Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so far.In 2004,Iliumwon the Locus Sci Fi award In my opinion, if the award had been a motor race, the other contenders would have got their asses lapped That s not to say there weren t some good books in the running that year,Quicksilveris epic and I ve heard good things aboutPattern Recognition ,The Speed of DarkandSingularity SkybutIliumis so far up my alley that it s sitting on my lap and fiercely tonguing my tonsils.When I embarked upon my Locus Quest, I picked the Locus Sci Fi Award over other highly regarded genre awards Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Arthur C Clarke for one simple reasonIliumI looked at my bookcase, saw this book and thought I want to read books like that Glittering on the cover was a little silver sticker Winner of the Locus Award for best Sci Fi novel I looked online and discovered that none of the prestigious awards had recognised and rewarded Mr Simmons mind blowing madcap genius If the good people at Locus share my sensibilities regarding Se or Simmons, I thought to myself, then perhaps I ll share theirs regarding other books Just like that, the decision was made and I committed myself to reading every winner of the Locus Sci Fi award a reading list that has taken me best part of two years to complete.My introduction toIliumset my spider sense a tingling My Mum popped her head round the door and said I ve got one for you, I couldn t get into it it was all a bit much Now, that may not sound like an encouraging description, but where my Mum s tolerance for high concept sci fi drops off a cliff my personal sweet spot begins Previous authors to elicit this response that it was all a bit much included Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, and Alistair Reynolds a warm welcome to the new chairman of the bit much club, Dan Simmons Jayaprakash Satyamurthy has already done a superb job of summarising the story strands so I advise you to pop over to his review to wrap your head around them.This mash up of classic literature with razor sharp sci fi is audacious and inspirational It s the kind of book that I wish I could write It s the kind of book I wish I could trace back to the creative spark that initiated it to try and spin in a new direction I read the book with a delighted grin stretching my cheeks throughout The kind of book I d risk walking into lampposts for because I simply could not tear it away from my face I ve read it multiple times and it never fails to delight me I suppose you could call me a fan Off the back ofIliumI read its sequelOlympusobviously and then ventured further into Simmons work The Hyperion Cantos,Song of Kali , the Joe Kurtz Trilogy,The TerrorandThe Hollow Manwere all good reads and I ve gotDroodon my shortlist andCarrion ComfortandSummer of Nighton my longlist to read as soon as the chance arises It s fair to say I ve become a big fan of his work he consistently pushes my buttons.I am happy to acknowledge thatIliumwont be for everyone like my Mum but whenever anyone asks me if it s worth a read I can t help but gush If you have even a passing interest in sparkling, original, intelligent, playful sci fi give it a try After this I read Hyperion Literary science fiction One of the words in this phrase struggles and strains against the other two like an 18 month old who doesn t want to be picked up It doesn t want to be associated with a genre that often is long on ideas and short on quality prose and sharp and distinct style It often succeeds in escaping the pull of science fiction s weak gravity Occassionaly, an author creates a story that is so dense that the word is held in place in an unstable orbit Ultimately many of those fail under their own weight and implode into the speculative fiction black hole Rarely, very rarely, O Muse, an author has the incredible imagination, literary style and guts to weave together a story with just the right mix of literary competence, adventure, science and kickassedness to balance needed to sustain the phrase Dan Simmons did it with Hyperion with inhuman aplomb.And yes, he does it again with Ilium It s freaking awesome While Hyperion gave us a structure loosely based on the classic Chauceresque frame story, Ilium is straight up Homeric Trojan War On Mars With robots from Jupiter obsessed with Shakespeare and Proust With the Greek gods and quantum teleportation On Mars Oh and dinosaurs We take in a lot of the action from the point of view of a formelly dead scholar Oh yes, Simmons has taken his favourite weapon of intertextuality and speared himself doosy.I have yet to read how Sai Simmons came up with this idea but I would not be shocked if it involved a bet and a half empty bottle of whiskey I can just imagine him waking up on the bathroom floor in the morning with some indecpherable napkin notes ending with the phrase good luck with that Stack on top of this Achillian challenge three seemingly unrelated plot lines that span the solar system and you have what I like to call, the unpossible.But that s what makes this book so good Simmons takes the unpossible and shapes it with Zeus like vision into something that I read in a little over a week, smiling the entire time The pace will have you gasping in the thin air of Olympus Mons.There is absolutely no way I can give this less than 5 stars considering the pure effort it must have required to conjure up this opus and for the resulting amusement park for your brain However, if I had any critique, it might be the same as I had for the Fall of Hyperion and it s only in an unfair comparison to their predecessor many characters in Hyperion are so unique and familiar that it s difficult if not impossible to reproduce that feeling in subsequent works I did identify with Hockenberry fairly well though and even with the damn robots.To continue my theme from my review of Carrion Comfort, five