(Audio)Book Review | Mythos
Book summary: No one loves and quarrels, desires and deceives as boldly or brilliantly as Greek gods and goddesses. Mythos captures these extraordinary myths for our modern age. (Penguin)
I need to put a disclaimer right at the start because I have to be honest and admit that I don't know how enjoyable newcomers to Greek mythology will find Mythos. It's not that it's bad - far from it - but there are a lot of names thrown at you one after the other and some people may find it difficult to keep up.
I was surprised to discover how much of the material I already knew to varying degrees, so it was relatively easy for me to keep track of who was who and what was going on - if you don't have that level of familiarity, this book could prove rough going. Then again - as Fry also points out - these myths have survived thousands of years and I imagine most people will have heard at least some of the stories told here.
Stephen Fry narrates his own writing for the audio book of Mythos and there is something comforting about his delivery, proving informative and helping the listener along as best he can. One of those fine knife edges in a book like this is providing enough information for the audience to keep track of what's happening, without making things so simple that it feels patronising and there are occasions when Fry does slip to one side or the other.
This isn't a knock against Fry's work as there's so much information to deliver and so many characters to talk about that there has to be a level of priority to what gets the in-depth treatment and what gets glossed over for you to find out more for yourself once you're finished with this book. The massive majority of the time, Fry balances this with supreme skill that can only be admired.
My biggest issue is that there were some stories told that I didn't find particularly interesting and yet had a significant amount of time devoted to them, while other stories that sounded like they would prove immensely enjoyable experiences got a few sentences. Fry was obviously going to focus on what he finds most interesting, but some choices may prove questionable to some although these wobbles are few and far between.
The best counter to these criticisms is how well-structured everything is in Mythos. Everything is divided up into easily-digestible chunks that can easily be repeated to go over again, or to pause at any number of suitable breaks in the story to find out more for yourself. At fifteen hours in length, it certainly helps to have these portions of content so neatly divided to keep things manageable.
Perhaps the single biggest positive for the audio book of Mythos is the enthusiasm Fry has for the material, which comes across loud and clear throughout. It injects proceedings with a certain energy that can only come from someone who enjoys the material as much as they hope the audience does and there is more than enough humour delivered perfectly to keep you entertained too.
Mythos is very interesting and proves a highly enjoyable book, especially with Fry's performance of his own material meaning you are getting the pacing, stresses and accentuation intended by the author. On the other hand, it does mean some stories which sound interesting get delivered in only broad strokes so Fry can concentrate on the tales he finds most interesting, which may frustrate some.