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The Trojan War rages at the foot of Olympos Mons on Mars—observed and influenced from on high by Zeus and his immortal family—and twenty-first-century professor Thomas Hockenberry is there to play a role in the insidious private wars of vengeful gods and goddesses. On Earth, a small band of the few remaining humans pursues a lost past and devastating truth—as four sentient machines depart from Jovian space to investigate, perhaps terminate, the potentially catastrophic emissions emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of the Red Planet.

731 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Dan Simmons

305 books11.5k followers
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 Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years—2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York—one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher—and 14 years in Colorado.

Biographic Sketch

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.

Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life."

Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado—in the same town where he taught for 14 years—with his wife, Karen, his daughter, Jane, (when she's home from Hamilton College) and their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Fergie. He does much of his writing at Windwalker—their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike—a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels—was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,330 reviews
June 13, 2021
Time to pimp ones´ mythological session with some sci-fi elements.

Some people don´t see this one as the same ingenious work as Hyperion and Endymion and I don´t get why. It´s not that über, true, but it´s still some of the best a science fantasy hybrid reader can wish for. There is, for instance, and as far as I know, nothing of the same quality and perfection that combines mythology with sci-fi, fantasy with space opera style fractions, and in general dares to dance at many genre weddings.

Retelling classic tales, Simmons uses very different technological levels of fractions, old evil, decadence, some grain of quantum, and the splendid characterization to describe one a bit different Trojan war. Although the certainty that much or most of human history isn´t just ancient fake news written by the winners isn´t that big.

Gods playing with tiny, unimportant immortals is always such a fun, especially when a big surprise about the background of this free time, or full time, entertainment is unveiled. Now one could go different philosophical sci-fi routes for why aliens, gods, future humans via time travel, AIs simulating the universe, etc. should do this, because of boredom, for research, ancestor simulations, as a show, because they are mentally sick and that´s what future psychiatric therapies are like, simulating for getting sane again.

Apropos, philosophy, there is again so much extra easter egg goodie fun hidden by the highly bibliophile author, that especially classic and mythology prone readers might find their Elysium, or whatever version of heaven they prefer, maybe even nasty hellish versions of it, with it, everyone´s personal choice, I don´t judge.

The reason why this might not be seen as as groundbreaking as Hyperion is that it´s more fantasy and thereby, of course, not that complex, interwoven, and big as the space opera fantasy hybrid Hyperion was. Still, a fascinating work with extra seductiveness for history nerds.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Baba.
3,615 reviews984 followers
March 5, 2022
After reading Hyperion, you can't but help thinking that as far as sci-fi goes Simmons is in a class of his own, and this offering Ilium does not let the reader down. Once again a book deeply entrenched with classical history and literature as it's centred around Homer's The Iliad of Homer and William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and when I say centred I mean a 20th century historian is revived to oversee the Iliad and see how match it matches Homer's poem, for hie employers, the classical Greek gods!

If you've read Hyperion you know what to expect, a very well constructed sci-fi reality that explains how and why the Iliad is happening where it is, why Prospero and Caliban exist; a world of almost unfathomable robo-organic AIs, post-humans and frail Eloi-like protected humans. Where he fails to rise to Hyperion's level is the lack of clarity, the plot holes and lack of depth of characters with such a small first-person narrator cast (each chapter is from a different view, and usually different part of space), If you haven't read Hyperion however this book may blow your mind and you need to pick up Hyperion asap! 8.5 out of 12.

2020 read
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
August 5, 2016
I love the idea of a throwback, an author who takes cues from classics and puts a new spin on them. Mieville took rollicking pulp and updated it, Susanna Clarke made fairy tales and the Gothic novel sing for a modern audience--but if you're going to adopt a bygone style, take only the best, and leave the dross.

By all means, copy Howard's verve and brooding, but skip the sexist titillation. Copy Lovecraft's cosmic horror, but skip the racist epithets. Dan Simmon's Ilium feels like 50's sci fi for all the wrong reasons--less a throwback than a relic.

Each of his intertwining stories features a slight variation on the standard science hero, that idealization of the author that we all roll our eyes at: the adventurer who is a bit dorky, out of place, more at home in the safety of a library, but who is now stuck on Mars, or floating in space, or trapped in a dystopian conspiracy (respectively), and must get by with only his smarts and good character.

Like most such stories, the plotting is convenient--instead of being motivated by their own desires, the story is imposed upon the characters. They are vessels for the reader to inhabit instead of thinking, feeling beings. The main plots roughly parallel classic sci fi texts: like Riverworld , we have powerful, advanced beings recreating humans to toy with them, taking on the role of the gods. The next combines elements of Brave New World, and Dancers at the End of Time : we follow a man on a dying Earth as he tries to uncover who's really behind it all.

This latter story also has a more interesting antecedent in Nabokov's Ada --as several characters, images, and relationships are drawn from that work, yet it is not an expansion upon Nabokov's sci fi foray, but a regression of his themes back into titillating pulp. The main character goes on and on about how hot his cousin is, and how he wants to sleep with her--however, since he is rebuffed and mocked at every turn, we have to assume that this is meant to be a satire. Yet, we’re still getting those descriptions, that same primary point of view, so I’m not sure Simmons is doing quite enough to differentiate the satire from the object of ridicule. Likewise, it’s so overstated and repetitious that it becomes tiring.

The literary turn is curious, seeming to promise that more thought has gone into this work than the average genre adventure. One character lives in a Nabokov story, the next has constant discourses on the meaning of Shakespeare's Sonnets and the philosophy of Proust, and the last is full of literary interpretations of Homer. Simmons is aiming high, deliberately drawing comparison with the literary greats, trying to borrow depth from them--but it's not enough to simply invoke the names, to place their thoughts into the mouths of this or that character, if he fails to integrate these ideas fully into the structure and prose.

Simmons' languages is disappointing--overly explanatory, nitpicking in that familiar sci fi way, where everything is reductive. The inner lives of the characters, their motivations, the finer points of the plot, all are stated outright, then rehashed and restated. The reader is told what to think, how to react, and what it all means--it all becomes rather overbearing. Much of the bulk of it (and it is bulky) comes from the fact that the author is never willing to leave well enough alone. At one point he mentions Hector’s son’s nickname and what it means twice in as many pages--at which point I wondered if anyone had actually bothered to edit this thing in the first place.

A grand and strange idea needs grand and strange prose to propel it. Narrowing down and simplifying it for the crowd just isn't going to do it justice. If you’ve decided to write a complex book, with various story threads drawing on both classic sci fi and great literature, at a certain point you need to have faith that it will come together, in the end. Otherwise, the anxious urge to control every aspect and get it just right is going to strangle the life out of it, until there is no room left for mystery or strangeness.

