The premise of Gods Behaving Badly isn't inherently bad: The Greek gods, still alive but much less powerful, interfere with the progression of a mortal romance. Its beginning isn't entirely bad, either. Elements like Zeus being the batshit grandfather locked in the attic and Apollo working as a TV psychic are funny and breezy, as they should be. Phillips does a fine job of distracting the reader with bits of flash and magic all through the first half of the novel.

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When the reader finally makes it through that clever bedazzlement, things start to go south. Gods is a romantic comedy, and not a very clever one at that. About the time the boy has to save the girl from the underworld, it becomes obvious that we're reading an allegory about two very specific types—a generic man and a generic woman who have fallen in love but have to overcome various tribulations to get together in the end.

At this point, the reader, suddenly bored, will probably begin casting the movie, because the gods are the kind of irrational stereotypes that actors love to play. Perhaps Matthew McConaughey as Dionysus and Gwyneth Paltrow as Artemis? By the time Gods is over, it has become a bad book—so bad, it isn't worth anticipating the movie, or even the DVD. Instead, it's the kind of book that could be made into the kind of movie someone might accidentally watch on an airplane. It would be, you know, pretty good, or at least better than all the other movies this goddamn airline shows.