Illium / Olympos

I read the outstanding science-fiction duology of Illium and Olympos sometime last year. In case you haven’t noticed of recent, I’ve been ‘cleaning out my closet’ with a slew of blog posts about things I’ve been meaning to get to, but for mysterious other reasons, I haven’t really had the time. Okay, the reasons are quite pedestrian, but they needn’t concern you now. What you must embrace is that I am back for my usual limited-time engagement; to promise any more would be an insult to my incredibly knowledgeable core of readers. Flattery is a much better approach.

In any event, because the delay has dulled my memory to the point where I can’t recall the demarcation point between the two novels, and because it is actually one story broken into two because Dan Simmons can’t write a grocery list that is not 1400 pages (this is not a bad thing as it is with Stephanie Meyer), and because I don’t want to prolong the delay of my ever-so-precious thoughts, and because I don’t want this sentence to ever, ever end, I decided to combine the two into a single mini-review. After all, who would read the cliffhanger after 700 pages and not finish?

The elements of the story are as follows: Shakespearian play “The Tempest”, Greek Gods, biomechanical organisms, Trojan War, quantum theory, Amazons, a lusty reconstructed history professor, teleportation, genocide, far-future evolution and technology, and very very bad villains. Why, you just shake up the pieces and it writes itself! The story begins on a future Earth, populated by benign humans who have become soft and content with a pleasurable existence and being served by strange automatons. A few new humans begin to ask questions, and their safe society begins to unravel. In another part of the solar system, faux-Greek Gods, self-styled superhumans brought about by technological advances, play god, literally, with Achillies and Hector in their version of the Trojan War, reported on by replications of actual historians who zip around with quantum teleportation. Finally, biomechanical organisms, curious about the disruptions caused by both, send representatives to investigate. Sounds like a remake of On Golden Pond.

This duology is Simmons doing his “literary fiction”, applied to the science-fiction level. Smaller in scope (how could it be larger?) than his celebrated Hyperion series, but the themes and scenes resonate with me many months later. As with Hyperion I will keep these books on my re-reading list; Simmons length of story is carried well by the richness of subject matter and inventive mix of themes, characters, and interwoven plot.

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