In bad fantasy, it often feels like the author has set themselves the masochistic limitation of constructing a book solely using words and phrases cut from an antiques catalogue--which would explain why, by the end, the swords, thrones, and banners have more developed personalities than the romantic leads. Likewise, in bad sci fi, it feels like authors are forced to do the same thing with an issue of Popular Mechanics--filling out the text with little gadgets and a blurb on the latest half-baked FTL propulsion theory.

We can go back as far as Wells and Verne and see the split between social sci fi and gadget sci fi: Wells realized that it was enough to simply have the time machine or airplane as story devices, things that might change society. He did go on his preachy tangents, but they were always about the effects of technology, not particulars dredged from an engine repair manual.

Verne, on the other hand, liked to put in the numbers, to speculate and theorize about the particulars--yet here we are, still waiting on the kind of battery banks he describes as powering the Nautilus. Going into intense detail simply isn't useful in a work of fiction.

A communicator or phaser or transporter is just as inspiring and fascinating on Star Trek without bothering with vague pseudoscience for how the thing is supposed to work. In the end, focus on the story itself, on the characters and the world, and leave out the chaff. The Nautilus is no more (or less!) interesting for a few paragraphs about its engine room, so as in all editing, if nothing would be lost by the omission, best to cut it.

It’s odd to still be getting this in the post-speculative age--Dick, Ellison, and Gibson have already paved the way for the odd, literary, genre story--and their works ended up being far more predictive of the future than any collection of gadget-loving writers. Gibson didn’t even own a computer at the time he wrote Neuromancer , and certainly didn’t go into great detail about the technical aspect of ‘decks’ or ‘cyberspace’, but that didn’t prevent him from being remarkably prescient about how those technologies would change our world. So why, thirty and forty years after the Speculative Fiction revolution, should we end up praising a regression like this?

It's bizarre how much a modern sci fi novel can end up feeling like Tom Swift, with the character constantly mentioning his ‘shotgun-microphone baton’, ‘levitation harness’, and ‘QT medallion’--going into long theoretical digressions about how precisely his ‘morphing bracelet’ might work, on the quantum level--as if it makes any difference. And then, of course, he just gives up and says he doesn't really know--so then, what was the point of the digression?

You know you’re reading bad sci fi when the author takes a basic concept that we already understand and have a term for--like teleportation--and then invents his own, new term for it--or better yet, a whole phrase. Sci fi authors can’t seem to get enough of pointless convolution, that extra layer of complexity that doesn’t actually add anything to the story.

Or they’ll have some gadget, and every time a character uses it, they explain it all over again. Sci fi is about tech, so of course you want the bits and bobs in there, but once a piece of technology has been established, you don’t need to reintroduce it every time--we’ll take for granted that the dude still has it and that it works in the same way. If you want to write a book about robots reading Proust, that’s admirable--but don’t then turn around and treat the audience like a bunch of mouth breathing idiots who need to be reminded what the servo wand does even though it’s the fifth time we’ve seen it.

Beyond that, the technology in the world makes no sense--they have advanced in huge steps in things like teleportation and energy conversion, and seem to be able to create whole new people and races from thin air, and yet their ability to heal injuries is extremely limited, slow, and cumbrous. It makes it difficult to believe that this book was published as recently as 2003.

Then came that fateful phrase upon which so many a sci fi and fantasy review has turned:

And then there's the depiction of sexuality. It feels quite adolescent--physical instead of emotional, women described at length and men not at all--and not just in the Ada section, where it makes a certain sense as an homage, but throughout the book.

Strip it down to the bare facts of the description, and it becomes the sort of erotica Beavis and Butthead would come up with:
Beavis: So this chick is like, in the bath, and she’s totally of touching her boobs.

Butthead: Yeah, and she’s super hot. And then she stands up, and she’s naked.

Beavis: Whoa, that’s cool!

Butthead: And then she puts on a robe, but you can totally see through it.

Beavis: Heh heh, that’s good, Butthead. And then, she like, rubs her boobs on a pole.

Butthead: Huhuhuh, and then she rubs her thigh on the pole.

Beavis: Like, her inner thigh …

Butthead: Yeah. And then she goes over to this dude, and she takes off the robe, and she’s, like, totally naked!

Is this list of body parts supposed to be arousing? If you were an alien learning the ways of human culture through sci fi novels--firstly, I’m sorry--and secondly, you could be forgiven for assuming that a 'woman' was like any other human being, except that all her limbs had been replaced by breasts, and all her locomotion was achieved by squishing them together and pressing them against things. Is this what passes for seduction? Just 'here’s my naked body, have a go'?

A few chapters later, the same characters are forced to undress together (because 'reasons'), and so we get this long, loving description of what the ladies look like, what the young man is thinking while looking at them, how naughty and exciting it is--and yet, no description of the men undressing, nothing about what the women might be thinking, what their point of view might be. In the original Ada, Nabokov uses first-person perspective, so the gaze makes more sense, but Ilium is third-person omniscient, so instead of the character's bias, we're just getting the author's.

One of these women is probably the closest we have in this book to a strong female character, and yet we only experience her through the eyes of the chubby, naive dude who keeps trying to sleep with her. Later on, we get a scene that is ostensibly about her desire, about someone she wants to sleep with--and yet, once again, the whole thing is painted in terms of what she looks like, of her body, of how a desirous man might see her--even though this doesn't seem to be coming from the man's POV. It’s such a blatant contradiction: the focus on female physical attractiveness is so pervasive that the women's sexual thoughts are presented in terms of what their own physical bodies look like.

We get an insight into his desires, which might actually have contributed something to his character, and neither are we allowed to understand what draws her to him--the description keeps turning back to her breasts and skin and hair, so that the consummation ends up feeling less like personal, carnal fulfillment and more like smacking two dolls together--except the child has only bothered to undress Barbie.

Then we get to the scene that convinced me to give up on this book entirely:

Our mooky, bookish hero has been led around by the nose for a few hundred pages, thrown into the plot without any choice in the matter and maneuvered from one scene to the next by forces beyond his comprehension--until finally, he starts to see that unless he changes his current course, it’s not going to end well for him. At last, he begins to exercise some free will, to play the role of active agent in this book instead of just a passive observer. So, what’s the first thing he decides to do? That’s right, rape a woman. That’s the first decision he makes, the first thing he does that he wasn’t directly made to do by some greater power.

But hey, at least it’s not a violent rape--no, he’s too mild-mannered for that. Instead, he just uses his super science gizmo to make himself look like her husband and then orders her into bed--though he’s so nervous he can barely get the words out, because he’s one of those shy, bashful rapists--you know the type.

He also talks about how many times over the years he hung out in disguise outside her window, just watching her and thinking about her--and then makes a joke about ‘the boobs that launched a thousand ships’, because there’s no better time for humor than when you’re about to sexually violate a stranger. Of course, he remonstrates himself for being a ‘jerk’ for thinking something so inappropriate and crass, because he’s so mild-mannered and sweet--though this momentary self-awareness in no way slows down his rape plans.

