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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One word: WOW
I think Dan Simmons is amazing. I've loved his work, from Carrion Comfort and Summer of Night through the Endymion series. His talent is irritatingly broad.
I loved this book, and I think the online description simply doesn't do it justice. The three stories woven here are all equally engaging and almost every chapter is a mini-cliffhanger.
In the spirit of...
Published on June 16 2004 by S. T. Hull

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3.0 out of 5 stars Competent SF/Fantasy, with some points for original thought.
Writing about anachronistic characters is, at least for me, a cardinal sin in the sf/fantasy world, especially since so few can manage to pull it off convincingly. Illium, therefore, presented more than a few problems for me at the outset: a modern classicist, who's consciousness is hurled into the future to document a restaging of the Trojan War, with all the...
Published on March 18 2004 by Michael C. Kessler


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Combines The Tempest and The Iliad, June 30 2004
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
The Greek Gods prefer human fodder to serve as scribes rather than wasting energy by doing it. Thus they send Dr. Thomas Hockenberry and several scholarly peers from the future into the past to study the war at Troy that "launched a thousand ships".
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.
Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ilium is a really intriguing and exciting summer read!, June 22 2004
This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
As a rabid fan of the Hyperion novels and my barely contained excitment over a proposed movie...I wasn't sure at first if I would venture into this one. While I know the "Cleft notes" version of the Iliad, I have never read it myself much less studied it with the intensity Simmons has. But this was a very interesting take on the Iliad which makes me want to take out my very, very old antique version and actually read it.
Ilium follows the Simmons tradition of weaving high tech science fiction with low tech, pretty straightforward and well developed characters. The technology is profuse, and very cool when you picture it in your head. Readers of the Hyperion series will see similarities in a lot of it and there is, of course, the literary subplot with plenty of allusions. This time it is Shakespeare vs. Proust. The characters interact with each other intelligently and are written with distinctly separate personalities. You are going to forget you are reading and really get into the characters, even when they are only discussing something before a big battle. That makes picturing them easy, and the anticipation of forthcoming action even moreso. The stunningly vivid action scenes come into the mind's eye better than any multi-million dollar summer blockbuster. No one is perfect in Simmons' world and every hero/heroine in the book has his/her faults, foibles and has to completely earn his/her status. What a refreshing thing! Real characters. Nothing like the tedious, boring, glamour-gam novel "Shelters of Stone" by Jean M. Auel that I followed Ilium with. The Cro-Magnons might have well have had electricity and TV's. They had every other luxury and if they didn't, by golly, it was inadvertently invented by her absolutely perfect main character! Gads.
I fondly await the 2005 release of The Odyssey. However I have only a slightly curmudgeonly couple of things to say about future sci fi books. Once this series is finished, I would like Mr. Simmons to consider never doing again offered as a friendly "fresh" challenge to future sci-fi novels (unless I am treated to the "final" Hyperion novel to find out what happened to our hero!). I would like to see him not refer to any authors' work or use it as a subplot or character defining mechanism. I would like to see him never use same weaponry (flechette guns for ex.), or the word/idea of creche, resurrection, QT'ing (or the portal system as in Hyperion novels), and while challenging, characters based on very vague (and probably an medieval autistic adult's version of his world) manuscripts (the Voynix/Voynich connection...) etc. There are a couple of other things but space prevents. While Simmons is an amazingly diverse writer with tons of awards, I am concerned that he will run into the "Stephen King" syndrome. Part of the reason I no longer read King's books is because after a while, despite my love for the author, the characters and plots were recycled over and over again. For example, I could pretty much figure out who was going to be paired with the scared child, who was going to be the "sacrificed character" and so on. I really believe King was an amazing author but his retirement is not a surprise. Sometimes you just run out of things for your stock characters to do...(I really like the guy so don't kill me for my criticism!)
Mr. Simmons seems to be capable of weaving amazing worlds that make one yearn to be there. I want him to continue to do that but leave all the previous things behind so that every novel continues to be fresh, new and as great a read as this one (and the Hyperion novels). Brad Pitt ain't got nothing on HOCK-EN-BAR-EE!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One word: WOW, June 16 2004
By 
S. T. Hull (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
I think Dan Simmons is amazing. I've loved his work, from Carrion Comfort and Summer of Night through the Endymion series. His talent is irritatingly broad.
