i) Universe-changing war between humans and non-humans. Check.
ii) Dehumanizing means of instant quantum transport. Check.
iii) Lots of pretentious literary criticism. Check.
iv) Mostly nebbish and clueless male protagonists. Check.
For some reason, Simmons annoyed me quite a bit in this book. He has several characters in the book who know a lot about the mysteries of the universe the book is set in but don't reveal the secrets for no reasons except narrative convenience. There were also a lot of obvious plot holes: why is Hockenberry allowed to QT into Olympus by Zeus repeatedly, why did the Jupiter moravecs go to Mars non-stealthily when their apparent master plan depended on their secrecy?
Still, it is Simmons, who can do entertaining and clever space opera like no other, and I'm looking forward to the second one. However, the Hyperion books should be your first stop if you are just starting to read him.
Though the years of rebirth were painful, Thomas expects to have a grand old time of comparing reality to Homer. However being enslaved to the Greek Gods and a Muse is no fun, but worse is the reality on the Plains of Ilium. The romanticism of Homer and others seem out of place as Thomas sees the atrocities of the war and the idiocy of the legends. In fact he dreams of a B-52 dropping the A-bomb on these Plains to end the insanity. If that is not enough, adding to his dismay is that Aphrodite orders him to help her kill Athena.
While Thomas finds reality monstrously disappointing, robots research the terra-like created atmosphere of Mars and selfish people reside on a genetically different future Earth. Time means nothing in this universe.
Combine The Tempest and The Iliad into a strange well-written speculative fiction and what you have is ILIUM. The story line takes some adjustment with the anachronisms of Thomas and his transplanted peers discussing A-bombs while the pre BC Trojan War occurs. The cast is a delight and the three subplots blend together into a tremendous science fiction novel with fantasy elements that will elate the audience. However, don't tell your English teacher about Dan Simmons' chutzpah messing with the classics even if it is quite entertaining and successfully achieved.
Simmons combines chariots and spaceships, robots and Greek Gods, Earth and Mars, the moons of Jupiter and prehistoric Indiana, into an epic tale of mankind, past and future. This novel (and hopefully its sequel) should stand the test of time as one of the classic science fiction novels of this generation.