And it’s not like up to this point, he’s been some intriguing, fraught, conflicted character who the author built up to be morally questionable, someone whose actions we must come to terms with. No, so far he has been a generic reader stand-in, a pure observer of the action (that’s literally the character’s job), just a standard nerdy sci fi protagonist who barely has a personality.

To switch immediately from such a flat character to such a fraught moral situation just doesn’t work. I’m not saying authors shouldn’t explore sexual assault, or the type of person who commits it, but in order to actually deal with that idea, you have to first build up the characters to the point where they have sufficient depth to actually delve into it in a meaningful way. Otherwise, why include it at all?

There’s no reason I can see that this scene couldn’t have just been a normal sexual encounter. The assault doesn’t add anything to the book, and as soon as it’s over, the author seems happy to whitewash and ignore it. I read a bit beyond this scene just to see if the author was going to try to deal with it, but instead the victim realizes what’s happening and doesn’t care in the least, then immediately starts questioning her rapist about other things--and after that, happily has sex with him a couple more times.

Is this supposed to excuse it, somehow? Like, if a guy fires off a gun into a house that he suspects is full of children, and then we later find out that it was empty, is that supposed to make him somehow less reprehensible? 'Oh, no one got hurt, so everything's okay--move along.' If it doesn’t provide new understanding of the main character (or of the victim), and the author is happy to ignore the fact that it happened at all, and just move on with the plot, then what was the point? Why include it at all?

Of course, in a book about false Greek gods, we can't forget how often Zeus himself liked to pull this trick--a story about a man who gets godlike powers and starts treating his fellow humans like toys would have been interesting--but we're not getting the psychological buildup to support that story. Likewise, the idea that he had been forced into it could work, that he is nothing more than a pawn of the gods (which is altogether likely), but that also requires the proper setup: bits of foreshadowing and signs of internal conflict--all the details that would make such a plot turn interesting instead of merely convenient.

Then again, perhaps it’s just exploitation, pure titillation--a hallmark of cheap, thoughtless sci fi everywhere. And yet, here’s an author who spends large sections of chapters having characters discuss Shakespeare’s concept of love, or Proust’s. Clearly, Simmons is attempting to present himself as thoughtful and deliberate.

The problem is, if you don’t actually bother to explore those themes through your characters, their personalities and actions, then it simply doesn’t matter how often you have them lecture the reader on the subject--because all you’ve managed to do is write a book that tells us one thing, but where the action contradicts what we’ve been told. It’s like having a protagonist who the supporting cast constantly praises for being smart and clever, but then every decision he makes ends up being short-sighted and thoughtless.

Maybe it’s supposed to be some kind of cosmic frat bro slut-shaming. In the preceding scene, the victim gives this whole long speech about what a whore she is, how the current conflict is all her fault, and how she’s been sleeping with these different dudes because she just can’t help herself, and then she seems to be trying to seduce her husband's brother. So perhaps we’re supposed to sit here and think ‘well, this is all her fault, and she’s just been whoring around for years, causing all this trouble, so really she’s asking for it’

And yet, as any genre fan knows, that's clearly not the worst you can expect--indeed, while Simmons' portrayal of sexuality is one-sided, it's not deliberately so, like so many writers--he's not lecturing us on the inferiority of women--it's just blandly and thoughtlessly sexist. Beyond that, the reader can see that Simmons is trying very hard to do something here, and between that and the passably interesting turns of the plot, it was almost enough to keep me reading. The concept itself should make a fascinating book--this hyper-tech recreation of the Trojan War on Mars, interconnected with Nabokov's 'Antiterra'.

All Simmons' overt connections with literature are meant to establish a place in the canon (as his genre has been trying to do for a century) perhaps that's why this book was shortlisted for awards, and has been widely praised, because of its obvious attempt to connect to Great Works. And yet, it makes the same mistake as any bad writing: trying to force through repetition and overstatement instead of doing all the difficult work of integrating those ideas into the book. Simmons just isn't doing enough, it's lip service, and the approach is just too rudimentary, flawed, and old-fashioned.

This isn't a forward-looking book, as sci fi should be, its a weirdly nostalgic attempt to redeem the past of sci fi--despite how goofy, exclusionary, and horribly Gernsbackian it all was. Certainly, we should take lessons from the past, but good sci fi is always searching out the new thought or experience, exploring what it is to be human, and what it might be like in the future--the scree of gadgets is just a distraction, the same urge some shallow folk have to get the newest iphone. That isn't a mind seeking the future, it's one trapped in the ever-consumptive obsession of the present, the self, the now.

And I get it, because running on that treadmill feels like moving (especially when you buy a new, cooler treadmill every year) but all that lurching and twitching and shivering is nothing but an ague, and it'll drain you in the end.
Profile Image for Clouds.
228 reviews633 followers
November 8, 2013

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, Ilium won 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, Quicksilver is epic and I’ve heard good things about Pattern Recognition , The Speed of Dark and Singularity Sky – but Ilium is 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 more highly regarded genre awards (Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke) for one simple reason: Ilium . I looked at my bookcase, saw this book and thought “I want to read more 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 more prestigious awards had recognised and rewarded Mr Simmons' mind-blowing madcap genius. “If the good people at Locus share my sensibilities regarding Señor 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 to Ilium set 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 of Ilium I read its sequel Olympus (obviously) and then ventured further into Simmons’ work – The Hyperion Cantos, Song of Kali , the Joe Kurtz Trilogy, The Terror and The Hollow Man were all good reads and I’ve got Drood on my shortlist and Carrion Comfort and Summer of Night on 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 that Ilium wont 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
Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
September 28, 2021
Hey, I have a booktube channel (youtube for book reviews, etc.), and I include Ilium in my top 10 fantasy books list here. Please subscribe if I've earned it!

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)
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
283 reviews80 followers
April 2, 2023

"Death, when it comes, comes fast on the plains of Ilium."

4.9 🌟's

Initial Thoughts

Yes I'm reading Dan Simmons...again. What of it? As I work my way through his extensive bibliography he continues to amaze me with the sheer quality in his ability to write whatever genre takes his fancy. But if you asked which of his books had the biggest impact on me and touched me deep inside, I'd have to say his sci-fi masterpiece Hyperion.

For me as good as this author is in the land of horror and historical fiction, it's when he's writing good old science fiction that he really excels. His ability to articulate that vast and expansive imagination of his and create something so fresh and vivid takes my breath away. I don't think any book has quite blew my mind quite like that first instalment in his highly regarded Hyperion Cantos. It changed my opinion of the genre in a very positive way and certainly made me more open to trying books outside a pretty narrow scope.

Hence why I decided to delve into his second epic space opera Ilium. Published in 2003, Dan the Man does what he does best by blending fact with fiction as he takes the Iliad by Homer and melds the story of the Trojan war with a futuristic galactic drama. I know, this sounds impossible. But this author can work literary miracles and I have full confidence that he'll give me something I'll never forget and for all the right reasons.

