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Ilium Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2005
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Following his great epic Hyperion/Endymon, Simmons comes back with another mind blowing science-fiction saga. Ilium is as good if not better than its predecessor, and it is bound to become a classic of the genre, because Ilium is like nothing you've read before. Simmons has done the impossible by creaing something completely fresh, new and highly interesting.
The book is separated in three major stories that are all loosely linked to one another. The first story is set on earth, where the post-humans are about to discover that there is much more to life than their uncomplicated, empty existence. When three of these post-humans go on a trek to investigate their originators, they will uncover a dark sercret that will threaten everything they thought they knew.
The second story concentrates on a group of robot-like Shakespeare-quoting things who are going on a mission to Mars to try and understand why the planet has terraformed itself. But when their mission goes wrong, they will soon be left stranded on this strange planet.
And finally, the final story (and most interesting one) is about a scholi (a professor who goes back in history to observe) who is serving as a witness to the greatest battle of all time, the one depicted in Homer's The Iliad. But the scholi will soon realize that one little shift in events can render the whole future uncertain.
And this is probably the heart of Simmons's incredible novel. Beautifully written, this book is all about the power of transformation in time, in space and on a personal level. Simmons recreates history and invents a future in a way that no other author has dared to do before. He goes back to the literary classics to create a futuristic world that is highly influenced by the literary world of the past.
The whole novel finishes on a climactic level that will hopefully be concluded in the next installment, Olympus. But as it now stands, Ilium is a great read. Although the book is big, I gobbled it up in just a few days. I just couldn't put it down.
I can't begin to express how original this book is. It's refreshing to see that imgination isn't fully lost in today's world of mediocre publishing. Truly original literature is hard to come by, so grab this one up and be ready to partake in an experience you won't soon forget.
The Trojan War is being reenacted on an Earth created by a race of metahumans who have assumed the roles of the Greek gods of classical mythology, who apparently live on Mars. Our vantage point to this exercise is Thomas Hockenberry, a scholar who is pretty sure he is dead and remembers little of his life on earth, but knows Homer's epic poem chapter and verse, and along with the rest of his colleagues is cataloguing where the action diverges from the "Iliad." It seems that Homer played around with the chronology when he wrote his epic thousands of years ago, which begs the question of why Hockenberry is now watching it played out and getting involved in a way that goes well beyond academic interest, beginning with a night in the bed of Helen of Troy herself. Meanwhile, a couple of robots with a propensity for quoting Shakespeare and Proust are leaving Jupiter to head to Mars to check out the strange readings they are picking up and back on Earth a group of humans living in a post-technological world where mechanical servants take care of their every needs are starting to rethink the way things are. When the latter meets up with Odysseus, we have another substantial clue that (surprise, surprise) these three plot threads are all parts of the same puzzle.
I have to admit that my interest for the non-"Iliad" parts of "Ilium" took a while to be kindled, mainly because my fascination with how the Trojan War was playing out was so great. Hockenberry has been studying the Trojan War for nine years and as the novel begins he and his colleagues are excited because they have finally reached the start of the "Iliad," when Agamemnon, King of the Acheans, arrogantly insults the great warrior Achilles over Briseis of the lovely arms. However, this becomes almost a minor consideration for Hockenberry the Muse he serves brings him to the goddess Aphrodite, who wants the scholar to kill the Athene herself.
From the opening paragraph, where Simmons does a pointed take off on the famous beginning of Homer's epic, Simmons dances his story in and around the "Iliad." The question of how a mere mortal such as Diomedes could dare to attack the gods themselves on the battlefield, and actually wound then, is not answered: he is injected with nano-technology by another deity. However, it is when we get to the fateful point where Homer's story is effectively derailed and Hockenberry makes the inevitable declaration to Dorothy's little dog that we are no longer in the "Iliad" and are now charting new ground.
Ultimately Simmons is more like Euripides than Homer. It was the Greek dramatist who set up the ironic foreshadowing of the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles in "Iphigenia at Aulis" and who created an emotional counterpart in "The Trojan Women" to the end of the "Iliad," where Hector's corpse is brought back to the city. Homer's epics were not holy writ for the ancient Greeks, and the tragic poets could use his characters to tell their own stories, which is exactly what Simmons is doing (there is one part that struck me as a deadly serious twist on Aristophanes' "Lysistrata"). I have the feeling that the conclusion will be more like the "Odyssey," especially since the "original" fate of Troy, Achilles, Hector, and the others are well over the rainbow, but now I am curious to see not only what happens next, and who wins the new war that has begun, but also because I want to find out who is behind the curtain.