Lord of the Lightning
by David Butler, 304 pages
The poet Homer says the Greek gods made androids, replica humans able to speak and move and think. Consider thatů
The ancient Greek gods, Zeus and the rest, weren't gods at all. They were aliens, travellers in space and time, who chanced upon planet Earth when their vehicle broke down. We were a handy emergency stop. Their technology was taken for divine magic so they were taken for gods.
Earth was a disappointment. The science the Olympians needed to mend their vehicle was unknown to the ancient Greeks. And the Olympians were falling sick. So they entered suspended animation.
In 1996 they awoke. Now they've done a deal with a global tycoon. Fix the ship, cure the illnesses and the Olympians will depart, leaving the tycoon equipped with the same technology the Greeks mistook for divine power.
Planet Earth may fall under the dictatorship of a single business leader, Malvol. If some of the Olympians have their way, worse fates may await humanity, including the theft of the planet. An alien shape-shifter named Demogorgon has equally menacing plans.
Leadership in the battle to save the human race falls by chance to an unemployed journalist, an American professor, a female aboriginal Australian diplomat, a quartet of first year university students led by a young woman in a wheelchair - oh yes, and a hyper-intelligent Siamese cat whose interests include geometry and Latin poetry. Can Earth be saved?
Cleverly conceived, this book is based on a real puzzle. According to the Greek poet Homer, the ancient Greek gods made androids out of gold. They were exact replicas of human beings with the power of thought, speech and movement. How did such advanced technology come to be described in a work that was written around eight centuries BC?
The imaginative answer suggested in this book is that the Greek gods weren't gods at all, but alien space travellers who were stranded here on Earth by chance. So advanced was their technology, that the Greeks took them for gods.
The world as it was then lacked the technology they needed to get home, so the Olympians entered suspended animation. Now they're awake again and looking for someone who can help repair their broken ship.
Zeus does a deal with ruthless billionaire businessman Malvol. He agrees to help the Olympians repair their ship. In return he will get his hands on their technology when they leave Earth. Malvol plans a ruthless tyranny. Meanwhile, renegade Olympians hatch plans that defy the will of Zeus. One of them plots to steal the whole of planet Earth.
These plans must be resisted. By chance the leadership of the resistance falls into the hands of Penelope Wainwright, a first year university student. She's a wheelchair user, though she doesn't let that stop her. She is assisted in her campaign by a hyper-intelligent Siamese cat named Leonardo, who can read Latin poetry and send emails.
High points of this book include when Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexual love, triggers an orgy in the House of Commons and when Monty, a young Jewish guy, tries to persuade Hitler not to use a weapon that will destroy Moscow, London, New York and Washington.
I also enjoyed the incidental little gems of information and humour that are sprinkled generously throughout this book. For example, when Penelope's academic father absent mindedly leaves the milkman a note in Latin. A delight that will stay with you for a long time to come.