I loved this book, and I think the online description simply doesn't do it justice. The three stories woven here are all equally engaging and almost every chapter is a mini-cliffhanger.
In the spirit of full-disclosure, I have to admit that I'm a sucker for the classics. Simmons really shows the Homeric characters in all their god-like glory. I just love that.
What I find most interesting about this novel is the schism between the levels of technological advancement. Three levels of technology, three groupings characters, three fully interdependent "worlds".
He places the "humans", an eloi-like band of ever diminishing numbers, on Earth in a near pre-technical dark-age, fully reliant on their machines but completely unable to create, manufacture or even investigate the world around them -- and they even lack the will to want to.
The hard sci-fi comes from the cybernetic inhabitants of the outer system, "alive" and organic but primarily machine. These "moravecs" are the thinking, feeling, emoting, poetic inhabitants of our distant future -- and it is for these non-human characters Simmons reserves most of his character development. Reading about two "robots" discussing the sensitivities of Proust over Shakespeare is surreally enjoyable.
The "post-humans" are the last level, and it is they who have taken science to such lengths it's no longer science, it's magic, and the practitioners themselves have become gods. To wit, Greek Gods and Goddesses. Zeus rules (literally)! Too cool!
I have never seen this done before, not all in one novel, not branching across time, space and ... genres. This is a real science fantasy epic, a rare bird indeed.
Get this book. You won't be able to put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, June 20 2004
By 
Alexander K. Stoker "Endymion" (Olympia, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
Ilium is as astonishing the second time through as the first. I recommend reading this book at least twice to catch on all the ironies and metaphorical references. Simmons' knowledge of history is obviously extensive, as well as his knowledge of the Iliad. Everything in this masterpiece is well placed and knowledgeably written. If you have any doubt in Dan Simmons after his Hyperion series (why would you?), read this and be put to rest. His writing style leads this to be one of the best books I've ever read. There are some minor spelling/typing errors in this book, leading me to believe it was hastily transcribed, but reading around these is fairly easy. An excellent read, well recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Science Fiction!, June 25 2004
By 
John D. Costanzo "johndc" (Bensalem, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
This is an original and well-written science fiction novel that jumps back and forth from Ancient Greece to the far future. Not only is it a richly imagined story of the future, but it also provides you with a refreshing insight into the main characters of Homer's Iliad.
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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Confused & incomplete, Sept. 25 2004
By 
Gregory Nixon (Prince George, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
As a lover of the Trojan myth cycle & Greek mythology in general, I read this book with a great deal of expectation. I was aware there were going to be several stories told at once & that some of them were from way out there, without even human protagonists. And by "way out there", I mean way, way out there. I give two stars overall, but I could have given four stars for the long stretches when I lost myself in the narrative. However, those stretches are constantly interrupted by a jolt back to another narrative that is much less intriguing & seems to have nothing to do with the first. Indeed, this is the major problem of book. By the end, I still had no idea what had happened to Earth & its people & how things came to be as they are: I closed the book in frustration. I realize this is part one of a planned two part opus, but, still, some loose ends need to be tied, some subplots need to be linked more completely, & some sort of conclusion (even temporary) has to be reached at the end of a 576 page book. Maybe if I read part 2, I would find it all fitting together & concluding with satisfaction. However, I still wouldn't give it five stars. The writer is extremely proficient & moves things along in places with breathtaking rapidity, but -- like Homer -- he repeats catch-phrases & epithets & his style does not change much from plotline to plotline. It seemed to me he was himself identifying with a few of characters to the point of irritation. These were characters of unlikely heroism, even cowardice, who grew heroically in the course of the novel. I speak here of Hockenberry, the twentieth century classicist, Daeman, the effete human voluptuary, & Orphu, a sentient robot. (Sentient robots are called "Moravecs", which I admit is a nice nod toward robotic visionary Hans Moravec.) His female characters tend to be underdrawn, verging on stereotypes. Their motivations seem to shift with contradictory behaviour often the result. (Then again, maybe he's on to something here.) Worse, though he claims Homer & Homeric scholarship among his research sources, he changed (or reversed in the case of Diomedes) the character of some of my beloved Homeric heroes. So, despite adventures & complexities beyond reason ranging from a very distant future Earth (with the ancient past of the Trojan War still present) to Olympic gods on Mars to Moravec colonies on the moons of Saturn & beyond (or maybe because of all this strained overreaching), I feel no inclination whatsoever to read the apparently forthcoming conclusion of this two-part "epic" to be called *Olympos*. When curiosity gives up, two stars are the appropriate response.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dan Simmons goes (Ancient) Greek!, July 3 2004
