Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor

I had this as soon as my copy came in to my favorite indie bookstore.  Sadly, I wasn't the first one in the house to read it; I lost the game of Keep Away I had to play with my sons once it came home.

It is a testament to George O'Connor's talent that I was moved at all by his rendering of the story of Poseidon, god of the seas, as much as I was.  Poseidon has always come off as haughty, moody and vengeful.  I don't think I'm the only one that has found even Hades more sympathetic.

O'Connor's Poseidon remains moody and vengeful, but here he also gets the benefit, as it were, of tragedy.  Poseidon senses that he's been cheated and (naturally) suspects Zeus.  But it isn't until the end of the book that Poseidon understands what he really lost.  A sibling is involved, but not the one he was worried about.

Poseidon, as he broods, turns to his admittedly "monstrous" offspring, particularly the cylops Polyphemos and Theseus. Through Polyphemos we get our first glimpse at the Trojan War and some of Odysseus' story. While I don't condone cylopes eating people, it's hard not to shake your head at Odysseus just a little bit.

The story of Theseus is even more complicated, starting with his birth.  Who was his father- Aegeus of Athens or Poseidon the Olympian?  O'Connor doesn't come right out and say it, but Theseus' ruthlessness- and the way his actions serve Poseidon's ends- should speak for themselves.  Any extra sympathy you may have for Poseidon can easily be debited from Theseus- O'Connor doesn't pull any punches with that, ahem, hero.

But Poseidon is more than just his progeny.  He spends much of his time brooding over his thwarted ambitions.  Being god of 7/8ths of the earth isn't enough- what's an Olympian got to do in order to get a city?    The book ends as Poseidon tries to assuage his wounded pride- then comes full circle to realize what he's really haunted by.

O'Connor the storyteller knows just how much to say for maximum effect, both to carry the story and give insight into the characters.  It doesn't take him long to convey Odysseus' (and Athena's) arrogance, Theseus' ruthlessness or Ariadne's emotional conflict.  O'Connor the illustrator is as vivid as ever but in this volume unusually jolting (not to give anything way, but the Polyphemos story is never gently rendered).  His action sequences give a sense of the quick and desperate nature of the life and death combat he describes.  The overall effect speaks to the brutal nature of the classical myths about Poseidon, the most unpredictable of all of the Olympians.

Do I need to tell you that if you're a Greek mythology fan you need to buy this now?