"If Homer taught us anything, it is that the human being is a frail vessel, a fleshy flagon of blood and loose guts just waiting to be spilled.

They're spilling now."

The Story

The problem is, how is someone as inept as me going to describe a complex plot devised by an absolute genius? Scratch that. I'll just give you a basic outline of how things start and let you figure out the rest. And if you need any help then phone your friend at NASA for advice.

There's three separate and very distinct storylines that you'll be happy to know weave together beautifully as things progres. At first this looks impossible and it did confuse me a little as to how it would connect. But just relax, go with it and all will become clear. You're in safe hands.

We begin on Mars, roughly two thousand years in the future, where a war is raging that bears a stunning resemblance to the one that occurred between the Greeks and Trojans back in 1100 BC back on planet earth. Things look to be panning out in accordance with Homer's epic poem and the Gods on Mount Olympus are keeping a watchful eye on things. To assist in the matter they've resurrected a number of twentieth century scholars who are recording events and checking if it's all going according to script. Thomas Hockenberry is one of them and the former Indiana professor of classic literature provides the POV for this aspect.

We then travel to a post apocalyptic earth, where the human race has been reduced to a few hundred thousand and is now restricted to a lifespan of one hundred years exactly. At which point they ascend to an artificial ring that was constructed by the 'post humans' and orbits Earth. There's no longer any books or history, as humanity has lost its ability to read. Robot servitors take care of every aspect of their lives and those that remain live in a state of ignorant bliss. But a man named Daeman is soon dragged along on a quest to explore beyond the boundaries of his sheltered world and learn more about these mysterious 'post humans.'

The final narrative starts on the moon of Europa orbiting Jupiter, which is home to the biomechanical droid Mahmut. After strange quantum activity is detected on Mars, he joins his friend Orphu of Io as they begin a mission to investigate and report their findings. There's a fear that these strange events are causing some kind of imbalance that could spell disaster for the rest of the galaxy.

The Writing

I continue to be amazed by the stunning quality of Simmon's prose and he's on absolute top form here. Even during the early section, where things were a little confusing, the description and imagery is so compelling that I didn't loose interest for a second.

As we've seen in books like The Terror and Drood, this author has an exceptional ability to blend fact and fiction in a highly imaginative way. But I don't think he's ever done it quite like he does in Ilium. I'll admit, I initially thought the way he was trying to mix Greek mythology and Homer's Iliad into a futuristic setting was a bonkers idea that wasn't going to work. But boy does it. The guy is an absolute genius and from this point I will never doubt him again. Lessons have definitely been learned.

Despite the narrative structure being pretty complex, the story itself is still very readable. It's got a really fast pace as we bounce between POV 's while Simmons was throwing a lot of stuff my way. Including some bloody and action packed battle scenes. But a degree of patience is required as you're not going to be spoonfed all the information to begin with. I was thrown head first into a crazy world without receiving a travel guide, having to learn on the fly. But if that's something that might turn you off, my advice is to put those fears to one side. This is an author you can trust. So just relax and enjoy this weird but highly entertaining ride.

"The world around him was a torrent of information, a tidal wave of data, million micro-ecoligies interacting all at once, energy to energy. Even death was part of the complex dance of water, light, energy, life, recycling, growth, sex and hunger flowing all around him."

The Characters

Yes, there are a lot of characters in this story that are split into different factions. And I'll admit, it may irritate some readers. I personally didn't have a problem with it though. Each one is distinct, unique and well defined and as a result I never became confused. Which is unusual for me. It certainly helps with each group being dealt with separately initially, as you become accustomed to each character. But if you get stuck there's a rap sheet at the back to help you keep track of who's who.

But within this large cast is a wealth of fantastic figures of the fictional variety and those from history and mythology. They are wonderfully blended together in Simmon's big old mixing bowl.

True to form the Greek gods are portrayed as selfish and capricious with the potential to snap at a moment's notice. But the author devises a unique way to incorporate them with hints of a scientific explanation while still retaining an air of mystery. Its certainly unique and I for one enjoyed it immensely.

The character of Hockenberry is worth a special mention. A particularly average guy who finds himself in possession of a range of special powers as he acts as a secret agent for the gods, he lived the dream of any literary professor as he had the chance to take an active role in a story he had studied in depth. He's often conflicted and I found it easy to connect with him and become invested in his plight.

It was pretty much the opposite with the human characters back on earth who appeared shallow in comparison. But I soon realised this was an intentional move on the authors part to highlight the importance of art and culture to our civilisation and what happens when you take them away. With an over reliance on technology we see that the human race has degenerated into imbeciles that require care and supervision in this stark warning from the author. I say all this while typing away on my cellphone, never forgetting to check my social media.

The stars of the show though, surprisingly, were those robotic wonders...the moravecs. Despite being artificial, and in stark contrast to the humans, they had bags of personality and humour. It was no surprise that they were obsessed with human literature, particularly Shakespeare and Marcel Proust. This reinforced the authors underlying message of the importance of art and literature. I found myself way more connected with the dynamic duo of Marhmut and Orphu than any of the actual humans back on planet Earth and there's plenty of laugh out loud moments featuring these two.

Final Thoughts

I know what your thinking. When am I ever going to shut up talking about this book? And the answer is...never! You're now in The Neverending Book Review. I absolutely loved it and was surprised how much enjoyment I experienced on the way.

To be truthful, I was expecting a step down from the epic Hyperion. But the overall experience was very, very close. Ilium is an amazing Space Opera with a difference as Dan Simmons blends historical literature within the fabric of a dazzling space opera. It doesn't sound possible but he achieves this with ease while keeping the narrative exciting and action packed. An amazing achievement.

Much like the original Hyperion, this is not a standalone and was written as part of a bigger story and then split in half. I have the second part, Olympus, on standby and literally can't wait to get started on that and see how Simmons answers all the questions raised in the brilliant opening.

I'll finish by saying no review can prepare you for what's in store and you'll need to read Ilium for yourself to find out. I'd recommend this to any fans of science fiction or fantasy.

Thanks for reading and... cheers!
Profile Image for Simona B.
898 reviews3,009 followers
March 29, 2017
~ 15/02/17
I'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 more quickly and more 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 anymore.

