From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing - and often influencing - the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.
Thomas Hockenberry, former twenty-first-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry's duty to observe and report on the Trojan War's progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.
With the help of fortieth-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants ... and ultimately destroy Aphrodite's sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.
Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last Twenty. That rarest of post-postmodern men - an "adventurer" - he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable "final fax." Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate - and, perhaps, terminate - the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.
©2003 Dan Simmons (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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"Achaeans and robots and post-humans, oh my"
(3.5 stars) I think there was some Star Trek episode in which characters from a fictional work were brought to life by advanced technology and wrought havoc, until Kirk remembered his classics. This novel is that idea on steroids. We get Shakespeare and Proust-quoting robots from the moons of Jupiter, and classical Greek gods who dwell on Mount Olympus -- on Mars -- and use nanotechnology and quantum doodads to intervene in a parallel universe in which the events of The Iliad are taking place, almost exactly as Homer described them.
Dan Simmons set a high bar with Hyperion, which remains one of my favorite science fiction novels (I’m less enthusiastic about its followups). That book proved that space opera can play games with literary intertextuality, and it also had a great universe and some page-turning mysteries. So I was half skeptical, half optimistic about this one.
I’ll give Simmons credit for having the skill to suck me into the story, in spite of my skepticism. The Iliad storyline, in which a 20th century Homeric scholar named Thomas Hockenberry was somehow resurrected by the gods to be an expert observer of the Trojan War (which only Zeus can foresee the outcome of), seemed well-researched and was a lot of fun, though it was helpful that I had recently read a translation of the Iliad. Hockenberry, ever the jaded academic, manages to manipulate the poem’s characters, who stay in character, towards breaking free of their prescribed fates.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, where about two thousand years have gone by since our time, a small population of “old-style” humans lives lives of leisure and ignorance, cared for by machines that post-humans left behind when they departed centuries ago. A group of these humans has begun to suspect that things have not always been this way, and embark on a hunt for answers on a planet that’s changed quite a bit since our time. With a little help from their new friend, Odysseus. The third thread concerns two moravecs from Jupiter, where their kind has evolved over the centuries, who crash-land on a now-terraformed Mars, and soon discover that knowledge of Shakespeare (not to mention Proust’s thoughts on the strangeness of time) might apply to their situation.
In terms of writing, I thought this one was only sometimes up the dark brilliance of Hyperion, but still a good ride. Simmons is at his best when he’s immersing the reader in a scene (as he does fantastically in some of the Troy sequences) or doing clever mashups (as with a creepy space station monster who speaks in Shakespeare mode), and less so when he’s going through the workmanlike process of having characters run or teleport around the map in order to connect pieces of his far-flung plot and themes (look for the annoying SF trope of invoking “quantum” to explain the essentially magical). How Simmons will pull everything together in the second, final book remains for me to see, but I find the ideas he seems to be going for interesting. Might old myths and legends, which have stayed in our collective memory so far, still be haunting us in whatever post-human, post-post-modern future is to come? "We're not fighters", says one character. "Oh, yes you are," replies another, "it's still in your genes". I also liked the little in-jokes, such as a scene in which Hockenberry, annoyed with how his PC fellow academics kept reading gay tendencies into certain Iliad characters, discovers that the truth is a little... ambiguous.
Audiobook narrator Kevin Pariseau is competent enough, but I think he does better at humor than drama. His wry Hockenberry is amusing, but his gods and heroes are a little lacking in gravitas.
"Superb sci-fi couched in the poem of the Iliad."
The book mixes futuristic sci-fi with the events that occurred in Homer's poem The Iliad. It does so in such an excellent manner as to make me want to read/study the Iliad again! This audio book also seems to take pieces from Dan Simmon's other excellent works in the Hyperion Cantos. I found myself thinking back to Hyperion many times while listening to this book.
The narrator is solid as well imparting the perfect cynical tone to the main character.
"The Gods of 40th century Mars"
A fantastic sci-fi epic in the tradition of Simmons's Hyperion Cantos. In Ilium, as in the Hyperion books, Simmons really shows off his knowledge of classical literature. He obviously knows the Iliad and the Odyssey inside and out, but the author (through his characters) also fill this book with literary and historical references to Shakespeare, Proust, and a dozen other sources. It's ingenious and it made me to resolve to finally get around to reading the Iliad myself once I've finished this series.
