Young Reader fiction has the distinct advantage of trending towards short. This facilitates marathon-style reading, which is one of the great literary pleasures. The speed at which I breezed through the novel is also a testament to the book’s readability.
The Lightning Thief arrived in 2005, and is the first in an ongoing series (three books in the series are available already, with the fourth arriving in May of 2009.
The series’ hero is Perseus “Percy” Jackson, a 12-year old son of an Olympian God (the identity of said god is revealed in the book, but does constitute a notable spoiler) who joins other Half-God children at a camp/training ground for demigod children. His heroic companions (because that’s how heroes roll) are Grover Underwood (no relation), an earnest but clumsy satyr, and Annabeth Chase, brainiac daughter of Athena. Percy is impetuous (a good plot device, and explained as being part of his divine heritage), but he is also fiercely loyal to his mother, which provides much of the other motivation for Percy’s actions in the book.
Riordan shows a great faculty for bringing the Greek myths to life in new ways, re-casting the Furies, Medusa, Procrustes, and more into a contemporary context. He has a decent excuse for moving the pantheon to America, and provides the best sourcebooks/inspiration for White Wolf’s Scion that I’ve seen so far.
The whole book has the feel of Bronze Age, 21st century-style. Young readers coming to the book with only a vague background in classics will be able to learn the history through an accessible lens, as Riordan gives various mythological figures’ original stories to contrast their contemporary incarnations. Riordan’s re-interpretations are clever, if not brilliant, and there’s a great sense of fun to the whole book which goes hand-in-hand with Percy’s age and the old saying that the real Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.
It’s a quick read, and if you’re a Classics Geek at all, it’s certainly worth your (short) time. I’m looking forward to the later books, but there’s a Mieville ARC on my counter that demands my attention.