Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
I liked this book right from the start. From the very first chapter, when the main human character, Phil, goes looking online — on a divine version of Match.com which is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while — for a god to worship, I knew this was the kind of thing I love to read. Funny and irreverent, but with just enough social criticism to give it some bite, and something to ground the silliness. Oh yeah: this is definitely a book about a slacker luck god who looks like a raccoon in sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt, who crashes in your house and orders pizza with anchovies and invites his god buddies over for a party; but it’s also a book about the callous and self-serving way that people treat faith and religion. It’s a book about the way that religion exploits its own worshipers, as represented by my favorite character, Quetzalcoatl — “Just call me Quick.” It’s a book about how having the right credentials, which often includes religion, can make or break your career. And it says some interesting things about all of those topics, which alone would make it worth reading — because the writing is good, the characters are both fun and genuine, and it’s never too heavy nor too light. But when you include the fact that Martinez makes great use of the concept of a luck god, imagining all of the possible benefits of having luck on your side — you find enough spare change to buy a new microwave; should anyone (Say, the bloodthirsty cultists who worship THAT OTHER god) come by to try to shoot you, their guns will jam and then blow up in their hands; that kind of thing — as well as the ups (and downs) of serving a hideous lord of chaos, and the fact that the book includes a goodly amount of smiting, then this book becomes something not only worth reading, but worth telling other people that they should read, too.
You should read this book. It’s a lot of fun. I haven’t even mentioned most of the things that make it amusing and enjoyable: you should check them out yourself.
Are there flaws in the book? Sure. I don’t think the human characters are developed enough; they’re just “regular folks,” there to give the gods somebody to play with or fight over. The final battle was something of an anti-climax, though it does fit the plot perfectly. And as amusing as the pagan gods are walking around in modern America, I think it’s been done better, by Christopher Moore, Kevin Hearne, Neil Gaiman, probably others.
But this book was, for me, a lucky find. I’d recommend it.
If you liked this book, I would also recommend:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Coyote Blue, Dirty Job, Practical Demonkeeping and others by Christopher Moore