By 
Tama Leaver (Perth, Western Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
Readers familiar with Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos will no doubt have been waiting with baited breath for his return to epic SF and his sizable new novel Ilium is certainly epic in both size and scope. The novel contains three very different narrative threads, which slowly intersect in provocative, if not necessarily revealing, ways. The first tale, as the title suggests, is based on The Iliad; we meet what appear to be the Ancient Greek Gods who are (subtlety) directing the action of the Trojan War, complete with a full cast including Helen, Paris, Achilles, Agamemnon and ill-fated Odysseus. For some reason the Gods have also 'resurrected' scholars from Earth who are experts on Homer's epic poem; these 'scholics' are charged with watching the Trojan War and ensuring that events are unfolding as narrated in The Iliad. The protagonist in this thread is Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D. At first glance, Hockenberry seems to be living the classical scholar's ultimate fantasy of actually seeing the real Trojan War unfold. However, we quickly discover that his masters, the Ancient Gods, are every bit as childish, selfish and manipulative as suggested in ancient mythology. Hockenberry is the bound and bitter servant of a Muse, and after a parody of the opening of The Iliad, Hockenberry laments: 'On second thought, O Muse, sing of nothing to me. I know you. I have been bound and servant to you, O Muse, you incomparable bitch. And I do not trust you, O Muse. Not one little bit' (1).
In complete contrast, the second narrative thread introduces Moravecs, organic-machine hybrids who were 'seeded' across the solar system by human beings hundreds of years earlier. The central Moravec is Mahnmut, who spends his time piloting the submersible The Dark Lady through the waters of the Jovian moon Europa, and obsessively analysing Shakespeare's sonnets. When other Moravecs discover massive and very dangerous amounts of quantum shift energy emanating from Mars they decide they must investigate. Mahnmut joins Orphu of Io (who prefers Proust and argues literature with Mahnmut at the drop of a hat) and two others in order to investigate and possibly eliminate the cause of the extremely hazardous quantum energies.
With the Moravec characters, Simmons is again exploring ideas of artificial life. In the Hyperion Cantos, artificial life and artificial intelligences play a huge role; in the first two books they appear almost omniscient, while by the conclusion of Rise of Endymion, artificial lifeforms play a far more complex role as both part of humanity's survival and their ultimate threat. The Moravecs are far less empowered in Ilium and spend the majority of the novel trying to figure out exactly what is happening on Mars. The name Moravec is a nod toward Hans Moravec, the head of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, who argues in his book Mind Children (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1988) that the next stage of evolution is robotic and digital life which will supersede ordinary organic human beings. Simmons' Moravecs are less interested in replacing humanity than in making sure the solar system is not destroyed by experimentation which reeks of human arrogance.
The final narrative thread is set on Earth itself, at least a few millennia in the future. The narrative perspective is Daeman's, an ignorant twenty-six year old who prides himself on being a 'lady's man' and little else. Daeman is a typical of the few hundred thousand humans remaining on Earth: he cannot read, is generally content and uninquisitive, spends most of his time at social gatherings, travels instantaneously across the world via 'faxnode', and leads a pampered life with slavish servitor robots and slightly more mysterious Voynix creatures maintaining his indulgent lifestyle. However, when Daeman is at a party trying to seduce the alluring Ada, he finds himself mixed up with Ada's friend Hannah and the ninety-nine year old Harman who has rediscovered the ability to read; probably the only human being able to do so. Harman is living his final year, as all humans leave the Earth an one hundred years of age, possibly to join the 'posthumans' or 'posts' who left the Earth for the orbital habitats (and elsewhere) centuries earlier. Harman's quest to find a spacecraft, visit the posts, and discover what's really going on with the Earth lead the reluctant adventurers on a journey which uncovers many of the mysterious happenings on the planet Earth, and raises far more questions than it answers.