Dan Simmons books into it and I can say he remains at the top of my list. If someone were to describe this book to me if they even could , I don t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it Dan Simmons is a mad genius.Shakespeare quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post humans, and old style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints First, there s Hockenberry This is told in first person Hockenberry is called a Scholic, a human from our the 20th century our time who was rebirthed in a future where Homer s Trojan War is being fought His job is to report on the war to the Greek Gods At first, this is completely confusing Why is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time Plus, it s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad It s also impressive how much research went into it, though that s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy but I have read the Odyssey.The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon Daemon is a self involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least But who wouldn t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors sp I did listen to the audio so forgive me , like all humans everywhere Pleasure is their life, knowledge is lacking.The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet loving humanoid robot called a moravec and named Mahnmut Specifically, and only, Shakespeare s sonnets It s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust his work makes appearances too for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need It s crazy I tell ya Crazy How did I like this book this much I m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey It s amazing I question not.Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing And it s impressive given how many Greek words and names he s got to erm name.The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.5 out of 5 Stars Mind blown 15 02 17I ve only read one chapter but I can already tell the writing is so unbelievably brilliant Insta love for me 18 03 17 I m a little past page 100 and the writing is still brilliant, but all the rest isn t doing it for me sure enough I ve only been able to read 100 pages in 30 days I ve no doubt the world building is complex and thought out, but nothing is explicitly explained and the reader is supposed to glean all the information from the story itself as it unfolds normally I would love this, but in this instance, at page 100 I still have no idea what s going on and this disturbs me, because I feel that I can t enjoy the story if I don t understand what s happening and who these people are Briefly, I needed the world building to reveal itself quickly and clearly This proved to be such a big problem for me because since the book is set in a world completely different from and alien to ours, the world building becomes fundamental and should work as the glue keeping all the events of the plot together Without glue, all crumbles And that s what kept happening when I was reading the plot went on crumbling under my eyes, and in the end I found I had no patience for it anyButI m not ruling out the possibility to give Ilium another try in the future As I said, the writing won me over in a split second, and I think that further in the book things should work better, and therefore I could enjoy it But at the moment I feel that I have better things to read. From The Towering Heights Of Olympos Mons On Mars, The Mighty Zeus And His Immortal Family Of Gods, Goddesses, And Demigods Look Down Upon A Momentous Battle, Observing And Often Influencing The Legendary Exploits Of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, And The Clashing Armies Of Greece And TroyThomas Hockenberry, Former Twenty First Century Professor And Iliad Scholar, Watches As Well It Is Hockenberry S Duty To Observe And Report On The Trojan War S Progress To The So Called Deities Who Saw Fit To Return Him From The Dead But The Muse He Serves Has A New Assignment For The Wary Scholic, One Dictated By Aphrodite Herself With The Help Of Fortieth Century Technology, Hockenberry Is To Infiltrate Olympos, Spy On Its Divine Inhabitants And Ultimately Destroy Aphrodite S Sister And Rival, The Goddess Pallas AthenaOn An Earth Profoundly Changed Since The Departure Of The Post Humans Centuries Earlier, The Great Events On The Bloody Plains Of Ilium Serve As Mere Entertainment Its Scenes Of Unrivaled Heroics And Unequaled Carnage Add Excitement To Human Lives Devoid Of Courage, Strife, Labor, And Purpose But This Eloi Like Existence Is Not Enough For Harman, A Man In The Last Year Of His Last Twenty That Rarest Of Post Postmodern Men An Adventurer He Intends To Explore Far Beyond The Boundaries Of His World Before His Allotted Time Expires, In Search Of A Lost Past, A Devastating Truth, And An Escape From His Own Inevitable Final Fax Meanwhile, From The Radiation Swept Reaches Of Jovian Space, Four Sentient Machines Race To Investigate And, Perhaps, Terminate The Potentially Catastrophic Emissions Of Unexplained Quantum Flux Emanating From A Mountaintop Miles Above The Terraformed Surface Of Mars The First Book In A Remarkable Two Part Epic To Be Concluded In The Upcoming Olympos, Dan Simmons S Ilium Is A Breathtaking Adventure, Enormous In Scope And Imagination, Sweeping Across Time And Space To Connect Three Seemingly Disparate Stories In Fresh, Thrilling, And Totally Unexpected Ways A Truly Masterful Work Of Speculative Fiction, It Is Quite Possibly Simmons S Finest Achievement To Date In An Already Storied Literary Career Most excellent I like SF, and I like much of what gets lumped under the rather stuffy title classic literature Clearly, so does Dan Simmons Set in a very distant future, long after both AI and posthumans have merged, this novel contains three main storylines, all of which ventually intersect