After reading two of his books now, A. Lee Martinez has become one of my favorite authors. He doesn’t offer anything deep, or terribly original, but rather pure unadulterated, clever entertainment. Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest is no exception. The world of Greek gods,heroes, and quests is transferred into a weird, and always amusing road trip across America. There are ogres, three-legged dogs, witches, orcs, old gods, secret agents, and, of course, our titular heroes: Helen the cursed minotaur and Troy the…almost impossibly perfect human.
This novel follows what appears to be his sucessful formula of jumping from one genre and mileu to the next, populating each with a cast of well-drawn, slightly off-beat characters, throwing in a escalating series of wacky set-pieces, and then just having fun. Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest exists in its own complete universe with its own rules and narrative logic. As the title suggests, it is the story of a quest, and as always, Martinez has done his homework. The genre conventions are all present with a twist. The action moves along with a great sense of pace and infectious excitement. It is a quick and easy read, which is its great joy. There is the sense of the reader and the author both just loving the ride and the thrill of well-told amusement. This does, however, make at least the two books I’ve read, difficult to really talk about. Martinez updates and twists conventions and creates delightful juxtapositions for comic effect, but this isn’t a satire. I don’t get the sense that he’s truly commenting on the ideas or the genres. He’s just moving from sandbox to sandbox having fun, and while some readers might want a little more depth, I’m more than willing to follow him and give in to the ride. Sometimes all you need is the pure joy of storytelling.