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Ilium Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2005
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Genre-hopping Dan Simmons returns to science fiction with the vast and intricate masterpiece Ilium. Within, Simmons weaves three astounding story lines into one Earth-, Mars-, and Jupiter-shattering cliffhanger that will leave readers aching for the sequel.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Hugo and Stoker winner Simmons (Hyperion) makes a spectacular return to large-scale space opera in this elegant monster of a novel. Many centuries in the future, Earth's small, more or less human population lives an enjoyable, if drone-like existence. Elsewhere, on some alternate Earth, or perhaps it's the distant past, the battle for Troy is in its ninth year. Oddly, its combatants, Hector, Achilles and the rest, seem to be following a script, speaking their lines exactly as Homer reported them in The Iliad. The Gods, who live on Olympus Mons on the planet Mars, may be post-humans, or aliens, or, well, Gods; it isn't entirely clear. Thomas Hockenberry, a late-20th-century professor of the classics from De Pauw University in Indiana, has, along with other scholars from his era, apparently been resurrected by the Gods. His job is to take notes on the war and compare its progress to Homer's tale, noting even the smallest deviations. Meanwhile, the "moravecs," a civilization of diverse, partially organic AIs clustered on the moons of Jupiter, have been disturbed by the quantum activity they've registered from the inner solar system and have sent an expedition to Mars to investigate. It will come as no surprise to the author's fans that the expedition's members include specialists in Shakespeare and Proust. Beautifully written, chock full of literary references, grand scenery and fascinating characters, this book represents Simmons at his best.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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!
That said, I did feel that pacing and the slow release of information did make the first half of the book a bit of a slog. This wasn't helped by the fact that when I finally put all the pieces together and the story kicked into high gear it suddenly ended. The climax for this novel is likely in the sequel. All the threads finally came together and I was just left hanging, without any idea of how things would turn out.
It made me not want to read the sequel, if I'm honest. I imagine it was intended to do the opposite and make me hungry for it.