both are known for their use of the bow:
Riordan: “Got the girls with you, I see. You all need some tips on archery?” —Apollo to Artemis
Me: “Note to the media: though archery is a shared interest of both Artemis and Apollo, the question of which of them actually invented it seems to be a subject of contention and is not a recommended topic for joint interviews.” —A Mortal’s Guidebook to the Olympians’ Return (an in-universe book often quoted at the start of ZID chapters)
Also, we both make reference to the myth of Apollo and Daphne. (Apollo insulted the god of love, who made him fall in love with a nymph named Daphne who was enchanted to hate him. Apollo chased her until she begged her father for help and her father, “helpfully,” turned her into a tree.) Granted, Riordan-Apollo seems to have slightly more of a sense of humor about it, where as my Apollo is slightly more bitter, but it’s still pretty close:
Riordan: “Zeus’s girl, yes? Makes you my half sister. Used to be a tree, didn’t you? Glad you’re back. I hate it when pretty girls turn into trees. Man, I remember one time—” —Apollo to Thalia
Me: “…Listen, I need a basic quest assignment from you, for a mortal: Tracy—” He covered the phone again, looking to Tracy. “What’s your middle name?”
“Daphne? Really? Huh.” Talk about opening old wounds. —Apollo with (mortal) Tracy Daphne Wallace
So, yeah, I like how Riordan’s Apollo turned out, and I’m having a great time comparing notes, so to speak. I had more written on all of this, in fact, but I lost it when my laptop died. So, in order to make up for this post being shorter than I’d planned, and to reward you folks for waiting so long for me to get it posted, I’m going to end this segment with an exclusive excerpt from Zeus Is Dead featuring Apollo and the book’s introduction of Thalia (the muse, in this case, rather than a halfblood teenager). I figure it’s fitting, since Riordan’s Apollo and Thalia met for the first time in this chapter.
But first, I want to just say that I loved the underwater basket weaving reference at the end of this chapter:
Steam billowed up, sending several frightened naiads scrambling out of the water with half-woven wicker baskets.
So now, I present to you an excerpt from the end of Chapter 5 of Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure…
Apollo made his way to his own quarters, located in the eastern wing overlooking the secondary stables. (Not a day went by that he wasn’t thankful for the olfactory shield Hestia had invented to contain the smell. Apollo loved the fire-breathing horses that once guided the sun chariots, but they subsisted on a steady diet of sulfur and chili.) His footsteps echoed on the polished marble floor like the ticking of a clock. He was out of time for the moment. Work awaited him, again. Dreading the number of messages surely stalking his inbox, he climbed the stairs past the Muses’ quarters on the way to his office.
“Are they insane?” The question burst from the Muses’ quarters, leaving no doubt about the opinion of the one posing it. “How is that the same? No, answer me! How is that the same!”
Apollo halted his climb and turned instead toward the doorway to poke his head through the silk divider curtains. Thalia stalked back and forth in the middle of the atrium, red hair blazing behind her in the sunlight. She focused all her attention on the phone clutched in her hand.
“No, look!” Thalia caught sight of Apollo and put him off with a nod before directing her ire back into the phone. “I don’t care how much of an advance he’s getting. You tell those producers the character stays as is or you’re backing out! . . . Who cares if there’s a contract? This is—I’m a Muse! I inspired that whole story! I—” She squeezed her eyes shut to trap welling tears and turned her back. “Fine!” she managed. “Just—fine! You just tell Mr. Brown he’ll—he’ll have to write the next book without me!” She jammed a finger at the screen to end the call and took a few steps toward the window, her breath ragged, her back to Apollo.
“Thalia?” he tried. “Are—?”
She cut him off with a scream culminating in her hurling the phone against a nearby couch. It barely bounced, landing on the cushion in still-pristine condition. She turned on him.
“If you take the character of a jaded, balding, wheelchair-bound mathematician in his late fifties and turn him into a female twenty-two-year-old blonde ex-gymnast stripper who’s just ‘good with numbers,’ how does that possibly retain the spirit of the story? Why can’t so-called ‘creative’ executives leave well enough alone? Or hurl themselves off a cliff? Can I shove one off a cliff, Apollo? It would make me ever so happy.” She smiled with one of her better doe-eyed expressions.