But I'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 more. But at the moment I feel that I have better things to read.
Profile Image for Monica.
619 reviews631 followers
October 15, 2018
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 read" (er…listen to)!! This 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+ Stars

Listened 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!!
Profile Image for Jonathan.
Author 3 books85 followers
September 7, 2011
"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.
Profile Image for Jayaprakash Satyamurthy.
Author 38 books465 followers
November 26, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,666 reviews242 followers
May 25, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Chris Berko.
471 reviews117 followers
April 18, 2020
Readers, Assemble! and go get this book and read it. Seriously, this is a book lovers paradise. It is a science fiction/fantasy mash-up of the Iliad and Odyssey but also with two other totally awesome and original story lines that at first seem like they have fuck all to do with one another until all the tiny pieces start to click and you see how vast Simmons' imagination is and how well he plots. A book this length usually would take me about four or five days, I'm a severe insomniac and pretty much read exclusively for my entertainment, but this took me close to two weeks. I wanted to savor this one. To rush through this would be to potentially miss some detail or slice of awesomeness and that is unacceptable. Simmons is already one of my favorite authors and the Terror is one of my all-time favorite books but I gotta tell you, he couldn't have written anything more in-line with my tastes if he had reached into my subconsciousness and wrote something based on something he ripped out. This was an absolute joy to read. Oh and by the way in between the huge action and dramatic pieces there are these two sentient, robot-like creatures who discuss and dissect sonnets by Marcel Proust and Shakespeare. I'm a substance abuse counselor and I use some of Proust's writings when teaching about triggers and involuntary memory especially using the Episode of the Madeleine and c'mon who as a reader does not like Shakespeare? I read almost all of his plays before I had to for school and his stuff proves writing is timeless. This book plugged right into my brain and no matter what was going on in the outside world, when I was reading this I was happy.
Profile Image for Jake.
326 reviews25 followers
May 3, 2012
My review of Ilium in a nutshell:
“I liked 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.


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.


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.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,977 reviews162 followers
May 16, 2021
Dan Simmon's imagination and his ability to craft stories are impressive. In "Ilium" he tells a very interesting sci-fi story. While never being specific about the timeframe, the story seems to start in an approximation to what I find in Warhammer 40K fiction. A period so far in the future that the past is a nearly unknown legend. What makes this unique is the juxtaposition of that far-flung future with the Trjoan War. I know, right?

Welcome to Ilium. Post-humanity has evolved into something very far removed from human. They have recreated themselves as the Ancient Greek Gods and have recreated the Trojan War. This story is then told through the eyes of several individuals. There is Dr. Hockenberry, who is a classical scholar from the 20th Century, resurrected by the gods to keep a record of the events of the Trojan War and to compare it to the Illiad. He is subverted by one of the gods to assassinate another god and this sets into motion a chain of events that will have severe consequences.

There is also a group of "old-style" humans in Daemon (I did not like this guy at all), Harman (the last man on Earth that can actually read), Ada, and some others who must find an ancient myth in the Wandering Jew to figure out just what happened to the Earth and to humanity. What they fid will shock them and change their view of everything.

Finally, there are the robot moravecs Manmhut and Orphu. These two were very cool characters and as they try to unravel what is going on with the posthumans and their plans for Mars, their interesting banter about Shakespeare and Proust was rather interesting.

I know that sounds confusing, but I didn't want to spoil this crazy story. It was a very entertaining and novel concept. Dan Simmon's writing style is always exciting, but it is obvious that his depth of interest is wide and varied.

An interesting take on the Trojan War and I thought the idea of a historian who is able to go to see great battles to compare them to the written histories to be a wonderful concept. Where does one sign up for this?

Profile Image for Pat the Book Goblin .
423 reviews129 followers
February 20, 2020
This was a fun read! Combine the Greeks and Trojans in the Iliad, aliens, space travel, dinosaurs, war, and AI then you've got Ilium! This was such a new and great twist to the story we all know and love!
Profile Image for Ivo Stoyanov.
226 reviews
November 18, 2020
Винаги съм харесвал книги които показват каква и къде би могла да бъде човешката раса в далечното бъдеще и тук както и в "Хиперион" , Симънс намесва божественото с човешкото .
Определено ми хареса и ще чета "Олимп" с голям интерес
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
August 19, 2023
After loving the Hyperion Quartet and remarking that Iliad won a Nebula prize, I dove into this duology and really enjoyed it. As the Dude might say, “It really tied the room together” with some explanations of the destruction of Earth 1400 years before Hyperion. The mix of sci-fi and mythology/fantasy was entertaining and as always, Dan Simmons gives geeks tons of mind-candy to ponder. I liked the primary characters and found the story fairly well-balanced and the narrative readable and compelling. Definitely worth reading., especially if you want to see how that black hole in Hyperion ended up eating Earth...
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books348 followers
February 18, 2015
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 anymore. 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.
Profile Image for José.
468 reviews233 followers
October 27, 2019
Pueden encontrar esta y otras reseñas en mi blog

“Canta, oh, Musa, la cólera de Aquiles, hijo de Peleo, asesino, ejecutor de hombres destinados a morir, canta la cólera que costó a los aqueos tantos buenos hombres y envió tantas almas vitales y valerosas a la temible Casa de la Muerte. Y de paso, oh, Musa, canta la cólera de los propios dioses, tan petulantes y poderosos aquí en su nuevo Olimpo, y la cólera de los posthumanos, muertos y desaparecidos como parecían, y la cólera de los pocos humanos auténticos que quedan, por ensimismados e inútiles que puedan haberse vuelto”.

Así comienza Ilión, esta maravillosa novela en la que Dan Simmons convierte a la Ilíada en una historia de ciencia ficción, donde los dioses y héroes griegos conviven con la tecnología, los androides y los viajes espaciales.

Se trata de un libro bastante complejo y que debe ser leído con mucha atención, ya que los primeros

capítulos nos meten de lleno en la acción sin ningún tipo de introducción: ¿por qué se está luchando la Guerra de Troya en Marte? ¿quiénes son los personajes? ¿qué significan todos los términos técnicos que aparecen? Todas estas preguntas son respondidas mucho más adelante y pueden abrumar al lector al principio, por eso en esta reseña haré un breve resumen sin spoilers de las diferentes tramas para que los primeros capítulos no les resulten tan complejos.

Aviso que esta nueva edición de Ilión se divide en dos partes (El asedio y La rebelión) que hasta el momento habían sido publicadas en dos tomos separados. Tengan en cuenta que esta es apenas la primera mitad de la historia; las partes tres y cuatro se encuentran en otro tomo titulado Olympo.

Tres historias conectadas

“Es aquí donde empieza la Ilíada, y debería ser el centro de mis energías y mi habilidad profesional, pero la verdad es que me importa un carajo”

Ilión narra tres historias paralelas que se relacionan en diferentes puntos:

La primera de estas tramas es protagonizada por Thomas Hockenberry. Hockenberry es un “escólico”, un ser humano del siglo XX que fue reconstruido genéticamente por los dioses del Olimpo para observar y reportar los acontecimientos de la Guerra de Troya, que por razones desconocidas se está desarrollando nuevamente en las llanuras de Marte. Hockenberry y los demás escólicos son estudiosos expertos en la Ilíada y son los únicos que saben qué va a suceder, por lo tanto, deben informar a los dioses si esta nueva Guerra de Troya es igual a la que Homero narra en su poema épico.

