The Demigod Files is a collection alternating random and not very interesting fluff, like crossword puzzles, with three very enjoyable short stories set before The Last Olympian. I recommend it for the short stories, which you will certainly like if you like the novels.

In “Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot," Percy helps out Clarisse and some aquarium fish help out Percy. The ending is surprisingly sweet.

In "Percy Jackson and the Bronze Dragon," we get the story of how Silena and Beckendorf got together. The last line is great.

In "Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades," the longest and strongest of the three, Percy, Thalia, and Nico have a quest in the underworld. Percy spends the first half carrying a wilting potted carnation, and the second half being carried by his teammates. It cracked me up.

The Demigod Files (A Percy Jackson and the Olympians Guide)

Lulu in Hollywood, recommended ages ago by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, is a collection of autobiographical essays by Louise Brooks, the silent film actress. She was extraordinarily beautiful, and the character she presents in the book is remarkably congruent with the one in the photos of her in her iconic role as Lulu: compellingly attractive, thoroughly aware of the effect of her carefully constructed persona, but icy and remote; I got the sense that she genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought about her, which is quite unusual for an actor.

The book is more like a series of well-written, ironic short stories and character sketches than a standard memoir. She’s very frank about sexuality, though apparently not as much as she could have been, if the rumors on Wikipedia are true. When I put down the book I thought of that famous line from Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall, the one that concludes: [When you finish reading my book] you will know a little less about me than you did before.

Louise Brooks as Lulu.

Google helps out.

Lulu in Hollywood: Expanded Edition Note: Link goes to an edition which I didn’t read, which includes additional essays.
The Percy Jackson novels have been one of the best surprises I've had this year. I started them with low expectations, based on the terrible movie, my usual lack of enthusiasm for boy-centric middle-grade fantasy, and the merely okay quality of the first book. But they quickly picked up steam, and by the third book the characters had matured and the story had turned into something genuinely epic while still retaining plenty of comedy. Two of the books actually made me cry.

By book three, the majority of the important and heroic characters who aren’t Percy are girls, and this does not change as the series goes on. Clarisse, the daughter of Ares, who is introduced in the subpar book one as an unpleasant bully, turns out to be re-enacting the legend of Achilles, and is the sort of heroic, larger-than-life character that one rarely sees portrayed by a girl. The girls who aren’t traditionally heroic tend to be untraditionally heroic.

Riordan is very good at showing all sorts of people rising to the occasion in their own, in-character ways, from ordinary human parents to under-appreciated Goddesses to depressed and lonely monsters. He also rings a number of clever twists on the concepts of chosen heroes and the nature of heroism. I particularly liked the ones involving the identity of the hero of the prophecy, and the nature of several of Percy’s climactic heroic deeds.

Unusually for me, I liked Percy just as much as I liked the quirky supporting cast, and he continued to be one of my favorite characters all the way up to the satisfying end. For a first-person narrative, it’s very ensemble-based, and in a lot of ways goes against the usual “one hero acting on his own” story. I got very, very invested in a lot of the characters, and nearly all of the large cast got at least one moment to shine.

I’m not saying these are perfect works of flawless genius, but they were way better than I expected, and as purely enjoyable as anything I’ve read recently. (Keep in mind they improve as they go along – the first book is noticeably weaker, and the second is fun but fluffier than the subsequent ones.) I wish Riordan had showcased the characters of color more (and had more of them). Also, he tends to have a lot of significant plot and character development go on between books that would have been better shown than told. The series probably could have done with another book between Labyrinth and Olympian.

Spoilers hold up a very large rock )

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3)

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4)

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Five: Last Olympian
For those of you who missed earlier posts, I saw the dreadful movie The Lightning Thief, then read the book it was based on and enjoyed that a fair amount, for what it was: humorous action-oriented fantasy for twelve-year-old boys, about the half-human children of Greek Gods in modern times.

I didn't rush out to read the sequel, but I did meander my way to it yesterday. Now I'm sitting in my apartment and pondering whether I want to read the next one RIGHT NOW enough to drag my still-ill carcass out into the thunderstorm of the decade (according to the LA Times, literally) in order to nab it from the library. Maybe if the rain lets up a liiiiittle bit...?

