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Ilium Hardcover – July 22, 2003
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From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing -- and often influencing -- the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.
Thomas Hockenberry, former twenty-first-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry's duty to observe and report on the Trojan War's progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself. With the help of fortieth-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants ... and ultimately destroy Aphrodite's sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena.
On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment. Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last Twenty. That rarest of post-postmodern men -- an "adventurer" -- he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable "final fax." Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate -- and, perhaps, terminate -- the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars ...
The first book in a remarkable two-part epic to be concluded in the upcoming Olympos, Dan Simmons's Ilium is a breathtaking adventure, enormous in scope and imagination, sweeping across time and space to connect three seemingly disparate stories in fresh, thrilling, and totally unexpected ways. A truly masterful work of speculative fiction, it is quite possibly Simmons's finest achievement to date in an already storied literary career.
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On Earth, a post-technological group of humans, pampered by servant machines and easy travel via "faxing," begins to question its beginnings. Meanwhile, a team of sentient and Shakespeare-quoting robots from Jupiter's lunar system embark on a mission to Mars to investigate an increase in dangerous quantum fluctuations. On the Red Planet, they'll find a race of metahumans living out existence as the pantheon of classic Greek gods. These "gods" have recreated the Trojan War with reconstituted Greeks and Trojans and staffed it with scholars from throughout Earth's history who observe the events and report on the accuracy of Homer's Iliad. One of these scholars, Thomas Hockenberry, finds himself tangled in the midst of interplay between the gods and their playthings and sends the war reeling in a direction the blind poet could have never imagined.
Simmons creates an exciting and thrilling tale set in the thick of the Trojan War as seen through Hockenberry's 20th-century eyes. At the same time, Simmons's robots study Shakespeare and Proust and the origin-seeking Earthlings find themselves caught in a murderous retelling of The Tempest. Reading this highly literate novel does take more than a passing familiarity with at least The Iliad but readers who can dive into these heady waters and swim with the current will be amply rewarded. --Jeremy Pugh
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Harper Voyager; 1st edition (July 22, 2003)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 592 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0380978938
- ISBN-13 : 978-0380978939
- Item Weight : 1.88 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.12 x 1.73 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #109,378 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 word of caution, this book will try to lose you right at the start, as Simmons jumps right in with techno jargon and impossible characters that will have you re-reading sections to make sure you weren't missing something. Try not to let the voynix-controlled proxnet under the e-ring where post-humans experiment with sub-atomic quantum wormholes confuse you to the point of giving up. Just stick with it, and everything becomes as clear as it needs to for you to feel comfortable with the lingo. And when it does, this remarkable creation of Simmons's will blow you away.
Fans of classical literature will find this novel particularly entertaining, with sentient robots debating the merits of Shakespeare and Proust, Greek gods (and characters from the Iliad) behaving like spoiled teens, and powerful entities right out of The Tempest controlling Earth. Also, Simmons does an excellent job of re-invigorating Homer's epic, providing enough detail of the original through the scholic's thoughts and dialogue to actually be educational. For someone like me, who isn't about to dedicate the time or attention required to read the entirely-too-dense Iliad, this book was a fun refresher about these powerful names in literature and culture.
All in all, this is a hugely imaginative and very smart piece of work that should please almost any reader. Highly recommended!
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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.