Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Book Review: Ilium by Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons returns to large-scale space opera in this 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 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 seems like a lifetime ago that I started reading this story, truly it does. I think I actually started reading it in the fall of last year, of course Peter Hamilton's Pandora's Star and Judas Unchanged sort of jumped into my reading queue in between.

I must confess that I nearly tossed this book. It just couldn't grab me, there were bits that I liked, the Moravecs journey from Jupiter space and their subsequent attack by the Gods and crash on Mars, and also the post-human society on Earth. It was these sections that kept me reading. However I just couldn't see how this seemed to link in with Hockenberry's observations of the Iliad. I started skipping these sections... I've never been one for history texts ....until Hockenberry started changing the fate of the Iliad by direct intervention, using the god's tools to sleep with Helen of Troy and changing the fate of the Trojan war and so became a key player in the story.

There is a sequel to this story it is called Olympos, I don't think I'd bother to buy this - it is only available in hardback at the moment. Maybe it's worth borrowing from the library.

Overall the story grew much stronger towards the end, but because of it's long drawn out start I would give it no more than 6 out of 10. Not a good score considering Dan Simmons Hyperion stories are on my my favourites.

Next on my reading pile is Ben Elton's Stark: