Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Tuesday, August 16, 2005
With "Olympos" Dan Simmons brings to a close the two book epic he began in 2003 with "Ilium". Simmons picks up the various plot threads that he weaved together in "Ilium" and once again pushes them apart in vastly different directions. At the start of the novel we know that the story takes place thousands of years in the future where evolved humans, or "post-humans", have left Earth and set themselves up as Greek Gods on Mars. Mars has been terra-formed to reflect the climate and topography of ancient Greece where the Trojan Wars have been taking place with, for a time, an almost perfect match of Homer's "Iliad". Back on Earth the "old style humans" were discovering who they are and a few have learned that they are about to begin a fight for their very survival. Meanwhile, there are moravecs (robots with a human core) traveling the galaxy to Mars to find out what is going on with the planet. This brings us to the start of "Olympos" where a Thomas Hockenberry, a scholar from the 20th Century has been recreated as an observer to the new Trojan Wars has managed to alter the course of history and the future. Now the gods war amongst themselves.

The story of Olympos is three-fold (at least), but when you boil the plot elements to their most basic form, each storyline is essentially the same. The moravecs are striving to stop the universe from unraveling because of all of the messing with quantum technology to terraform Mars and to make the post-humans into gods. The old-style humans are fighting for their own survival against a race of monsters which have awaken from their slumber. Hockenberry is trying to save the Greeks (the new, old greeks) and himself while helping the moravecs. Achilles is trying to save his love and return her to life. Essentially, everyone is trying to save something and even though the paths split once again in "Olympos", Dan Simmons manages to tie them all together again in the end.

If the brief description here of the plot is confusing, it should be. "Ilium" almost absolutely has to have been read first for "Olympos" to make any kind of sense. Even with "Ilium" read, "Olympos" is a fairly confusing novel. Simmons takes the story to very unexpected places and at times I think that Simmons might be reaching a little too far. He has very interesting ideas about alternative universes, history, and he has created very real characters to inhabit this world (or series of worlds). But there are some pretty wild jumps that Simmons makes here, and at times it is difficult to follow all of the jumps and accept them. My only actual complaint, however, is that the ending felt rushed. Imagine that, after 1200 pages and two books the ending felt rush. "Olympos" was build, build, build and then "oh yeah, we're done, wrap everything up!".

The complaint about the ending is very minor, however. What matters is the journey. What matters is that for nearly 700 pages of "Olympos" I was completely wrapped up in the story and Simmons did a masterful job describing the action and the history and how things connect. Granted, I feel Simmons did a better job of this with "Ilium", but there was no feeling at all of a let-down except for the ending and the rest of the book was so good that it overshadowed the ending.

Reading "Ilium" and "Olympos" is a serious time investment, but for a speculative fiction or fantasy reader, it is one well worth making. These books could use a prequel or a sequel, however, because there are a lot of questions that Simmons did not really explore.


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