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Literature: Ye Gods

"In the beginning was the Word. Nobody knows what it actually was, although it would be nice to think it was 'Sorry'."

Ye Gods! is a comic fantasy novel by Tom Holt. Set on the Earth of Next Sunday A.D., where the ancient Greek gods still exist but no longer have much real power, the story is presented by an omniscient and rather Lemony Narrator.

Jason Derry is a classic Hero- by which we mean he is a son of the god Jupiter. This causes him no end of trouble, despite the fact that he is able to dispatch hordes of centaurs and huge monsters with ease. The problems come in when he becomes entangled in a plot by Jupiter to regain dominance over the human race. There is also the fact that Jason's mother keeps trying to set him up with the girl next door...

Most of the tropes listed below are either subverted, parodied, or Played for Laughs.


Some examples of the tropes found in Ye Gods!:

  • Actual Pacifist: The war god Mars has become one, after several millenia in which weapons developement has progressed but he has continued to wear 3mm thick gilded bronze armor. His shield now bears a large Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament logo, and he has taken to showing up at anti-war rallies incognito.
  • All Centaurs Are Hell's Angels: The Larissan Chapter of the Original Thessalian Centaurs wear motorcycle helmets and leather jackets. They argue that they're not really hideous monsters, insisting that they were victims of a pharmaceutical accident that caused them to mutate into centaurs; but Jason insists on fighting them anyway.
    The Centaur swore miserably, drew its sword, and charged. The real trouble with Heroes was that they always had to know best.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jupiter, by the end of the story.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Apollo, interviewed on live TV (by Danny Bennett, natch), doesn't like the direction the questions are going. So he turns the reporter into a frog and addresses the human race directly. When he notices the cameraman has turned the camera off, he turns him into a toad (although still with a leather jacket and blue jeans).
    • Jupiter also regularly turns or threatens to turn people into other forms; Prometheus' Eagle was once a nymph, before refusing Jove's attentions.
  • Battle Butler: George, who drives Jason from one adventure to another with a sort of magical golf cart. All heroes have this service: this is how James Bond is able to go from parachuting out of a flaming airplane in one scene to strolling into a casino moments later.
  • Big Eater: Jason spends an awful lot of time thinking about food, and when we first meet him as an adult he is a private in the catering corps. Who just single-handedly won a war, due to his demigod abilities.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Jason genuinely enjoys fighting large predators, groups of spectral warriors, and so on. He sees them as big enough to look after themselves, and if they don't know better than to tangle with a son of Jupiter, then so be it.
  • Canon Foreigner: The eagle who tears out Prometheus' liver every day was once actually a wood nymph named Charionessa, who was turned into an eagle for being "unfriendly" to Jupiter. She can still assume human shape when she wants to, appearing as both Mary, the Delphic Oracle's apprentice, and Sharon, Jason's next-door neighbor.
  • Conspiracy Theorist / Weirdness Magnet: Reporter Danny Bennett appears again, as in Holt's previous books.
  • Crapsack World: The world as the Gods think it should be, before Prometheus stole fire and laughter from them. When mortals "lived in caves, dressed in skins and ate raw meat, couldn't read or write, died young of horrible diseases, got eaten by wild animals, were thoroughly scared of the dark, and couldn't even take our minds off it all by having a good laugh about something." Jupiter's scheme involves eliminating the Earth we know and replacing it with one where humans never learned to laugh at the Gods, and hence the Gods never lost their power. Jason is given a vision of this world, courtesy of Prometheus and Gelos.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mars, Pluto, Prometheus, the Sybil of Delphi, Minerva... OK, more or less every character except Jason himself gets a turn as a Deadpan Snarker. See World of Snark.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Pluto's final attempt to intimidate Jason is to turn into a fifteen-foot, sinister-looking skeleton. While Jason is unnerved, he is also accompanied by the three-headed dog Cerberus, who just sees a lot of tasty bones...
  • The Dog Bites Back: Jason finally gets fed up with being a pawn in the divine scheme and kicks Jupiter's butt.
  • Fan Disservice: The long descriptions of Gelos' disguise and the Erymanthian Hydra both count.
  • Fearless Fool: Jason.
  • Food Porn: Food is described in loving detail at several points, especially when Jason is being tempted with it by Gelos.
  • Genre Savvy: Almost every character in the book knows how heroic conventions work and expect them to play out. The fun comes when Jason defies the expectations and follows his own path.
  • Gentle Giant: Jason, who is about 6'10", actually quite likes the world, seeing it as "a rather endearing mistake that someone would be bound to put right sooner or later." Unless monsters, machine guns, or large predators are actively trying to kill him, he has no real urge to beat people up.
  • Greek Chorus: Fittingly, in a tale about Greek mythology, the narration tends to overlap with this from time to time.
  • Jerkass Gods: Mainly Jupiter, although most of the gods also qualify. Jupiter punished Prometheus not for stealing the secret of fire, but for stealing the secret of laughter, which allowed humans to defy the gods. Jupiter wants to take laughter away and reassert the Gods' dominance, restoring the Crapsack World humans once lived in. Apollo and Mars are the only really sympathetic ones in the lot.
  • Large Ham: Subverted by Jason at the Witch's Hut. He wants to skip to the bit where she gives him the information he needs, but she insists on going through the whole scene (she'd been waiting there for ages).
    "I go to seek my Destiny," said Jason woodenly. He'd say it, but he was damned if he was going to ham it up.
    • Played straight by Pluto (and lampshaded in the narration) when he sends his minions after Jason.
      "Arrest that mortal!" Pluto cried melodramatically.
  • Lemony Narrator: Holt's narration is in the same school as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.