Los capítulos de Hockenberry son narrados en primera persona y son muy entretenidos porque están llenos de acción y reflejan la apatía que siente el escólico ante la tarea que le asignaron los dioses. Además, gracias a la tecnología que tiene a su disposición, Hockenberry puede “morfearse” y adoptar la apariencia de cualquier personaje de la Ilíada, lo cual le permite interactuar con los combatientes de los dos bandos y observar de primera mano los acontecimientos de la Guerra de Troya. Sin embargo, Hockenberry, al igual que todos los que combaten en la guerra, quedará a merced de los caprichos de los dioses.

La segunda trama comienza en Júpiter y es protagonizada por Mahnmut y Orphu de Ío, dos androides extremadamente avanzados llamados moravecs. Estos moravecs fueron creados hace miles de años por la humanidad para estudiar el sistema solar, pero tras ser abandonados por sus creadores, desarrollaron conciencia propia. Tras advertir que en Marte se está desarrollando una actividad cuántica anormal que amenaza con destruir el sistema solar, los moravecs deciden ir a investigar.

Esta trama es la más compleja de comprender al principio, pero se vuelve muy interesante una vez que entra en contacto con la trama de Hockenberry. Las interacciones entre Mahnmut y Orphu son excelentes, y están llenas de referencias a otras obras literarias, ya que los moravecs tienen a Shakespeare y Proust en sus bases de datos. Estas referencias juegan un papel fundamental en la trama y son necesarias para comprender muchos momentos clave de Ilión.

La última trama, es protagonizada por los pocos humanos que quedan en la Tierra. Estos humanos habitan las ruinas de las antiguas ciudades y fueron modificados con nanotecnología que les permite vivir hasta los cien años sin deteriorarse físicamente, se pueden “faxear” (teletransportarse) a diferentes lugares utilizando terminales y cada vez que mueren por alguna razón, son curados en una “fermería”. Pese a todo esto, los seres humanos han perdido la capacidad de razonar y solo viven para el placer, ya que son asistidos para cualquier tarea por unos servidores automáticos. Todo cambia cuando Harman, un humano que está próximo a cumplir cien años, aprende a leer y comienza a cuestionar su realidad. Su misión es averiguar qué sucede con los humanos una vez que cumplen cien años y son faxeados a las estaciones orbitales donde habitan los “posthumanos”.

De las tres tramas, esta es la que parece más aislada, aunque sobre el final aparecen claras conexiones con las historias de Hockenberry y Mahnmut.

Shakespeare, mitología y ciencia ficción

“Los dioses han venido a jugar. Más concretamente, han venido a matar”

El aspecto más notable de Ilión es la forma en la que Dan Simmons consigue mezclar los clásicos con la ciencia ficción.

Al igual que Los cantos de Hyperion, donde el autor homenajea al poeta John Keats, Dan Simmons integra la Ilíada y La tempestad de William Shakespeare, para contar una historia muy compleja acerca del futuro de la humanidad.

Las referencias a obras clásicas son más que simples homenajes de Simmons a sus autores favoritos, ya que influyen directamente en la trama de la novela.

Por esta razón, considero que es necesario tener un conocimiento general de la Ilíada para comprender la trama de Hockenberry y los diferentes eventos que anticipa el escólico a medida que se desarrolla la Guerra de Troya. Por otra parte, para comprender las referencias a Shakespeare es imprescindible leer La tempestad, porque tanto la trama de Mahnmut como de los seres humanos liderados por Harman están cargadas de referencias menos claras, y solo pueden ser comprendidas del todo si se conoce la última obra de Shakespeare.

En cuanto a la mitología griega, Simmons nos muestra a una versión bastante particular de los dioses del Olimpo, ya que Zeus, Ares, Afrodita y los demás dioses que aparecen en esta historia disponen de tecnología y la utilizan para intervenir en esta nueva Guerra de Troya.

Del lado de los humanos, los personajes de la Ilíada como Aquiles, Héctor, Helena y Odiseo son exactamente como en el poema de Homero, solo que reaccionan de diferente forma ante las acciones de los dioses.

Hasta cierto punto, Dan Simmons sigue la historia clásica de la Ilíada, pero a medida que avanza la novela se apropia de los personajes para construir su propia versión.

Ilión es una excelente novela de ciencia ficción en la que conviven dioses, héroes griegos y androides, y que rinde homenaje a obras clásicas como la Ilíada y La tempestad. Dan Simmons se basa en estos clásicos para contar una compleja historia acerca del futuro de la humanidad, donde los mitos cobran vida y amenazan con destruir el sistema solar. Recomiendo que lean al menos un resumen de la Ilíada y que lean La tempestad, de lo contrario no comprenderán muchas de las referencias que son necesarias para comprender algunos puntos clave de las tramas.
Profile Image for Велислав Върбанов.
439 reviews45 followers
August 9, 2023
Биороботи от луните на Юпитер (наричани моравеки), които имат интерес към човешката литература и обсъждат любимите си творби на Уилям Шекспир и Марсел Пруст, са изпратени на опасна мисия до Марс, за да проверят какво се случва там. На Земята към 1 милион старостилни човеци водят изключително комфортен и безгрижен, но и безсмилен живот, а пък постчовеците тайнствено са изчезнали, като за тях се носят само легенди... Старостилните живеят точно по 100 години, като на всеки 20 биват „ремонтирани“ с помощта на нови технологии , за да са през цялото време млади и здрави. За сметка на това, те не могат да четат… Третата сюжетна линия (от която идва и заглавието на романа) представя футуристична версия на Троянската война (по „Илиада“) , в която са замесени високотехнолoгични гръцки богове... Те взимат участие във войната, както и могат да възкресяват като „схоластици“ хора от отминали времена, които да следят, дали действието се развива по творбата на Омир. Събитията обаче тръгват и в непредвидена посока...

Впоследствие трите паралелни истории са преплетени от Дан Симънс по страшно интересен начин! „Илион“ не достига чак до висотата на великолепната Хиперионска поредица, но все пак е четиво с грандиозна визия за бъдещето, както и смислени послания, така че не е за изпускане!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
41 reviews5 followers
March 12, 2011
Prepare to have mind blown.

I like dense reads, and I like immersing myself in complex worlds created by brilliant minds... but never, NEVER have I read a more astonishingly complex novel. 1/2 the way through this gigantic mind bender I was still completely without a clue about what was going on in the book. The fact that I and so many others rate this book so highly tells you a little something about our Mr. Simmons and the quality of his writing. Who get's away with this?? Nobody does... excpet for Dan. Read this book, dont give up because you dont understand it, it is well worth it.
Profile Image for Anthony Ryan.
Author 67 books8,598 followers
November 8, 2016
Masterly far-future sci-fi epicness from Dan Simmons. Thousands of years into Earth's future the human population has stagnated into a contented form of indulgent immortality; no-one dies and no-one goes hungry, but also no-one really does anything more interesting than take part in the occasional sex party or get eaten by a cloned Allosaur. Meanwhile a present-day historian has been resurrected on Mars, apparently at the whim of the ancient Greek gods in order to act as observer to the siege of Troy, a legendary event that has somehow been transformed into gruesome historical reality. Into this heady mix come two highly evolved 'Morivek', sentient descendants of robotic probes to the outer planets of the solar system grown curious about the fate of their human progenitors. Simmons mixes Greek myth and Shakespeare into a complex and often demanding story that nevertheless rewards the reader's commitment. You may need to read it twice though.
Profile Image for James Williams.
103 reviews24 followers
September 15, 2007
According to the cover for Ilium, it was nominated for the Hugo Novel of the Year in 2004. It absolutely deserved it. It also didn't win, and it deserved that as well.

