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Muse of Fire Hardcover – December 28, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean (December 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596061812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596061811
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,462,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hugo winner Simmons (the Hyperion Cantos) combines his fine prose with a well-developed sense of wonder and love for reworked literary and mythological materials. In this far future, Earth is a mausoleum and the far-flung human race occupies the lowest level of a complex interstellar hierarchy. The Earth's Men travel to distant worlds and perform Shakespeare before human servants and slaves, bringing them some moments of pleasure and notions of Earth's lost glory. When aliens take an interest, the Earth's Men find themselves giving command performances of King Lear, Hamlet and the Scottish play for a series of increasingly important alien species, with evidence that the fate of all humanity may rest on the quality of their work. This finely crafted novella is a perfect example of Simmons's many strengths. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

The Muse of Fire schleps the Shakespearean troupe the Earth’s Men to the many planets inhabited by the slaves called arbeiters and doles, who, like the actors, are human. The players are slaves, too, really, like all humans since, thousands of years ago, the Archons found earth and erased its culture, except for Shakespeare. After a particularly good Macbeth, attended by some Archons and their dragomen (interpreters), one of the latter comes to the company and orders them to play for an all-Archon audience on another world. After that he orders them to yet another to play before the Demiurgos, who control the Archons, and after that to another to perform for Abraxas, the incarnate god. The actors thereby climb the ladder of a universal order humans have been made to believe is divine. They suspect they’re being tested. They are, as proxies for all humanity—and more. Simmons’ novella, narrated by a young male earth’s Man, is an exceptionally artful religious legend of the far future, and quite special. --Ray Olson

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
The story was very engaging.
Elizabeth
In this novella, Mr. Simmons successfully channels both Ray Bradbury and Gnostic mythology to bring us a story about creation and the meaning of life.
J. Brian Watkins
The story also serves as a short, layman's commentary on the Bard.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Bornintime VINE VOICE on January 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
First off it's not a book really. Well, this edition is a book. But in normal type it's about 60 pages only. Not even a novella, only a mere story that would normally appear with another 10 or 12 stories. If you are like me and want to read all of Dan Simmons' work but don't want to pay big bucks for a collectible edition you are in luck. The exact same story appears in the SF Anthology NEW SPACE OPERA edited by Gardner Dozois. You can get it new for about 8 dollars, used for less, or maybe, like myself, free from your public library. The story itself is very good, everything we have come to expect from a Simmons SF story.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Brian Watkins VINE VOICE on January 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To those who bemoan word counts, I say that Mr. Simmons' writing is a bargain at twice the price. In this novella, Mr. Simmons successfully channels both Ray Bradbury and Gnostic mythology to bring us a story about creation and the meaning of life. It brings to mind the comment made by Lewis Thomas to Carl Sagan that if mankind were to broadcast Bach to the stars it would constitute bragging but it would be wise to put the best possible face on such an acquaintance. In Muse of Fire, Mr. Simmons posits that the creations of Shakespeare justify our creators' efforts entirely. Perhaps taking a page from Mr. Bloom, Mr. Simmons argues that Shakespeare, properly understood, transcends mere art and constitutes mankind's most valuable contribution to creation.

Mr. Simmons' love and admiration for Shakespeare pervades this story, which is worthwhile not only for its especially novel and creative take on our universe, but also because it encourages its reader to seek out and rediscover Shakespeare's infinitely rewarding art.

Worth every penny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jason Golomb VINE VOICE on September 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
"They can see and hear and maybe translate the words, but how can you translate Shakespeare to alien minds?" -Wilbr, "Muse of Fire"

This digital version of this short book has been on sale and is well worth the price. In the far future, in a far part of the universe, a space-travelling group of actors wander worlds inhabited by human slaves, performing the works of Shakespeare. Narrated through the voice of a secondary player, Wilbr, Simmons builds a world of creatively crafted aliens, religions and gods.

The title refers to the name of the troubadour's ship. The Muse her/it-self is a being that runs the spacecraft, reminiscent, but in a much less dark way, of John Scalzi's god-driven starships in his short "God Engines'.

Simmons builds his plot around a series of these Shakespearian performances on grand-universal stages to a variety of beings. Even at fewer than 100 pages, Simmons crafts realistic and believable characters and the framework of a fascinating and detailed universe.

In "Muse", Simmons emotes a passion for The Bard and I couldn't help but think that he'd not yet gotten Shakespeare completely out of his system after writing his duology "Olypos" and "Illium", which relies heavily on Shakespeare-driven themes. While not giving the ending away, Simmons may acknowledge that he finally found some creative Shakespearian closure with "Muse of Fire", when an alien suggests to Wilbr, "You people need to learn some new poets."

Simmons continues to prove that his creative abilities go well beyond a narrowly defined genre such as science fiction. He writes so sharply and with an imbued sense of intelligence that his literate capabilities lift the literary sense and pleasure of his readers.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lichter VINE VOICE on March 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
First, this novella is available in the collection THE NEW SPACE OPERA edited by Dozois and Strahan. It's a decent collection and cheaper by far than this volume.

Second, it's a well-written novella with good atmospherics -- a lot of tension, and a lot of wonder. On the other hand, the final punch line is probably going to be hard to buy for people who are not hardcore Shakespeare fans. I felt a little cheated, but obviously not so much that I felt like giving it a bad rating (although if given a finer-grained rating system, I'd give it a 3.6/5.0 rather than 4.0/5.0).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
He always pushes me into new territory. A wonderful exploration of the importance of poetry told in a sci fi context. Thanks Mr. Simmons!
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By Amazon CustomerBarry J. on March 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read the majority of Simmons work and have found him to be singular talent in the literary field.occasionally however Mr.Simmons allows a self indulgent folly such ad this story.The science fiction aspects of the story are compelling but the interweaving of (yawn!)Shakespeare just didn't work for me.
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By Ned Freed on December 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dan Simmons is very adept at writing science fiction based on elements and themes from English literature, as when Keats' Hyperion was nicely woven into Simmon's fine novel of the same name. The source material for Muse of Fire is Shakespeare, but there's just not enough original story present to accommodate it all. This more-than-short-story but less-than-novella is quite good as far as it goes, but it's easy to see how it could be truly great if it was expanded into a larger work.
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By Matthew Jones on December 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a Simmons fan, not his best work, but a solid entry. If you are looking for great sci-fi, I recommend delving into his Hyperion or Olympos books.
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