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Ilium Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2005
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There are plenty of reviews which give the overview of the book so I'm not going to give you the 10,000ft view. But I wanted to touch on how well executed I thought it all was and how it gave me interest in reading more Shakespeare, Proust and even the Illiad- none of which I've read since high school & college. Any work that draws you in and makes you ask bigger questions is something special- and that's exactly what Simmons has accomplished.
That said, this is a deep and complex work- if you're looking for a fun and quick read which doesn't make you think, then find something else. The ending seems a bit controversial, but I think that's standard fare for a work like this. There is enough open to interpretation that reasonable people can disagree which I think is wonderful. Either way, I still found the ending satisfying and thought it worked well. At least I can say I've read far far worse endings by good authors lately (Stephenson's Seveneves comes to mind).
There is one section of the book though I will point out that I was disappointed about- the Islamophobia expressed in the use of the sub. Perhaps this is more of a function of when I read the series (late 2015), but considering when the books were written I don't think it's a stretch. The good news is that it's not nearly as bad as the repetitive beating you get about things in Flashback and so I was able to focus on the story as a whole and not get constantly reminded by this.
I wouldn't quite rate this series as high as the Hyperion series, but that's an extremely high bar to set.
And indeed, it did get better.
Until it started to not get better.
and then it got worse.
By the end of the book, I was skimming the pages and just wanted to get it over with, losing any hope of even a semblance of resolution, because I already knew that I'd need to read through the sequel, Olympos, to get it. And the more I read, the more it became like Endymion and its sequel, and less like Hyperion. While Hyperion introduced us to the amazing world of farcasters, cruciforms and the legendary shrike, with brilliant storytelling and captivating character building, Endymion devolved the whole lot into an incoherent soup of new age bulls***, super killer androids, and two main characters that I just kept wishing would either die or shut the hell up. similarly, by the end of Ilium, I cared little if any of the characters (except the little moravec Mahnmut) live or die and was angry enough with the way Simmons kept pulling new plot threads into and from nothingness, that I knew I wouldn't go on to read Olympos. I just wanted to put Ilium behind me. I think **spoiler** I finally lost my patience when Daeman, Harman and Savi took the elevator ride to space.**end spoiler** it was too dumb a plot device to ignore.
So why 3 stars? well, because the first 2/3s of the book are worth it. Much like TV's Lost, Ilium draws so compelling a tale from the get go that even the faux-conclusions and glaring plot holes later on should not keep you from taking the ride. as long as you're aware that you will probably want to jump off it at some point.
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.