The plot is much the same as the first, though better-constructed (ie, less obviously a rush from plot coupon to plot coupon): Percy and pals must leave the Summer Camp of the Gods to go on a quest, this time for the Golden Fleece. It's still basically aimed at twelve-year-old boys. But then, so is Naruto. (Actually, if you like Naruto, you will probably like this series.) Here's what I liked:

1. The chapter titles: "We Hail the Taxi of Eternal Torment." "Demon Pigeons Attack." "We Hitch a Ride with Dead Confederates."

2. Percy. I have no idea how the filmmakers read even one of these books, and created a smug jerk whom they then named Percy Jackson, though aging him up to eighteen was a bad idea. The boy in the books is a twelve-year-old boy who acts and talks like a twelve-year-old boy, and his narrative voice is playful, fun, and believable. The serious emotional moments, and there are a few, work because he and his friends feel like real kids.

3. The girls. Unusually for a boys' series, the girls are taken seriously, given their own arcs and moments of heroism, not put down for being smart OR for being pretty, and not pushed off to the side in favor of the boys.

Even more unusually, the Rival is a girl. (The Rival is the character who opposes the protagonist but isn't the Big Bad. He or she is the protagonist's age or a bit older, and may continue as a villain or end up as a friend, or ambivalent ally. For instance, Draco Malfoy, Jasper in Earthsea, Faith in Buffy, etc. The Rival is nearly always the same gender as the protagonist.) Here the Rival is Clarisse, daughter of Ares, who appeared as a one-note bully in the first book but becomes much more sympathetic and important here.

Another girl is introduced at the end, who also seems likely to fill a role not usually given to girls in a series with a male protagonist.

4. The comedy. This is so subjective. So much comedy leaves me utterly cold. But this book repeatedly had me in hysterics. I'm especially thinking of Tantalus as a summer camp counselor desperately snatching at evasive marshmallows, and the entire sequence with the guinea pigs and the pirates.

If the first book didn't set your world on fire, I'd say the second is still worth trying.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2)
Though this book is definitely aimed at twelve-year-old boys and has a number of flaws that have nothing to do with me not really being in its audience, I now realize that the movie I thought was so awful faithfully reproduced the flaws of the book, but failed to reproduce any of its virtues.

Ten Ways in Which the Book is Better than the Movie.

1. Percy Jackson is twelve. His emotions and actions and relationships make sense given that he’s twelve. I am still boggling that the movie changed his age to eighteen, but didn’t change a whole lot of other things that only made sense when the character is twelve. (I still didn’t buy how quickly he got over his mother’s supposed death, but in the film, he didn’t grieve at all.)

2. Percy is likable. He’s not smug or arrogant or cocky, and if anything has trouble with self-esteem.

3. Percy isn’t handed everything on a platter, but struggles believably for his victories. He sometimes gets his ass kicked, makes mistakes, and gets hurt.

4. Annabeth (Athena’s daughter) has a motivation for tagging along on Percy’s quest – and it even makes sense. Also, she strategizes cleverly at least once that I recall.

5. The worldbuilding makes way more sense. I’m not saying that it makes total sense, or that none of it is stupid. But it’s definitely much better than the film. For one thing, the level of knowledge the characters have about Greek myths is consistent.

6. Percy’s powers are internally consistent, and he slowly discovers and develops them in ways that make sense.

7. The book made me laugh. In particular, the chapter titles are priceless. My favorite was the understated “Chapter Thirteen: I Plunge To My Death.”

8. The dialogue didn’t make me wince. Much.

9. The plot, while still mostly rambling from action sequence to action sequence, felt less schematic than it did in the movie.

10. Percy’s dyslexia and ADHD were depicted rather than just referenced.

The novel isn’t a great work of art, but it’s an amusing work of entertainment, enough so that I finished it and may read more to get to the cooler stuff that I’m told occurs in later volumes. (Like the daughter of Ares turning out to be totally awesome.) Now that I know the original, I can see that the movie was not only bad on its own terms, but a complete travesty as an adaptation.

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
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