Top critical review
A Very Disappointing Conclusion: Simmons Couldn't Deliver What He Promised in Illium
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2021
When you finish a good book ... like say, Fall of Hyperion, an *amazing* work by the same author ... it stays with you for days. In idle moments you find yourself thinking about the book and it's plot, and often discovering new details hidden under details when you do.
When you finish Olympos, you have the opposite: the book stays with you, but only because of all the things that make no sense, are never addressed, etc. Here's just a handful of major flaws, which I'll try to keep as spoiler-free as possible:
* a character has to rape another sleeping character ... for no damn reason, and it's never explained why; clearly Simmons just wanted to write a rape fantasy
* a major, major character (arguably "the main character") kills himself FOR NO DAMN REASON. Repeatedly, as he's killing himself, the author writes things like "there was no reason for him to do this, but he had to anyways" ... but he never gives any motivation whatsoever.
* another major character has the worst story arc ever: in the first book he grows and becomes a better person, towards the start of the second his mother (who he's very close to) get's killed, and then ... well, he too does some stuff that makes no sense, and then he's just written out of the book. Simmons spends two books building up this character, and then he just disappears with no meaningful story at all!
* the absolute worst part is the ending: after two books of setting up a large array of antagonists (a variety of gods and monsters) one character (not even a protagonist, just an "NPC") tells another character (who we just met at the end of Olympos) to tell a third character that "the big bad guy is coming" (a big bad guy who also has been barely even mentioned in either book) ... and that's it. All the bad guys run away, the story ends, and none of the actual "main characters" in the book had anything to do with it. Even the NPC *barely* had anything to do with it.
Ultimately, Simmons is a genius author, and the Hyperion Cantos cements that. But not every work of a genius is a work of genius, and Ilium writes about a million checks that Olympus can't cash. There's nothing more frustrating to me than reading nearly two thousand pages, and having the finish be "there was no point to anything" ... but that's what you get at the end of Illium/Olympus.
It just will *feel* like an amazing/genius Dan Simmons book as you read it; it won't be until you finish the saga that you realize the author had no idea where he was going, or how to properly finish the story he started.