23-24. Illium and Olympus, Dan Simmons

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23-24. Illium and Olympus, Dan Simmons

Post  jrpstonecarver on Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:36 pm

Argh... lots of time spent on these before giving up.

I read all of Illium, the first in a 2 volume set by Dan Simmons set in the far future. In it, for reasons that I still don't know, a group of gods and humans is acting out something like the story told in The Illiad but on a terraformed Mars, or something like that. A set of humans on Earth is struggling to figure out what they really are, and a set of moravecs - effectively cyborgs that are mostly machine, with wetware brains interfaced to their computers - based around the outer planets is worried about unusual physics in the Mars area, and so sends a small team to investigate.

Olympos is the continuation of the story, but I stopped reading just under halfway through that book because it is all just too disjoint and silly for me to keep going. Lots of things didn't make sense to me once Olympos got started, as if Simmons had a bunch of new things and ideas to add to the series at that point and just did so without worrying about how things interacted with the contents of Illium.

As a result, Simmons - famous for the Hyperion series - just couldn't make these work for me.

I was kind of OK with Illium, but none of the characters except the moravecs were all that interesting. The humans on earth are too dumb to live, the humans (or whatever they are) bringing The Illiad to life have no business being where they are and are thus unexplained in an irritating way, the Greek gods they interact with are too arbitrary and stupid for words, and the "scholic" Hockenberry is so far beyond unexplained that his presence and actions drove me crazy.

These books are long and definitely needed a serious editing. Illium clocks in at 725 pages in my paperback edition, while Olympos is 891 pages. I know there is an argument saying that sometimes authors need that sort of room for their story, and I fully understand that, just not in this case. Simmons needed to put these books on a serious diet.

If you really want to know, it was Setebos that drove me away. Simmons is playing with a bunch of different literary references, well above and beyond The Illiad. I was OK with that despite not having read most of them, but by the time we get descriptions of Setebos and what he/she/it is doing on at least one copy of Earth, I could no longer sustain the willing suspension of disbelief. I plowed on for a while longer, but then stopped. Whenever I had the time and desire to read but faced picking Olympos back up, I did something else instead. After a week of not reading I decided the problem was serious enough to give up.

For me, Illium and Olympos are failures. I suggest reading other things.
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Re: 23-24. Illium and Olympus, Dan Simmons

Post  Patguy on Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:59 pm

Yeah, I found these kind of a slog too. I was never completely clear where the Iliad was being reenacted, and it wasn't from lack of trying. I did like the moravecs a lot, and I enjoyed their arguing about Proust v. Shakespeare, even if it was pretty self-indulgent. But the whole thing is overloaded with gratuitous literary references (really, did Simmons absolutely need to import Nabokov's parallel earth from "Ada"?) and kind of a hot mess.

Generally I like Simmons, but honestly nothing else I've read of his comes close to Hyperion in quality.

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Re: 23-24. Illium and Olympus, Dan Simmons

Post  jrpstonecarver on Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:30 pm

I feel totally vindicated now. Thank you, Patguy! If you didn't like these in ways similar to my own, despite your being much better read than I am and much more aware of the literary references, well, I didn't stand a chance. Again, thank you!
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