Olympos Mass Market Paperback – Jul 2 2006
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Welcome back to the Trojan War gone 'round the bend. Hector and Achilles have joined forces against the Olympic Gods. Back on a future Earth, assorted creatures from Shakespeare's The Tempest get ready to rumble in a winner-takes-the-universe battle royale. And amid it all, a group of confused mere mortals with their classically trained robot allies (from Jupiter no less) race across time and space to keep from getting squashed as the various Titans of the Western Canon square off. Confused? It's all part of Dan Simmons's Olympos, a novel one part fun-with-quantum-physics and two parts through-the-looking-glass survey of Western Literature. Picking up where he left off in the high-wire act Ilium, Simmons doesn't disappoint. Not only is Olympos excellent hard science fiction and grand space opera, it's a riveting and fast-paced book that is alternately shocking, thrilling, and often deftly hilarious as his hapless human creations wrestle the forces of literary history itself. Be sure to read Ilium first, though. That and a more than passing familiarity with The Illiad might come in handy for the journey to Mars, Ilium's far-off shores, and the Earth that might be. --Jeremy Pugh
Amazon.com Exclusive Content
Changing genres as easily as others change clothes, bestselling author Dan Simmons has written horror, mystery, historical fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction. In this Amazon.com exclusive interview, he talks about his latest SF triumph, Olympos, a tale of Mars, the Greek gods, and survival in a posthuman world.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Drawing from Homer's Iliad, Shakespeare's Tempest and the work of several 19th-century poets, Simmons achieves another triumph in this majestic, if convoluted, sequel to his much-praised Ilium (2003). Posthumans masquerading as the Greek gods and living on Mars travel back and forth through time and alternate universes to interfere in the real Trojan War, employing a resurrected late 20th-century classics professor, Thomas Hockenberry, as their tool. Meanwhile, the last remaining old-style human beings on a far-future Earth must struggle for survival against a variety of hostile forces. Superhuman entities with names like Prospero, Caliban and Ariel lay complex plots, using human beings as game pieces. From the outer solar system, an advanced race of semiorganic Artificial Intelligences, called moravecs, observe Earth and Mars in consternation, trying to make sense of the situation, hoping to shift the balance of power before out-of-control quantum forces destroy everything. This is powerful stuff, rich in both high-tech sense of wonder and literary allusions, but Simmons is in complete control of his material as half a dozen baroque plot lines smoothly converge on a rousing and highly satisfying conclusion.
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I was SO disappointed. This is just not Mr. Simmons' best writing. At BEST this is a melange of notes, maddeningly short chapters that jump from one subplot to the next (you literally have 5 or 6 subplots with an added one or two thrown in in the last 100 pages just to tick you off). Then, when you are heading for that all critical showdown with the antagonists (of which there are a minimum of 4 major and a whole slew of minors including Helen of Troy), you get NOTHING. I mean, there IS no showdown. The horrific Setebos and his evil sidekick Caliban (who was supposed to be THE bad one in Ilium)...Well, let's just say that Nada, zip and "What the He**!!" were my thoughts and exclamations. It was just awful. You get some seriously disturbing scenes like semi-necrophilia/rape the stasis patient (a la Kill Bill Part 1) which frankly, leave a bad, stinky, taste in your mouth. There is a lot of mind numbing exposition/explanation of physics and brane holes and all the things that make you think that Mr. Simmons is just trying to prove he ran these things past physics/chaos/quantum theory prof friends of his. (My favorite quip from anyone like this was simply "Quantum Physicists have P-branes".)
The book starts out really well. The chapters are of good length. Then they get smaller, more frenetic and things spin in and out and back again until you KNOW the end is going to slam into you and you are not going to like it. It's the same thing I have found over the years with Anne Rice. She would start out with an amazing plot and lose it in the middle and muddle her way to the disappointing, often hard to understand end.
And MAN, if Odysseus were really alive today, there is NO way he'd have followed Sycorax through time just to get it on with her. He'd have tricked her to be with his beloved. Come ON! There had to have been SOME kind of heroic ending instead of him just turning into a horny old time traveler! Gads. Such a letdown!
And BY the way, what EVER happened to the STRONG WOMAN characters that he seemed to have in his previous novels? In this one, she leads her wounded and left for dead group of friends out of serious danger then has a baby and BAM, she is relegated to a minor character who defers to hubby by the end. (Must be all the BOOK LEARNING he could hold over her head. Maybe he didn't send her as many PACKETS????) She just turns from heroine to glowing barefoot momma with kids in the background...ick.
Mr. Simmons is an amazing writer. I would really like to see more of the Hyperion series with a fresh, new slant. I have said this before and I hope I don't see these things anymore. I do not ever want to see another literary translation of a major epic in any more of his sci fi books. The man is seriously intimidating in his love and knowledge of ancient literature but, I can't take another novel full of clips from Keats, Yeats, Proust, Shakespeare and the myriads of Iliads. Moreover, I don't want any more stories with brane holes, creches or resurrection couches. And for goodness sake, stop with the mini-chapters and zillions of characters and sub plots. Too many to keep up with.
All in all, I am seriously disappointed. I even popped for the signed leather limited edition. Oh well. I hope for many more. They can't all be divine. But no more stinkers please!!! I like you too much to see you steep yourself in more of this!
Unfortunately, Simmons fails in this particular attempt - Illium was great, Olympos starts out convoluted, amps up on suspense around the middle and then the story falls apart completely.
I'll avoid being repetetive but let me just say that all the loose ends listed here by other reviewers are truly loose ends and not just oversights by inattentive readers.
