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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Science Fiction!
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...
Published on June 25 2004 by John D. Costanzo

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recycled Hyperion, but still Simmons...
Let's see:
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...
Published on May 8 2004 by Mike Winter


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recycled Hyperion, but still Simmons..., May 8 2004
By 
Mike Winter (Saskatoon, SK, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
Let's see:
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.
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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
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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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 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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars Intricate plot, excellent book. How does Simmons think this stuff up?, April 3 2007
This review is from: Ilium (Mass Market Paperback)
Mr. Simmons is arguably one of the best genre-hopping authors around, having pulled down awards for SciFi, Horror, Fantasy, etc. But this massive book (700+ pages in the paperback) makes me wonder exactly how does he think this excellent stuff up?

Ilium mixes the Trojan War (is it the real Trojan War, or a setup re-creation?), future humans (who are so pampered that they have forgotten or have been forced to forget their history, basic skills like reading and cooking, etc.), post-humans (evolved in some fashion) and Jupiter/Asteroid Belt organic-plus-Artificially Intelligent miner/workers into a story that is part future, part past. Combining these characters with literary references to Shakespeare, Proust (the Jupiter miners have all of ancient Earth in their databases and a weakness for literature), Homer and others, would in the hands of a lesser writer, make for a slogfest of a read.

Simmons masterfully blends these characters, time-shifting settings and science fiction creations into a plot that is a page turner for the majority of it's bulk. The plot opens up, little by little, letting the reader slowly but surely put these pieces together, while keeping us engaged with what's happening. The science of the science fiction is added to make this complexity quite possible, which is what good science fiction is all about.

The only issue I have with this novel is that (without giving away any spoilers) one has to read the next novel, Olympos. But it is a small issue, and, given the quality of Ilium, I will happily dive into Olympos.

Highly reccommended!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mind Tapestries Woven and Spun, Nov. 27 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ilium (Hardcover)
Saddened by the end of the Hyperion journey, waiting for a return to the weavings of D.Simmons mind, I found myself relieved with the arrival of Ilium. Getting through the first few chapters is a task in itself, all those Greek Heroes names, a plot filled with twists within twists, the mental gymnastics of following the three narratives and all the while trying to make some sense as to how they are relevant and related. But as he had done with Hyperion, once the stage is set...the adventure promised to be grand. Gladly the promise was kept. Rich in mosaïc logic and imagination, D. Simmons is a master of connecting three narratives into one storied tapestry. By the time I put the book down, I was so engrossed in the story that I now find myself returning regularly to the local book store in hopes that the continuation has arrived.
How long can someone wait before loosing the story's imaged texture and fresh flowing story line? Not too long I hope.
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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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Ilium
Ilium by Dan Simmons (Hardcover - July 10 2003)
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