EPS Review #110 - Ilium and Olympos

Ilium, by Dan Simmons. Olympos, by Dan Simmons, Gollancz 2005, 690pp.

Sorry for more SF so soon, but this is how it happened. A year or so ago, I read Ilium, by the same author as the Hyperion series. You have heard me complain about SF novels with too few threads or ideas. Well, Simmons overflows with them. I am not forgetting Hyperion's cruciform resurrection virus, the Time Tombs, or the Shrike and its Tree of Pain anytime soon, even though I read the volumes as they came out, over many years. So I read Ilium with glee, because it has a resurrected classics professor who gets to go to bed with Helen of Troy. And it uses words like teichoscopeia, which I hadn't heard since my classics BA. And it has sentient man-made robots (moravecs) who are fascinated with Proust and Shakespeare. And it has an actual Caliban, and Prospero. And little green men. And quantum-probability-manipulating Greek gods. Only as I reached the end of the fat first volume, did I realise that of course there would be no conclusion yet. I was so annoyed (unjustifiably) that I did not review it. But now I have finished the second volume, which appears to be the last one, so here is another SF review, so soon.

The second volume is a tiny bit of a let-down, actually. It is a fun read, and my co-jurors were amazed at how quickly my book-mark moved through it. But at a few points Simmons over-indulges his academic whimsy and preciousness. And I got tired of the old-style humans at Ardis. And big bad Setebos is finally eliminated by...the quiet god. Which, if I remember correctly, is just the feeble plot device that so annoyed my friends about The Neutronium Alchemist series. And the Muslims trying to trash the earth with black holes seemed a cheap shot, and out of left field, plotwise.

Still any classicist friends not allergic to SF should have a go. Simmons is sure up on all those Greek names.

On that front, I just bought Age of Bronze for the kids to read when they arrive in the US. It is a graphic novel about the Trojan war. You can't wear out that topic, I guess.

Jon wrote: Yeah, I just finished Olympos on holiday. I enjoyed it at the time, but thinking about it afterwards, I fretted about a few things. Setebos just buggering off was a bit of a cheat. I didn't see why Harman needed to be sent off the walk the Atlantic Breach, except to put him in the way of the submarine, and why had Circe put it in a time capsule, and then why had Odysseus & what'sherface taken it out? Would have appreciated a bit more on how/why the posts became gods, and how/why they decided to follow Greek tradition so slavishly. At one point, Hephaestus got the gods the wrong way round, as I recall: said Athena et al were rooting for the Trojans, which was diametrically opposite. Still enjoyed it, though... Read this in a couple of hours on holiday too.