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Ilium Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2005
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The Trojan War rages at the foot of Olympos Mons on Mars -- observed and influenced from on high by Zeus and his immortal family -- and twenty-first-century professor Thomas Hockenberry is there to play a role in the insidious private wars of vengeful gods and goddesses. On Earth, a small band of the few remaining humans pursues a lost past and devastating truth -- as four sentient machines depart from Jovian space to investigate, perhaps terminate, the potentially catastrophic emissions emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of the Red Planet.
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“[Ilium] will leave most readers waiting breathlessly for the next installment...utterly addictive.” — Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Dan Simmons is the Hugo Award-winning author of Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, and their sequels, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. He has written the critically acclaimed suspense novels Darwin's Blade and The Crook Factory, as well as other highly respected works, including Summer of Night and its sequel A Winter Haunting, Song of Kali, Carrion Comfort, and Worlds Enough & Time. Simmons makes his home in Colorado.
- ASIN : 0380817926
- Publisher : HarperTorch (June 28, 2005)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 752 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780380817924
- ISBN-13 : 978-0380817924
- Item Weight : 12.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 1.5 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #154,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2019
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Why? Because the book is a beautiful chore. The kind of task that you love while you are doing it but glad when it's over. The peaks of action in the book come at a woeful price of pages and pages of exposition, imagery, and meaningful but boring rising action. Upon finishing it I read reviews of Olympos which basically stated that they felt cheated in the payoff and that was it for me. I couldn't bring myself to do another 800+ pages and feel disappointed at the conclusion.
And so Ilium sits in my collection, one of the greatest reads of my life, and all I feel about it is a sort of anxious regret.
The simple truth is, Simmons writes about a million checks in Ilium (which makes it seem like a great book building to something cool) ... but he can't cash *any* of them in the sequel Olympos. Without spoiling the ending, after both books finish up ... EVERYTHING IS RESOLVED BY DEUS EX MACHINA!
Basically you read Ilium, you get attached to the characters, and everything they do seems to matter ... but it doesn't! Nothing they do matters, and the entire plot is resolved without any actions of any of the characters in Illium mattering.
Save yourself time and money and don't start this book. It will *seem* like it's building something great, but it's a house of cards that will leave you bitter and sad at its resolution. Go read other works by Simmons' (eg. the Hyperion Cantos) and I promise you'll be much happier.
One problem I had is Simmons' scientific references, which were too far-fetched to be called 'scientific'. He seemed to over-interpret physical notions, to the extent of them getting more mystics than physics.
This did not live up to that promise.
I want to give it three, maybe four stars because it was a great concept, because some of the storylines did make me long for the next chapter. But... others really put me off, and the slow story development did not increase my enjoyment.
Mild spoiler here. I like the concept of sentient robots obsessing over human culture as a way to humanize them, but Simmons went too deep with it. Having the moravacs spend so much time talking about classic literature did not make them more "human" to me. In fact, it did the opposite. Humans, even those who are obsessed with a topic, do not go into this level of depth on it. If Dan Simmons wanted to demonstrate he is a scholar of classical literature, how about writing a book focused on that, and not trying to cram it down the throats of his Sci-fi audience.
The other human characters are not much better. Seriously, it took about 80% of the book before one stopped talking about how much he wanted to sleep with his cousin. The list goes on.
I see this as an opportunity squandered. This could have been a fantastic book about how in the future a re-creation of the Trojan war turned out different, but Dan Simmons tried to turn it into an epic saga. The book would have been much better if it was about 250 pages shorter.
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I read this book (and the sequel Olympos) and really enjoyed both; I thought they were excellent sci-fi with a very different twist to generic space opera we get a lot of. Though it's probably poor manners to mention it, previously I had read Gareth Powel Embers of War series, and while that was fine, these books are in a different league.
I felt that there were a few loose ends left over, though maybe I'm just not clever enough to get it all (ie, without spoiling it, just what was the purpose in having a main character find an object in the Atlantic, only for other characters to then find it independently later?).
The narrator of the Glorious Illian conflict is a temporally misplaced American classicist ( surely an oxymoron?).
There are many mysteries, none are resolved. Personally I rooted for the robots.
There are several groups of characters. First, the population of future earth (post humans) that only numbers about 300,000; they have lost all knowledge - they cannot even read, and are looked after by the voynix - robot-like constructs - and servitors that are not of earth. They are able to move instantaneously (fax) between faxnode pads that are scattered over the earth. Second, the scientifically advanced moravecs; these are part organic part mechanical and occupy and study the outer solar system. In their spare time, one has become an expert on Shakespeare, especially his sonnets, and another on Proust. They were created by humans and seeded in the solar system during the "Lost Age". Third, there are the Gods who inhabit Olympos Mons on Mars; they possess all the powers of the ancient Greek Gods, and more. They come from the far future but I am unclear whether they were originally human or have arrived from a parallel universe. Fourth, there are the Greeks (Acheans) and the defenders of Ilium, the Trojans that have been fighting for 10 years; they are based on Homer's Iliad but unfortunately the Gods have their favorites and keep on interfering with and hence prolonging the fighting. A fifth important character is the scholar Hockenberry; he was an academic on the current earth who was an expert on Homer's Iliad and other contemporary Greek literature and who was "resurrected" by the Gods who use him for their own nefarious dealing with the Greeks and Trojans. He has the fortune to become the lover of Helen of Troy! Finally, there is a group of other characters that play more important roles in the sequence to Ilium - Olympos - but a few of whom are to be found on the rings orbiting earth and who play a critical role in the story.
I am not going to attempt to describe the plot as it is too complex but it contains sex, violence, love, horror and erudition - I am now planning to read the Iliad! The author cleverly intertwines Greek legend with hard SF in an epic that covers centuries and entails creatures that are sub-human, human and post-human. Although over 600 pages long the story has pace and verve. Initially, each group of characters is dealt with individually but as the story progresses their tales all gradually converge to produce an exciting climax. A list of the Dramatis Personae provided at the end of the book is extremely useful in helping the reader follow the various characters and the twists and turns of the story.
I have only given 4 stars to this novel as I feel it is not up to the standard of Hyperion - it is a little too complex and contrived; nevertheless, a compulsive read and it is thoroughly recommended.
I enjoyed the read even more the second time. Simmons is very good at melding fact and highly imaginative fiction, so I usually come away from one of his books both educated and entertained.
I will never be able to think of Helen of Troy again without Simmons' image of her coming to mind. I feel I know her better than many of my own friends. Also, I did laugh out loud more than once.
I know that not everyone finds Dan Simmons' work as enthralling as I do, and that ten years sitting on a beach besieging a city can sometimes seem like it is taking ten years to read about, but I am of the opinion that Simmons is a great genius who requires some effort from his readers, but rewards them richly for that effort.