Fry, Stephen

About the Author:

Stephen Fry is an award-winning comedian, actor, presenter, director and writer.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4 out of 5

(2 books)

Heroes

The follow-up to 'Mythos', this book retells the stories of the great heroes of Greek mythology such as Heracles, Theseus, Perseus, Jason and others.

I had enjoyed 'Mythos' a great deal and this book is more of the same, so more enjoyment to be had and this time around there wasn't the adjustment period it took for me to get my head around Fry's writing style.  However, 'Heroes' differs from its predecessor in two significant ways, one of which I liked and one of which I didn't so much.

The element that I enjoyed less was involved in the nature of the stories themselves and my own affinity for mythology.  Personally, I prefer the kinds of grandiose magical myths like we saw in the first volume; tales of the beginning of the universe, the Earth, the elements of nature etcetera.  In those stories the gods and minor deities play a very active and direct role in events.  Here, however, the stories focus on men and women undertaking very human, if somewhat hyperbolic, tasks and the involvement of the likes of the gods is much less direct and more abstract, with them whispering in people's ears rather than smiting with thunderbolts.  It's absolutely a personal preference but, put simply, the myths retold here were less interesting to me than those in 'Mythos'.

The more positive change in this book is in the narrative nature of the myths of the heroes.  Because the stories follow the various heroes through the course of their lives, each story told is both longer and of a more focused nature than those in 'Mythos'.  What this means is that you have more time to get to know the characters involved and develop a better understanding of how these stories interact with each other.  Whilst it has to be said that Fry's narrative flow isn't the best I've read (once again I must nod to Neil Gaiman), the way he tells the stories does make them feel fresh and accessible, never veering into the potential tedium inherent in the ancient versions of these tales (such as Apollonius of Rhodes' 'The Voyage of Argo').

Overall, a worthy successor to 'Mythos' but not a perfect one.

4 out of 5

 

Mythos

A retelling of the Greek myths from the creation of the universe from Chaos through the rise of Zeus and the Olympians to beginnings of mankind's dominion of the world.

I'm a huge fan of mythology and an admirer of Stephen Fry, so I was very keen to read this fusion of those two great things.  I won't lie; to begin with I struggled with this book.  I was expecting something akin to Neil Gaiman's brilliant 'Norse Mythology', wherein the author adopted the style and tone of the source material.  Fry, on the other hand, very much treats this book as a retelling of the Greek myths through a modern lens and, at first, I found the modern references to be a bit patronising.  Soon, however, I realised that rather than dumbing-down the content, Fry was simply trying to relate the stories he clearly loves to an audience who might, on the surface, find them irrelevant.

Once I'd adapted my expectations of the book to the author's style, I began to very much enjoy it.  In fact, soon Fry's enlightened, informed and comical world-view illuminated the stories in ways that made even the most familiar of myths seem fresh.  The footnotes scattered liberally throughout also put the myths in the wider historical and cultural context; highlighting where elements of the ancient Greek world continue to shape our arts, languages and politics to this day.

It has to be said, however, that the nature of Greek mythology makes this book heavy-going at times.  There's a great many repeated ideas (particularly Zeus shagging unfortunate maidens) and great emphasis put on complicated lineages.  Fry does an admirable job of guiding us through all this, calling out similarities in various myths and constantly reminding of pertinent 'historical' facts, but I really don't think this is a book that someone with a casual interest in mythology could pick up in the way they could with Gaiman's 'Norse Mythology'.

Luckily, I have much more than a casual interest and am about to plough straight on and read Fry's follow-up, 'Heroes'.

4 out of 5

Read more...

Mythology (here)