He smiled back, despite his troubles. “Probably not the best idea, Thalia.”
She heaved a sigh and picked up her phone again to polish it. “It wouldn’t have to be a big cliff.” Eyelashes fluttered at him.
She wiped the remnants of a tear. “No? Me? Stressed? No, not at all. Why do you ask?”
She hurled herself backward onto the couch. “It’s not that every single mortal seems to be invoking us for inspiration for their work. It’s really not. I mean it’s positively risible that every single slack-jaw on the Internet begs for comedic inspiration each time they make a smart-assed crack on a forum; I can more or less keep my sanity by just ignoring them. But dear gods, it’s having to sift through it all!”
“Reminds me of—”
“But hey, I’m a big girl. I can do that, right?” She thrust her fingers into her hair and mussed it, her coiffure looking like a poofed dandelion as she cut him off. “I mean sanity’s overrated anyway, isn’t it? Got to find the really deserving writers and such out there amid the offal, don’t we? Very well, so I’ll miss a few gems in the sifting, but hey, them’s the breaks, that’s luck, not meant to be, right?”
Thalia suddenly caught her reflection in the mirror that made up half of one wall, and her tirade of annoyance continued unabated with a, “Sakes alive, look at my hair!” In a single sweep of her hand, it was perfectly coifed again. Thalia launched a wide-eyed grin at him that all but screamed, “Ta-da!”
Apollo tried to stay on topic. “I suppose that given—”
“But it’s—ugh! It’s those executives!” She jumped to her feet again. “Those studios and producers and focus groups and—and just the diabolical dumbing-down that everyone seems to think is compulsory! It’s driving me positively ape-shit! I mean, excuse me, I know that’s not very becoming, but oh my gods, Apollo!” She unscrewed a bottle of ambrosia and began to pour out a glass without offering any to him. “You just shouldn’t take a 1,000-page novel and turn it into a two-hour movie! It doesn’t work! Do you know how many scripts I’ve inspired since we came back? I mean just scripts, not even books being made into scripts! Every single one of them altered by philistines who think they know better than a Muse! More breasts! More explosions! More fart jokes! Fart jokes! Jiggle-boom-fart-bounce-fart! It’s the nimrod anthem!” She suddenly stopped, considering. “Nimrod.” She giggled. “I like that word.”
As Thalia took the opportunity to down the ambrosia, Apollo took the opportunity to get out a full sentence or two. “You’ve inspired scripts that were changed before. Before we came back into public awareness. It didn’t seem to bother you so much then.”
Thalia finished the glass and poured another. “Yes, but it’s happening more now. Cumulating, drop by drop!” She sighed again, looking at the full glass before setting it down. “Anyway, I’m being boorish, aren’t I? Hi there. How’re you?” She forced a dazzling smile and flashed her lashes again.
He laughed. “Trust me; you don’t want to know.”
“Oh hmm, that certainly doesn’t make me curious at all.”
“I’ve been a bit out of touch. Do you know if your sisters are having the same cliff-shoving urges?”
She shrugged. “More or less. I mean except Urania. You know, I still don’t see why I got science fiction and she didn’t.”
Years ago, as the modern genres came into being, the Muses each took on new duties. Thalia added sci-fi to her existing purviews of comedy and poems about farming.
“You picked it yourself. You like science fiction.”
“Oh there you go, bringing facts into the argument. She muses astronomy; you should’ve made her take it. She’s got, like, zero workload.”
“You drew lots. She picked last. It’s your own fault.”
“She’s only got to worry about astronomy texts, calendar photos, and those stupid little sayings on coffee cups!”
“And bathroom wall graffiti.”
Thalia snorted and then blushed at the sound. “Oh, yeah. Maybe she’s been talking to those executives.”
Apollo walked to the window and gazed out over the stables. Thalia, perhaps sensing he was weighting some sort of decision, said nothing. Her uncharacteristic silence was actually more distracting.
“Thalia,” he said at last, “gather your sisters. There’s something we must speak about. Don’t tell anyone else.”
“Ooh, secretive. Sounds like fun. Give me a couple of hours to get them all here.”
Apollo shook his head. “Not here. Not on Olympus.”
Thalia nodded, perplexed. “Would this have anything to do with cliffs?” she asked. “I’ve got one all picked out.”