First, there s a group of languid, pleasure seeking old style humans living on old earth, all their needs taken care of by mechanical servitors left for them, presumably, by the posthumans Upon completing a century of life, they are supposed to ascend to the orbital rings where the posthumans reside, and join them A small group of old style humans decides to find out what s really going on in those orbital rings Which, as it turns out, involves Prospero and Caliban from Shakespeare s Tempest Simultaneously, a group of AI robots left to pursue their own ends in the Jupiter moon system note anomalous amounts of quantum acitivity on Mars, and launch a mission to find out what is going on Among them are Mahnmut, who is obsessed with Shakespeare s sonnets, and his friend Orphu, who prefers Proust Oh, and there s the Olympian gods too, who have all the powers ascribed to them in Greek myth Only, it seems they can t see the future, so they ve brough back a bunch of scholars from the future to confirm if the events taking place as they observe and interfere in the Trojan war correspond with Homer s account Simmons has pulled off quite a coup here His novel bristles with the up to the minute hard sf concerns about posthumanism, quantum science, AI and so on At the same time, he s found a way to bring in heroes from antiquity and great works of literature from our past and use them illuminate what our future might be like ILIUM is the first part of a duology The second is OLYMPOS, which I m currently reading There is so much left over to be tied up in the first book that I think the two would best be considered as one long story split into two books. Update After thinking about the book for three weeks and comparing it with the other books read and ratings given this month AND despite my misgivings about the beginning and not really liking the parts about the Greeks all that much, I decided to upgrade the rating to a full five stars The scope of the book was just so great, it really deserves the highest rating I did not enjoy the first 50 pages or so I was confused and wondering what was going on I though I would DNF this, before I hit a hundred pages.But the moravecs had me at Mars They passed Mars s orbit and there was nothing to see Mars, of course, was on the opposite side of the sun They passed Earth s orbit a day later and there was nothing to see Earth was far around the curve of its orbit on the plane of the ecliptic far below.The humans eventually grew on me, too A third of the way into the novel, I still did not like the parts taking place during the Trojan War though They felt superfluous, too detailed and bored me Greek mythology has never really been my thing But even here Hockenberry finally managed to win me over.Great world building, great ideas, very dense and not for a casual read Good, in the end I might read the next book, Olympos, eventually I am a little scared it might not be as good. My review of Ilium in a nutshell I liked it AMBISHUN DAN SIMMONS HAZ IT I m not sure if it is possible to be too ambitious when creating a plot for a novel, but Dan Simmons seems to be on a mission to find out There are concepts, there are high concepts, and there are Dan Simmons concepts When it s time for Simmons to begin a new novel, I picture something like this Dan Simmons is smoking a pipe made from the bones of an aurochs , deep in the bowels of Stately Simmons Manor Inspiration hits He must write a novel about the Trojan war But ANYONE could do that How does Dan Simmons make his version stand out TO THE TOPICS BARREL He dramatically opens the oversized mahogany double doors to his study and PickWick, the Simmons family butler, is already cranking one of those super sized bingo barrels Thousands of ping pong balls nay, sliced baby eyelids, each bearing a single topic tattoo are skittering about When the barrel stops barreling, out slide three moist subjects.Robots Mars Shakespeare.Dan Simmons downs the last of his chilled cognac, freshly squeezed from the teats of a three breasted whore He twirls an imaginary mustache Yes, he mutters Only Simmons could set the Trojan War on past and future Mars and tell it from the perspective of two cyborgs one who will be shaped like a CRAB who constantly bicker about Proust ONLY SIMMONS He jauntily skips across campus to his vintage moveable type machine the ink contains the semen of Ben Franklin and writes 1,200 words in 4 days END SCENE Seriously Does he do this with every novel Just off the top of my head Arctic Exploration Yeti The Terror.Charles Dickens Serial Killer Drood Vampires A Dangerous Game Nazis Carrion Comfort.I really liked Ilium, even if I have no idea how the concurrent randomness actually ties together I know there s a sequel that should explain everything, but man, my brain is far too tired to risk another multi pronged mind asplode scenario For a while, anyway. OK, mad props to Dan Simmons Bravo This man is brilliant and cheeky Bold and irreverent And humor in the oddest of places I swear if I didn t know better I d say this book was written on a dare I mean honestly What the heck did I just reader listen toThis was everything in the kitchen sink of scifi The world building was amazing and genre blending Yes please Did you want to read a book about Greek mythology How about a story about the retelling of The Iliad Complete with Greek Gods and a 21st century scholar roaming around as a slave trying to change history A scholar who has died of cancer in 2143 Oh, but then there are also the AI s that are fully sentient and have a civilization that has colonized the moons of Jupiter There are rogue robots called servitors meant to service humans but something has run amok A dying human race with bored teenagers looking for excitement, eternal life and a chance to catch a glimpse of the post humans An orbital ring that supposedly houses the post