Ilium by Dan Simmons
725 pgs, HarperCollins 2003
Ilium is a work of vivid imagination. In its interplanetary scope and off-the-wall plot is what all speculative and fantastical fiction should strive for. Even with the Iliad as the jumping off point and the Tempest to guide plot elements Simmons managed to create the unexpected in every chapter. I do not exaggerate when I say this is the strangest novel I have ever read.
In the first 150 pages:
-An old-style human is eaten by an Allosaurus in what once was Ohio.
-Zeus rides from Mars, yes Mars, on a quantum-powered chariot and lances a spaceship—carrying four robots from the moons of Jupiter—to smithereens with a lightning bolt.
-A 21st century Homeric scholar, tasked with observing the Trojan War and noting discrepancies between reality and what the poet recorded, has decided to make war on, and destroy, and the gods.
And that’s just the beginning. Ilium also has Moravecs (robots) obsessed with Shakespeare and Proust, Greek gods that use quantum technology to teleport and terraform Mars, and Little Green Men that erect statues of Prospero along the Martian sea.
There are two ways to take the above. Does it sound ridiculous? Then congratulations, you and my friends now share the same opinion. Very quickly a routine developed between my girlfriend and I over the two weeks I read Ilium. I’d laugh or gasp at the insanity, relate the unrelatable, and then watch as she walked from the room.
Does it sound strange but awesome? Then you’re like me! (I’m so sorry.) I advise you to read the seven-hundred pages and relish in its oddities. Only then can you spend weeks wondering if it was actually well-written and thus worth it to read Olympos, the conclusion of the duology, or if its novelty was its main attraction.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Allosaurses
Up next: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides