bookrev: Illium by Dan Simmons
Mr. Simmons is arguably one of the best genre-hopping authors around, having pulled down awards for SciFi, Horror, Fantasy, etc. But this massive book (700+ pages in the paperback) makes me wonder exactly how does he think this excellent stuff up?
Ilium mixes the Trojan War (is it the real Trojan War, or a setup re-creation?), future humans (who are so pampered that they have forgotten or have been forced to forget their history, basic skills like reading and cooking, etc.), post-humans (evolved in some fashion) and Jupiter/Asteroid Belt organic-plus-Artificially Intelligent miner/workers into a story that is part future, part past. Combining these characters with literary references to Shakespeare, Proust (the Jupiter miners have all of ancient Earth in their databases and a weakness for literature), Homer and others, would in the hands of a lesser writer, make for a slogfest of a read.
Simmons masterfully blends these characters, time-shifting settings and science fiction creations into a plot that is a page turner for the majority of it’s bulk. The plot opens up, little by little, letting the reader slowly but surely put these pieces together, while keeping us engaged with what’s happening. The science of the science fiction is added to make this complexity quite possible, which is what good science fiction is all about.
The only issue I have with this novel is that (without giving away any spoilers) one has to read the next novel, Olympos. But it is a small issue, and, given the quality of Ilium, I will happily dive into Olympos.