"They can see and hear and maybe translate the words, but how can you translate Shakespeare to alien minds?" -Wilbr, "Muse of Fire"
This digital version of this short book has been on sale and is well worth the price. In the far future, in a far part of the universe, a space-travelling group of actors wander worlds inhabited by human slaves, performing the works of Shakespeare. Narrated through the voice of a secondary player, Wilbr, Simmons builds a world of creatively crafted aliens, religions and gods.
The title refers to the name of the troubadour's ship. The Muse her/it-self is a being that runs the spacecraft, reminiscent, but in a much less dark way, of John Scalzi's god-driven starships in his short "God Engines'.
Simmons builds his plot around a series of these Shakespearian performances on grand-universal stages to a variety of beings. Even at fewer than 100 pages, Simmons crafts realistic and believable characters and the framework of a fascinating and detailed universe.
In "Muse", Simmons emotes a passion for The Bard and I couldn't help but think that he'd not yet gotten Shakespeare completely out of his system after writing his duology "Olypos" and "Illium", which relies heavily on Shakespeare-driven themes. While not giving the ending away, Simmons may acknowledge that he finally found some creative Shakespearian closure with "Muse of Fire", when an alien suggests to Wilbr, "You people need to learn some new poets."
Simmons continues to prove that his creative abilities go well beyond a narrowly defined genre such as science fiction. He writes so sharply and with an imbued sense of intelligence that his literate capabilities lift the literary sense and pleasure of his readers.