Don't get me wrong. It's a great book and I loved reading it (indeed, this was the second time I read it and I think I enjoyed it more the second time). It's really three stories all happening in different places in the solar system at the same time, inevitably approaching one another. It's rare to find a book tries this and does it well, and Ilium does it well.

The main hook of Ilium is that it's a science fiction book set in the Trojan war of Homer's Iliad. It also mixes in a healthy dose of Shakespeare and even Proust. And this all contributes to a fine and wonderful story, but it's also Ilium's downfall. At parts, the Iliad thing starts to feel gimmicky. It's not often, but it's enough to keep me from giving the book five stars.

On the whole, it's well-written. Every once in a while, the author tries to conjure up some convoluted imagery which is ridiculous enough that I just laughed at the poor sentence structure instead of being struck by whatever he was trying to tell me. But that was rare and for the most part I didn't notice the language at all.

So I loved the book, but it's ever-so-slighty flawed. Still, it was much better than even this review is, and I'll definitely be reading it a third time in the future.

But now, I'm looking forward to starting the sequel Olympos . Onward.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,990 reviews897 followers
March 25, 2019
Simmons, titulado en Inglés y profesor tb de Literatura y Redacción antes de dedicarse a tiempo completo a escribir.
Cito esto porque por ahí me falla esta obra.

Idea de la novela: mezclar la guerra de Troya & dioses griegos cuántico-nano-tecnológicos & robots con partes biológicas diseminados por el sistema solar & una civilización post-apocalíptica lúdico-lotófaga en la Tierra & algo más que no os digo. Y, claro, hacer que eso confluya o se relacione de alguna forma.
Muy, muy, muy, muy buena.

Pero, ¡ay!, el señor Simmons le da a “eruditadas” sobre cientos de nombre de aqueos (griegos) y troyanos, “eruditadas” sobre Shakespeare y Proust, pinitos de poesía y hasta idas de olla con discursos surrealistas de un tal Calibán. Vamos, que idea muy buena pero desarrollo a ratos que te hace desenganchar y desear que las páginas pasen rápido. Y la creación de personajes tampoco es el gran fuerte de Simmons, cuesta verlos.

He dudado mucho entre las tres y las cuatro estrellas. Por idea, cinco. Pero si un libro me cuesta tanto leerlo, no puede pasar de las tres…y en eso se va a quedar. Y además habría que continuar obligatoriamente con la segunda parte, Olympo. Sí, decidido, se queda en tres
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,646 reviews35 followers
June 1, 2022
Very different and interesting SiFi book. It started out slow and I wasn't sure I was gonna get into it or even like it but it took off and grabbed my attention. ended on a real cliffhanger so I am curious to see how the 2nd book will wrap things up. Recommended
Profile Image for Becky.
832 reviews155 followers
April 11, 2012
Hands down the best scifi that I’ve read in the last ten years. This was the first time that I’d read Dan Simmons and I was floored by the depth of his characters, the complexity of his plot, and the intricate and fascinating world(s) he created. I personally liked the feeling over never really knowing more than any of the characters. I enjoyed the mystery of being on level with the characters, unsure of what would come next. Nothing about this is a light read. The book treats you like an adult, and you’re going to have to work for it. You’ll never guess what comes next.

I’m also ecstatic to see a return of “monsters.” I’ve been so sick of reading about the cliché evil human, terrible bad person, delighting in torture, etc that all modern authors seem to use as the arch villain. Yes, we get it, people have a huge capacity for doing evil. I watch the news nightly and I already know that. To see a return of Cetebos, Voynix, and other creepy-crawlies was exciting and refreshing.

Robots, monsters, Greek gods, humans fighting for survival, Gaia Hypothesis, dinosaurs. This book has it all, and it has it all well. Its takes a true master to weave this sort of story together. You will not be disappointed by Simmons.

I was absolutely floored by this book. It is simply genius. It got my blood pumping, my mouth watered, I was stressed and in love with the characters.
Profile Image for Mark Tallen.
194 reviews13 followers
January 14, 2019
Stunning, an utterly brilliant novel, this is one of my very favourite novels to date. After reading the Hyperion/Endymion books by Dan Simmons and being blown away by them, I went into reading Ilium with an attitude of, 'well Ilium and the sequel Olympos, both have a lot to live up to'. Well, guess what, Ilium is a masterpiece in my opinion and it did live up to those high expectations. I absolutely loved this book, the pages flew by and I was completely immersed in the novel. The storytelling and prose are excellent, the characters are well rendered and have their unique individual style and the plot is gripping. I urge anybody who maybe interested in reading this novel to steer clear of spoilers or discussions about the narrative. I'm hugely impressed with the depth of imagination that Simmons had in order to create a science fiction novel, that weaves the Iliad into a really compelling story for the modern era. I'm not surprised that the book was nominated for the Hugo Award and that it won the Locus Award, because it is a masterwork of speculative science fiction. The book has my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,949 reviews1,294 followers
December 19, 2019
Longtime readers of my reviews will recall I have a tumultuous relationship with Dan Simmons’ books. I didn’t like The Terror or Drood , but I warmed up to Simmons through his epic Hyperion Cantos. In my review for the final book of that cycle, The Rise of Endymion , I commented, “Even if you don’t like the series, it is hard to dispute the scope and style of it.” Simmons lives up to this judgment with Ilium, which does for the Iliad what Hyperion did for Keats and Romantic poetry (although I’d argue it goes further than that). I doubt I’ll ever refer to Simmons as one of my favourite authors, or even as one of my favourite SF authors. Yet I have no doubt he is actually a great SF author, one of the greats of our age, even if he isn’t one of my favourites. Let’s dive into Ilium and see why.

Summarizing Ilium is not an easy task, but I’ll do my best. It’s a couple of thousand years into the future. Humanity experienced a posthumanist singularity, including an event vaguely alluded to as “the rubicon,” and mastered nanotechnology and quantum tunnelling/quantum teleportation. Now, beings claiming to be the Greek gods inhabit a terraformed Mars and have recreated the Iliad in the flesh. They’ve also recreated Thomas Hockenberry, a twenty-first–century scholar of the Iliad, essentially to provide commentary on them? But Hockenberry gets pushed into a situation where he has to go off-book, and things soon prove … revolutionary. Meanwhile, some moravecs (self-evolving AI robots descended from robots sent out by humans) from the moons of Jupiter have arrived on Mars to investigate all this untoward quantum activity. Meanwhile meanwhile, on Earth, some slightly-not-baseline humans are living a peaceful yet empty existence devoid of culture or true learning/introspection, until of course, someone jolts them out of it. The result? By the end of the book, all hell has broken loose of course!