Just as Simmons used the style of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Hyperion to draw together six separate stories and then end the novel just as they intertwine, the three narrative strands of Ilium slowly approach one another and the novel ends as they finally intersect. However, unlike Hyperion, where the novel stood well by itself and the stories all held readers with their own energy, the three stories in Ilium are only just finding their own momentum as the novel ends. The very disparate cast of characters are harder to empathise with than characters in many of Simmons' other novels and the shear weight of so many different story elements, settings and intrigues threaten to overwhelm the coherence of the novel; so much is going on, it's hard to enjoy any one story. So, too, are there many shared elements with the Hyperion Cantos which felt fresh and engaging a decade ago, but somewhat less so as they are rehashed in Ilium. However, I must confess not having read Hyperion until I owned its sequel, which made some of the story much clearer. Despite its shortcomings, Ilium has many powerful passages and reworks historical and literary material in quite creative and sometimes amazing ways. The next novel Olympos is already being written and I have high hopes that reading the two in tandem will clarify some of the loose ends from Ilium and produce a far more rounded and satisfying read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Chariots on Fire", June 26 2004
By 
Brian (Cincinnati, Ohio USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
First things first - Book 1 of a Simmons series which just sets up the action in the next book. Fits the Simmons pattern I guess. It can be annoying at times, but its not like this book had no action
Plot Summary: Maybe someone can help me with this. There are 3 main plotlines followed in this book. First is the ongoing "re-creation" of the Iliad where the gods live on Olympus Mons on Mars. I am not entirely sure where the human players are though, I believe it is Earth but I do not know what Earth and when (and they are most likely on Mars anyway). There are other humans re-created to observe the war, scholics. Scholic Hockenberry being the main character of this plotline. There is very much Quantum Teleportation from Ilium to Olympus and back by the gods and all that activity is getting the attentioon of the humanlike robots (moravecs) working out around Jupiter. These guys decide to send a contingent plus a "device" to Mars to investigate and report back. Back on what is modern Earth, there are only a few thousand humans left living on the planet. They are modified at the molecular level but live a sheltered life where the post-humans left them some technology and now no one knows how to build or repair or do anything. Harman is that odd human that craves adventure, and has even walked places where there are no fax portals (faxing is the mode of transportation). He does not want to go up into the rings after he turns 100 years old as is the custom. There are also some alien undertones and some godlike characters moreso than the Greek gods. Eventually all these plotlines meet up and then leave you hanging
Opinion: Well, like Hyperion, this is the first half. Tension building, drama escalating, etc. I liked what was going on and the complexity of the relations between everyone in the book. I'm not sure I've figured out the whole thing yet though. Much of the early book action is to build the characters and what I suspect is the real plot is not touched upon until much later. This is not a bad thing. Everything was pretty believable to me. I enjoyed the moravec plot the least but I saw in a few other Ilium posts that others really liked that one best. I will enjoy this book more after I know what happens to everyone I'm sure, but it was pretty damn enjoyable anyway. Now that I have started reading the actual Iliad, I am seeing just how well that was integrated into the story. Simmons has always been good at this.
4 out of 5 stars
Recommendation: Read it. Especially if you like Hyperion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Despite some Flaws, June 16 2004
By 
This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
For the most part I enjoyed Illium but there are also a lot of drawbacks to it as well. Before launching into a critique a short synopsis of the plot will set the stage. Well, maybe not so short but as short as I can make it.
Illium follows three threads that more or less converge by the end of the book in a cliffhanger that sets up what should be a very exiting sequel. First we follow the exploits of Thomas Hockenberry - a 20th Century classics professor from Indiana whose DNA has been recombined by post-humans on Olympus Mons (Mars) who have morphed themselves into the Greek Gods. These capricious "gods" are replaying the Trojan War on earth as laid out in the Iliad by Homer. The "scholics" are used to follow the war and report back to the gods. Thomas, for reasons you'll discover, begins to intercede in ways that create unpredictable and unforeseen consequences, veering away from the events in the Iliad.