Set in the 40th century, Ilium is a retelling of the Ilium. Kind of. We begin with "scholic" Thomas Hockenberry, who was an early 21st century classics professor revived by the Olympian gods in the 40th century to monitor the ongoing Trojan War — which is taking place on Mars.
"Wait, what?" you are thinking. The "gods" are creatures of super-science, using unimaginable powers of quantum manipulation and nanotechnology to take on the roles and attributes of the classical Greek deities. And not just the big names either — while all the old familiar gods like Zeus and Athena and Aphrodite of course figure heavily into the plot, Simmons, through his educated protagonist Hockenberry, encounters scores of minor named gods and heroes as well.
Just why the gods are reenacting the Iliad on a terraformed Mars is not made clear by the end of this volume, but the heroes — Achilles, Hector, Paris, Odysseus, etc — are also as epic as the gods, thanks to both nanotech enhancements and literal interbreeding between gods and mortals, just like in the myths.
Hockenberry and his fellow scholics are basically embedded journalists for the gods, but although they all know how the Iliad ends, they have been forbidden by Zeus to tell any of the other gods. The gods know that the scholics know how Homer said the story is supposed to end, but they've been forbidden to ask the scholics. So they continue playing their games with mortal lives.
And then Hockenberry is recruited by one of the gods for a clandestine mission to kill another god. And with the "magic artifacts" he's been given, he's able to change a key event. And suddenly we're not in the Iliad anymore. And Hockenberry, who's now a dead man as soon as the gods catch up to him, decides to change the story completely.
This would be a pretty awesome story all by itself, but in fact Hockenberry is only one of three main protagonists. There are two other subplots which eventually merge into the Iliad on Mars. A pair of "Moravecs" — a race of sentient robots built by post-humans before they disappeared, now living out among the moons of Jupiter — is on a mission of their own. Not having paid much attention to the inner system for generations, they discovered a lot of dangerous quantum manipulation and advanced terraforming on Mars. When they go to investigate, their ship is shot down... in orbit, by a bearded man in a chariot throwing a lightning bolt at them.
Mahnmut and Orphu, the only two survivors, try to make it across Mars, aided by mysterious "Little Green Men" who seem to be creations of neither early humans nor the gods. The two robots, whose dialog is kind of reminiscent of R2D2 and C3PO, if C3PO were a Shakespeare scholar and R2D2 were fond of Proust, add a bit of comedy relief to the story, but eventually have a role to play in the climactic confrontation between gods and mortals.
Finally, there are the last surviving humans on Earth, a tiny population of laborless dilettantes with little to do but go to parties and play musical beds. Their world has been created by the long-gone post-humans, who created teleportation networks around the world, set up a system in which all remaining humans are carefully population-controlled and do not have to work or want for anything. They are granted perfect health until their "fifth twenty," when they report for exterminationascension to the outer rings, Logan's Run-style. But as Eloi-like as the remaining human race may be (they are actually called "Eloi" by one of the old-time humans they later meet), the spark of curiosity hasn't completely died in all of them. A few set off on an unplanned adventure, and discover truths about their world... and that there are Morlocks.
Ilium is so rich in world-building and has such a tangled plot that there were occasional bits that lost me — I am still not sure of the role of Caliban, the Little Green Men are just strange, and we don't yet have an answer to the question of why super-advanced godlike beings have resurrected the entire cast of the Iliad on a terraformed Mars. But hopefully those questions will be answered in the second book, which I will be reading soon.
"Great Performance - very good story"
This is an interesting story that takes quite a bit of time to figure out. I hate the ending as it really just says there will be a sequal - but up to that point it is fairly interesting. It will make you read up on the Illiad as a large part of the book involves a re-enactment of the battle of troy on Mars. Kind of interesting.
The performance is very good. The read does a great job of portraying the characters and there is very good character development. There are a few things left to the next book - I felt somewhat cheated there especially since the sequel did not get very good reviews. But worth the read/listen.