Look, the actual plot of this book is unimportant.

Seriously, the plot is one of the least interesting parts of the book, and I’m going to mostly ignore it. I want to talk about what Simmons is doing with regards to the intersection of classical literature and science fiction and why it’s so goddamned brilliant, and then I will slam him for some dirty male gazey bits. Read on!

For the record, I did read the Iliad (Fagles), but didn’t review it because it was … a difficult book. It’s really not a great book for reading silently to oneself in translation. It is meant to be declaimed, in ancient Greek, but that is not a skill I have. Although debates over its historicity and the extent to which it is an oral tradition abound, one thing is clear: the Iliad is, like so many epic poems from antiquity, a complex work that has been altered by each of the cultures who have translated it, studied it, and reinterpreted it through their own biased lenses. Also note that you don’t need to have read the Iliad to follow Ilium.

Ilium is, fundamentally, a story about literacy. Every relationship, every plot development, every conflict, is a facet of Simmons examining the meaning of literacy in various human societies, the role of literacy and storytelling, and the ways in which our technology might influence those two things.

I have often criticized the posthumanist stories I’ve read of late because of the tendency for the technology to be so advanced it’s basically magic. Simmons lampshades this and employs posthumanist SF to good effect by just leaning into the whole magic angle. Yes, at face value, the idea of recreating the Iliad in “real life” is absurd and impossible—but if you arrange the tech tree of our evolution just so, it becomes just incredibly improbable (and as the book explores, probability is a key underlying element of the story—not that that’s important, as I said). The Greek gods of this story are incredibly powerful, yes—but they are also illiterate. In a society where technology has progressed to the point that you can alter your form at will, communicate information through nanotechnology … what good is writing anymore?

Savi makes a remark at one point about the pre-literate meeting the post-literate when Odysseus meets Harman and Daeman, and it’s a very telling statement. Odysseus and the other Greeks represent humanity prior to the dominance of the written word. Simmons presents them as emphasizing action and embodiment over contemplation. Contrast this with Mahnmut and Orphu, whose human-like intellectual existences within their very non-humanoid bodies revolve around contemplation of Shakespeare and Proust, respectively. There is an irony that the only literate beings in this story are an anachronistic professor and robots from Jupiter’s moons! However, the moravecs have more in common with Harman et al than you might think—both have a dearth of lived experiences when it comes to the struggles of the human condition that we consider de rigeur. The moravecs, by dint of their access to the sum total of human literature, are more aware of the human condition. But as Mahnmut discovers throughout this story, he has led a very sheltered life and has not paid attention to much beyond his myopic niche interests.

Everything in Ilium is wrapped in literary texts—not subtext but actually part of the text. The antagonists, from the Greek gods to Prospero and Caliban and the mysterious Setebos, are all allusions to famous literary characters. Beyond that though, the textual references—the passages of Shakespeare dissected, the interrogation of characters like Falstaff—create the impression of a conversation between these authors and the characters of Ilium. Even Hockenberry marvels at his own role as a kind of ersatz intervener in a drama that was conceived by Homer and is now being re-staged by the enigmatic Zeus: he goes from observer to participant, driving events further away from the text of the Iliad. This makes him uncomfortable not just for the personal risk he accrues as a result but for the fact that it shifts his understanding of the people around him from characters in a farcical recreation of a tragedy to living, breathing humans whose autonomy and agency he must respect rather than ignore or co-opt. This is reinforced numerous times when he underestimates the guile or commitment of the Greeks and Trojans, particularly Helen.

As Mahnmut and Orphu debate the meanings of life explored by their literary crushes and Savi opens the eyes of her new friends to the ideas they never knew they were missing, Simmons invites us all to consider the different options with regards to literacy. Those of you who are able to read this, like me, take our literacy for granted to an extent—I don’t mean to imply that none of you struggled for this. Some of you might have had to struggle to learn to read, or struggled to get access to education in the first place. But we take it for granted that our species, our societies, are literate. Literacy is a technology, not a biological certainty. As Simmons demonstrates here, literacy is one way to add depth to a culture—but it is not the only way, and it introduces its own complications and dead-ends as well.

Whether or not our own technology takes us as far as the posthumans of Ilium get, it behoves us to consider how that technology alters our relationship with literacy. It’s already happening right now. As a teacher, I often ponder how my students (some of whom, because I teach adults in high school, are older than me) look at reading and writing differently because they have cell phones and the Internet. As a millennial, I grew up online. I am, in some ways, more comfortable reading and writing than I am speaking. My younger students, while even more attached to their devices than I am, are not necessarily more literate as a result—because the way we negotiate the digital spaces we’ve created has changed. While that sounds curmudgeonly, it’s more observation than complaint or criticism. It can’t really be either of those until we have a deeper, wider conversation about what’s happening—we need to stop saying “kids can’t read” or “kids don’t read” and instead check our assumptions about why we expect kids to read the same way we read. After all, we didn’t always read the way we do now.

Of course, the complex conversation happening within Ilium would be improved if it didn’t centre 2 dead white guys and a dead Greek poet to whom we attribute the Iliad. Simmons’ emphasis on the Western tradition of literature is an unfortunate limitation that ignores the rich history of both literate and oral traditions in countless other cultures around the world.

On top of that, I wish I could praise this book wholeheartedly, but I almost put it down only a couple of pages in, when Simmons has Daeman meditate all about the hot nude body of the woman he’s trying to seduce. Ew. And then there’s Hockenberry. It should have been redemptive, this flabby middle-aged white guy from our time running around the Age of Heroes and basically being unremarkable … but as much as I admire Simmons for undermining Hockenberry’s brief hero moments via the machinations of Helen, Andromache, and to a lesser extent Hector and Achilles … I can’t get behind Hockenberry’s utter male gaze and objectification of the goddesses and women he meets. The whole scene where he just goes and poses as Paris so he can have sex with Helen? Hello rapey and gratuitous and ew.

So … yeah. Ilium as a work of literature has vast chasms of thought-provoking ideas as deep as Olympus Mons is tall. I was enchanted by the way Simmons teases out the various contradictions around literacy. Simmons is a huge literary nerd and a talented SF author, and I love that combination. But I can’t praise that this book without calling out the intensely uncomfortable male gazey moments that are, unfortunately, all-too-common in books written by otherwise intelligent white guys. Seriously, do better.

Is this book for you? I don’t know! It’s big and convoluted and sprawling but oddly satisfying if you decide you want to put up with the lengthy digressions, the problematic stuff I noted, and the frustrating tendency to digress at length (as mentioned) but never actually reveal the really interesting stuff (what are the voynix? Who is Setebos?). I guess that’s what sequels are for.

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