  • Lightning Bruiser: During a school sports event, young Jason runs a mile race in the time it takes for the starting gun to fire, then gets bored, wanders off into the bushes, and comes out a few seconds later dragging a dead wolf. He loses this super-speed ability later in the story, without explanation.
  • Meaningful Name: "Jason" harks back to "Jason and the Argonauts", the finder of the Golden Fleece in classical mythology.
  • Medium Awareness: Jason has a moment of being aware he is in a book; when he can't follow the plan being explained to him, he complains, "I think a couple of pages must have fallen out here."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mythological characters Virtue and Luxury, "a pair of absolute honeys." Virtue is a tall, noble, blue-eyed blonde wearing a simple robe, while Luxury is "dark, smouldering and has more curves than Le Mans and Indianapolis put together... and what she's wearing is largely academic." Subverted; when Jason arrives at their temple, Luxury is busy cooking a lemon souffle and both ladies are in a rather testy mood due to the interruption.
  • Named Weapons: Parodied. Jason is presented with one, initially introduced as "The Sword of... oh sod the thing, the cover's got caught on the pommel." He immediately forgets the proper name once he's told it, so he thinks of it as "The Sword of Thingummy" and so on. Eventually he decides to name it Freckles. For the record, it's the Sword of Glycerion.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Considering the novel was written in 1992, the world described by Mars is not unfamiliar for that time:
    Mars: The Sri Lankans beating up on the Tamils. The Ethiopians stomping on the Eritreans. The Chinese swapping missiles with the Vietnamese. The Irish shooting up the British. The British shooting up the Argentines. The Americans dropping bombs on the Libyans. The Libyans setting off bombs under everybody else....
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Jason's meeting with Virtue and Luxury is strictly a professional occasion. They're allegorical, after all.
  • Painting the Medium: All over the place. For example:
    "GET IT SORTED OUT," said Jupiter- when you're the Great Sky God it's no problem at all to shout in capital letters.
  • Pantheon Sitcom: The millennia of being stuck together has given the Greek gods a big honking case of cabin fever and pretty much all they do is argue all day.
  • Precision F-Strike: A mild one, when Juno learns that Jupiter (aka Jove) has sired yet another child on a mortal woman.
    Juno: But Jo, why do the little bastards always have to be Heroes?
  • Product Placement: A number of brand-name foods and restaurants make it into the story (see Big Eater above). Coke, Burger King, and Kit-Kat bars are mentioned among others.
  • Refused The Call: Jason decides midway through the story that he wants nothing to do with Prometheus and Gelos' rebellion against Jupiter, and would rather stay in bed. However, he is visited by prophetic dreams and ends up being Resigned to the Call.
  • Rule of Funny: The main reason things happen in Holt's stories.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Hell-Captain, after being punched out by Jason, plays dead until he's quite sure the hero has gone. He then loudly announces that he was killed in the fight and is therefore excused from further duty, sneaks away to Picadilly Circus, and takes up a successful new career as a foot doctor.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jason's mum keeps pushing him towards Sharon, the neighbor. Unfortunately, he actively loathes her. This is just as well, since she turns out to be a supernatural being.
    Mrs. Derry: Sharon rang. Twice.
    Jason: Wouldn't want her phone bill, then.
  • Squee: Jason gets to meet Mars, the God of War, and reveals himself as a fanboy. He has Mars posters on his bedroom walls and had a Mars T-shirt when he was growing up. The thrill is somewhat lessened when Mars admits he was sent by Jupiter to kill Jason.
  • Talk To The Sword: The Erymanthian Hydra gets this treatment when Jason encounters it.
    "Hi there, I'm the Erymanthian ouch!"
    • The same thing happens to the leader of the Centaurs, who has been waiting impatiently for Jason to show up for their scheduled fight:
      Megathoon: And what sort of time do you call ouch?
  • Title Drop: From Mars, of all people, who is trying to round up all the deities for a meeting and wondering why he bothers.
    "Ye gods!" he thought.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Reporter Danny Bennett's reaction when his camera crew spot Mars' chariot flying away from the battlefield.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Eagle/Mary/Sharon/Charionessa learned how to be one from Prometheus and Gelos, after choosing their side against Jupiter.
  • War God: Mars — although, since he is still expected to ride in the front of battle in bronze armour, regardless of technological advances, and since "the best definition of an immortal is someone who hasn't died yet", the device on his shield is now a CND logo.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Jason's childhood is spent slaying the huge animals and mythical monsters that somehow find their way to his neighborhood, starting with the snakes that slither up the drainpipe when he is 6 months old. His earthly father's time is spent finding somewhere in the yard to bury the corpses.
    • Then there's poor Police Sergeant Smith, who encountered Jason fighting a monstrous lizard one night five years ago in a parking lot, reported it, and lost his reputation in the police force. He now has repeated run-ins with the characters, including Jason's mum, Jason, and Jason's real father (Jupiter). Each encounter is weirder than the last, even though Jupiter is the only one to intentionally mess with the Sergeant's head.
    • Not to mention Danny Bennett, who finds himself interviewing Apollo in this novel. In previous Holt books, he adventured with Vikings and sailed with the Flying Dutchman. He is showing signs of getting tired of this sort of thing.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When Jason meets the old woman, she insists on their going through the whole spiel. When he says no one would know if they didn't, she says, "I will."
  • World of Snark: Everyone snarks all the time. Even Jason, although his is not of the Deadpan variety (Heroic Snarker?). The rare moments of non-snarking count as OOC Is Serious Business.


"Why do the little bastards always have to be Tropers?"