"It's Dan Simmons"
I have read several books by Dan Simmons. Terror was probably my favorite. In all his books with the exception of Hyperion, I believe he writes too much in detail and takes too long to tell the story. (THE VOYNIX TROTTED EFFORTLESSLY, PULLING THE CARRIOLE WITH ONLY THE GRAVEL-HISS UNDERPED AND THE SOFT HUMMING OF ANCIENT GYROSCOPES IN THE CARRIAGE BODY. SHADOWS CREPT ACROSS THE VALLEY, BUT THE NARROW LANE WENT UP OVER A RIDGE, CAUGHT THE LAST BIT OF THE SUN-BISECTED AS IT WAS ON THE NEXT RIDGE WEST--AND THEN DESCENDED INTO A WIDER VALLEY WHERE FIELDS OF SOME LOW CROP STRETCHED OUT ON EITHER SIDE. THE TENDING SERVITORS FLITTED ABOVE THE FIELD, DAEMAN THOUGHT, LIKE SO MANY LEVITATING CROQUET BALLS.) For me I could do with out knowing every left and right hand turn his characters take and he does this in all his books. Simmons has his own following. I have a friend that reads everything the guy writes. If the story is good I can put up with the mundane directions, but this book I just could not get into. I quit in the seventh chapter. I am not going to listened to no boring book.
"Great story considerably diminished by narration."
Yes. I'm a big fan of Simmon's stories, and this is another great time warping, world building, epic installment.
Honestly, it's tough to pick out a single stand out point. I listened to the story pretty quickly, and thuroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I particularly enjoyed the Moravec storyline.
Unfortunately, the narrator almost trivialized the entire story for me. There was very little differentiation between characters, and regardless of the way the dialogue was supposed to be interpreted ("he shouted," "her voice shaking," "rumbled Zues, the god of gods,") the narrator generally imparted a plain conversational or petulantly comedic voice. The story would have been far more dynamic and engaging with a more equipped narrator. The silver lining: I thought he did an incredible job with Caliban's character.
It was a little too long for that kind of endeavor, but I did get through this story quicker than usual.
Despite the lackluster narration, Simmons' incredible world building and imagination come through. I'll certainly be tackling Olympos sometime soon (but probably on my Kindle).
Hockenberry is my favorite character, the average guy, in over his head. He just wants to survive and at the same time, screw the gods.
Not my favorite narrator, Simon Vance would have been a better choice.
Homer and the rest would probably hate this story, but I liked it. Simmons is not afraid to take on Dickens, Homer, Hemingway, or anybody else. He makes the average writer look bad, sometimes I think he is just showing off. Time will tell if people are still reading his books two hundred years from now. Classic Simmons, playing havoc with the classics.
"Not sure about the hype"
The concept is really good and I love the themes of gods and post humans, but the story just isn't here. None of the characters are fleshed out, they all seem two dimensional, and I just couldn't find the backdrop to frame the visuals of the world the author created. A lot of words are thrown around without explanations from the beginning, it takes a long time and patience to figure out what the hell is going on. I loved the Hyperion series and am surprised this is by the same guy. So, just not sure on this one. I was not captivated.
"Slow to start, but a fun world"
The process of introducing all the characters is slow and confusing. But once you meet the old lady it starts getting fun.
Excellent character dialogue from the narrator's. This story kept me wanting more. can't wait to get the next book!
The book is brilliant. Unfortunately the narration is just dull, uninterested and soporific. What a disappointment!
"Brilliant! Amazing for Iliad fans too!"
Great story and a great performance. Simmons weaves such varied material together in a way that simply works! Ancient Greece and future Sci fi! I don't know how it works but Simmons manages it! Highly recommended!
"Amazing book and amazingly read!"
Yes, it's a great story by Dan Simmons and there would always be more to understand with each listen.
Hockenburry was my favourite character, I enjoyed the way he developed throughout the books.
Yes. Always good!
All of it.
"Very good albeit challenging read"
Essential reading if you like the author's Hyperion/Endymion books. More of a challenge as you are pitched straight in to the futuristic terminology, without the introduction that Hyperion 1 gives to the earlier series. I had to check the wikipedia page a few times! Some of the pronunciation isn't what I expected, eg Jupiter's moon Io is pronounced 'ee-oh' by the reader, where I'd have expected 'eye-oh' (aɪ.oʊ).
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