Over here we have "moravecs" who ply Jupiter's moons. Moravecs are, in essence, cyborgs - mostly machine but with some organic parts. They notice quantum fluxes on Mars and send a mission to investigate. And a device that they are supposed to activate once they get to Mars.
And finally we have "old style humans" who are not really old style humans because they have been genetically modified for longevity, but are not allowed to live longer than 100 years. They live idyllic lives, served by semi-organic machines. They have lost all literature and all ambition. Except for one man, Harman, whose actions also move events in new directions.
While overall enjoyable there are several things about this novel that are annoyances. First, we never find out what is the motivation of the "Gods" on Olympus Mons for their actions? Nor do we find out their origins. That lack of insight into these characters is a major drawback to the story. Nor do we find out who really controls the "old style" humans or why they even continue to exist.
Secondly, Simmons relies heavily on deux ex machina as a plot device. I guess that might be natural where you have quantum teleportation. I give Simmons credit for recognizing this - one of his characters makes a joke about it near the end of the novel.
Third, I suspect one who is more expert on the Iliad than I might have enjoyed the novel more. I read it when I was high school and have little desire to go back and read it again. But that is more this reader's shortcoming than the author's.
Overall, I can't say this is a Hugo Award deserving novel like some of Simmons' previous works. But in the end it was entertaining and I look forward to the sequel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and imaginative far-future SF, May 2 2004
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
Review: Ilium, by Dan Simmons (2003)
a review by Rich Horton
On the whole, I was pretty pleased. Ilium is full of SFnal imaginative brio (if not always very plausible), and it's also full of pretty absorbing action. My main complaints are a) that it's only the first half of its story (though it does come to at least a somewhat satisfying stopping point; and b) that so far it doesn't seem to be about much -- it's fun and has lots of interesting ideas but it seems somewhat slight.
The story is told on three main threads. The most prominent centers on Thomas Hockenberry, a 20th century college professor who specialized in Homer. He has been mysteriously resurrected in this far future, and he is one of a number of "scholics" employed by the gods (yes, Zeus, Aphrodite, etc.) to observe the progress of the Trojan War, which is being fought (reenacted? refought for real? fought for the first time somehow? who knows?) on what seems to be Mars. (The gods, of course, live on Mt. Olympos -- that is to say, the great volcano Olympus Mons.) The scholics keep track of how closely the war tracks Homer's poem, which turns out to be pretty closely. But the gods' arbitrary violence, and a general despair at the bloody-mindedness of everyone, drive Hockenberry to rebellion -- at first just a night with Helen (!), but soon a plot against the gods themselves.
Meanwhile, the AIs called moravecs who live in the Jupiter system have detected unsettling activity on Mars, and they send an expedition. One member of this expedition is Mahnmut, who lives on Europa and drives a submersible exploring the Europan seas. He is also an expert on Shakespeare's sonnets. His best friend is Orphu of Io, a Proust enthusiast. The two are marooned on Mars when the expedition comes to disaster, and they head for Olympus Mons on their own to try to complete the mission.
And finally, in Earth, Daeman is a foolish young man living in the rather stale society of the few remaining humans on the planet after the long past exodus of the "posthumans" to Earth orbit. The Earth humans live lives of idle eroticism and sloth, unable to read, unaware of geography as they "fax" (i.e. teleport) everywhere, served by robotic "servitors" and the alien Voynix. Every 20 years they are "faxed" to orbit and repaired, but they live only five "Twenties". Daeman visits a beautiful young woman named Ada in hopes of seducing her, and finds himself all unwilling drawn into the schemes of Ada, her friend Hannah, an ancient Jewish woman named Savi, and a 99 year old man named Harman who wants to avoid extinction when he reaches his fifth "twenty". This group ends up wandering the Earth: Antarctica, Israel, the dry Mediterranean Basin, in hopes of finding a way to the home of the posthumans in orbit.
Which is pretty much it for this book. Which isn't to say that nothing is resolved -- lots happens, and there is a lot of change. There are bloody battles, rampaging Allosauruses, some weird technology, aliens, gods of various sorts, heroism, fooling around, disasters. It's lots of fun, and the scene is well set for what could be a pretty exciting concluding volume.
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Ilium by Dan Simmons (Hardcover - July 10 2003)
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