For example: If an auhor says: "This character is told to walk the Atlantic Breach for months even though he could be brought to the other side in seconds - but there is a deeper reason for it!" - then I think the reader deserves to find out that reason at some point.
The explanation given for the existence of the Greek gods on Mars and all the other fantastically bizarre things that are going is, it turns out, thoroughly ridiculous. It's an all-purpose explanation that makes no more sense than "Well, anything is possible..."
Why was Hockenberry created by the Gods?
Why was he recording the Trojan War for Zeus?
I mean... - this is the MAIN CHARACTER and his entire existence makes no sense.
What happened to the big villain (Setebos)? He just disappears, without explanation!!!
What is Moira doing in there? First, it seems so important to wake her, then she does nothing but walk around invisible!
Why is Prospero important? What does he do? Nothing.
Why did the moravecs mount a huge expedition to Earth to end the quantum disturbance? They end up doing absolutely nothing because Setebos, as I said, just disappears...
So - many points for imagination and good writing, and a dissappointed shake of the head for a story that simply does not deliver.
Then, it literally took me 4 months to read Olympos. I essentially had to force myself to keep reading. Ilium was ablaze with suspense and all the characters, from the gods to the moravecs (organic machines), leapt off the page they were so alive.
Spoiler Alerts: There are numerous story threads that are left hanging, others that simply dissipate. The build-up created in Ilium, where meta-intelligences (Prospero, Sycorax, Ariel, post-humans in the guise of the Greek Pantheon) are battling for their respective interests, is not resolved in Olympos. Other characters arrive, and their motives are never fully explored or explained. Prospero floats around being cryptic. Sycorax gives up a battle she has been waging for centuries to have sex with Odysseus. Ariel appears once, acts mysterious, and disappears. The post-human Greek gods just eventually go away.
In the first book, the fabric of the entire universe is in danger because the post-humans have abused quantum reality. Additionally, the quantum distortions have allowed evil beings from other dimensions to slip into our universe. In Olympos, the evil departs, with no explanation. Apparently, the quantum instability is also resolved, also without much explanation. Primary characters from the first book are ignored in the second.
Most frustrating, the pace of the second book is lethargic through 3/4 of the novel, and then the pace picks up at frenetic speed. At the point where the pace increases, is precisely where things just stop being explained. The moravecs, which, throughout Ilium, carry the literary heart and soul of mankind because mankind has forgotten them, become, in book two, cute/fuzzy jokesters who babysit children. In book one, they had their own society!
I'm not sure how this got past the editors, but narratively speaking, this is an inferior effort from Simmons, and especially in light of the first book, which blew me away. This book left me cold and flat, and by the end, I just didn't care what happened to anyone in the book. I was just happy I could finally move on to Harry Potter.
Ilium, the predecessor to this book, was an interesting set-up and I enjoyed it. [What's not to like when an English professor gets to become the bedmate of Helen of Troy? Shades of "The Kugelmass Episode"!]
I was eager to find out how Simmons would get himself out of the many traps he had put himself into. Nobody is a better speculative fiction Houdini than he is.
And here we are with gazillions of pages that lead to one of those "Huh?" last-volume-of-the-Dune-series endings. Lots of loose ends here and no third volume in sight.
No spoilers here, but I have to note that the trajectories of the characters seems arbitrary sometimes - Achilles especially with a bizarre wind-up.
I also find some of the writing self-indulgent in a crass kind of way. A character of immense age and power spends much time talking like an oracle and some like a trailer trash Jerry Springer guest.
In the same way, some of the important plot events happen offstage and seem designed simply to move characters around and get them in and out of the narrative.
If you enjoyed Ilium, you ought to read this one, but bear in mind that it's middling Simmons. Middling Simmons is far better than the best of many other writers. And yet, Simmons's best writing and thinking promises a book - or a series of books - much better than this one. It's a promise that he's never lived up to, not even in the Hyperion books. I hope he someday writes the book that he's capable of.
Meanwhile, consider this a kind of placeholder for that book. It's Simmons on cruise control.
Olympos turns out to be a rambling, incomprehensible mess of a story. It turns out that that war between humans and gods is only the focus for about the first 100 pages, and then Simmons turns the focus of the novel into an abstract retelling of The Tempest, with characters that either we barely encountered in Ilium, or we didn't even meet at all. Overall, the story in Olympos is just too fragmented to really make the reader care about what is going on. As we try to keep track of roughly 7 different storylines, everything just starts to run together, and we slowly begin to stop caring about what is occurring.
I didn't completely hate the novel, though. Much like Ilium, it has many strong moments, but Dan Simmons never builds on those strong moments to make the entire story stronger. It seems like Simmons believe that if he thrown in a great segment every once in a while, the reader will forgive him for the rambling, incoherent mess that happens between those moments. We are ultimately asked to care about characters for reasons that we have no reason to give a hoot. With Ada and Harman, we are supposed to believe and care about their strong relationship with each other, but since they spend the entire book apart, their connection seems flimsy, at best.
By far the most frustrating part, though, is the anticlimactic finale that will leave you scratching your head. You've just sat through roughly 1300 pages of story, and there is no climax. None. The book builds throughout all of its 700 pages to what you would think will be an amazing, jaw-dropping climax, but it's almost like Simmons is enjoying being withholding. Instead of an exciting ending, we get a chance encounter/connection between two of the main storylines, and then we skip ahead to years after the conclusion of the events, and we are told in an objective, boring manner of what happened at the end.