humans but is really a house of horrors run by characters from Shakespeare s The Tempest Oh and there is an intrepid old lady that knows secrets ala Murder She Wrote and is taking the teenagers on an adventure And yes, there are aliens, LGM little green men I m telling you he was at a bar and someone dared him to create a novel with several random elements elicited from a crowd of drunks Sort of like improvisation at a hookah lounge And guess what It was good It was really good I have no idea what I just read, but I am up for reading the sequel I do think knowledge of the Iliad will help with understanding, but not as much as one would think One person s review labeled Simmons as a mad genius I couldn t have said it better Not as good as Hyperion but this dude has writing chops and chutzpah 4 StarsListened to the audiobook It s over 29 hours long and I was looking forward to it every time I got in the car or took my puppy for a walk Kevin Pariseau was excellent as the narrator A fantastic sci fi epic in the tradition of Simmons s Hyperion Cantos In Ilium, as in the Hyperion books, Simmons really shows off his knowledge of classical literature He obviously knows the Iliad and the Odyssey inside and out, but the author through his characters also fills this book with literary and historical references to Shakespeare, Proust, and a dozen other sources It s ingenious and it made me to resolve to finally get around to reading the Iliad myself once I ve finished this series.Set in the 40th century, Ilium is a retelling of the Iliad Kind of We begin with scholic Thomas Hockenberry, who was an early 21st century classics professor revived by the Olympian gods in the 40th century to monitor the ongoing Trojan War which is taking place on Mars Wait, what you are thinking The gods are creatures of super science, using unimaginable powers of quantum manipulation and nanotechnology to take on the roles and attributes of the classical Greek deities And not just the big names either while all the old familiar gods like Zeus and Athena and Aphrodite of course figure heavily into the plot, Simmons, through his educated protagonist Hockenberry, encounters scores of minor named gods and heroes as well.Just why the gods are reenacting the Iliad on a terraformed Mars is not made clear by the end of this volume, but the heroes Achilles, Hector, Paris, Odysseus, etc are also as epic as the gods, thanks to both nanotech enhancements and literal interbreeding between gods and mortals, just like in the myths.Hockenberry and his fellow scholics are basically embedded journalists for the gods, but although they all know how the Iliad ends, they have been forbidden by Zeus to tell any of the other gods The gods know that the scholics know how Homer said the story is supposed to end, but they ve been forbidden to ask the scholics So they continue playing their games with mortal lives.And then Hockenberry is recruited by one of the gods for a clandestine mission to kill another god And with the magic artifacts he s been given, he s able to change a key event And suddenly we re not in the Iliad any And Hockenberry, who s now a dead man as soon as the gods catch up to him, decides to change the story completely.This would be a pretty awesome story all by itself, but in fact Hockenberry is only one of three main protagonists There are two other subplots which eventually merge into the Iliad on Mars A pair of Moravecs a race of sentient robots built by post humans before they disappeared, now living out among the moons of Jupiter is on a mission of their own Not having paid much attention to the inner system for generations, they discovered a lot of dangerous quantum manipulation and advanced terraforming on Mars When they go to investigate, their ship is shot down in orbit, by a bearded man in a chariot throwing a lightning bolt at them.Mahnmut and Orphu, the only two survivors, try to make it across Mars, aided by mysterious Little Green Men who seem to be creations of neither early humans nor the gods The two robots, whose dialog is kind of reminiscent of R2D2 and C3PO, if C3PO were a Shakespeare scholar and R2D2 were fond of Proust, add a bit of comedy relief to the story, but eventually have a role to play in the climactic confrontation between gods and mortals.Finally, there are the last surviving humans on Earth, a tiny population of laborless dilettantes with little to do but go to parties and play musical beds Their world has been created by the long gone post humans, who created teleportation networks around the world, set up a system in which all remaining humans are carefully population controlled and do not have to work or want for anything They are granted perfect health until their fifth twenty, when they report for exterminationascension to the outer rings, Logan s Run style But as Eloi like as the remaining human race may be they are actually called Eloi by one of the old time humans they later meet , the spark of curiosity hasn t completely died in all of them A few set off on an unplanned adventure, and discover truths about their world and that there are Morlocks Ilium is so rich in world building and has such a tangled plot that there were occasional bits that lost me I am still not sure of the role of Caliban, the Little Green Men are just strange, and we don t yet have an answer to the question of why super advanced godlike beings have resurrected the entire cast of the Iliad on a terraformed Mars But hopefully those questions will be answered in the second book, which I will be reading soon.
Dan Simmons grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional Elm Haven in 1991 s SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002 s A WINTER HAUNTING Dan received a B.A in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art Dan received his Master
- 570 pages
- Dan Simmons
- 03 March 2019 Dan Simmons