A professor from Earth is a pawn for the gods on a Martian battlefield in Dan Simmons’s 21st-century version of the Trojan War. As Zeus reigns from Olympus Mons on the red planet, sentient robots from Jupiter investigate the chaos there, while a group of humans left on Earth try to find out the truth behind the machines that serve their every need. An expert blending of sf tropes like quantum teleportation, artificial intelligence, and time-shifting complexities and literary themes from Homer, Virgil, Proust, Nabokov, and Shakespeare.
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The Barnes & Noble Review
Dan Simmons, author of the award-winning Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Fall of Endymion), returns to epic science fiction with Ilium, an awe-inspiring novel that reconstructs the events in Homer's classic The Iliad. Imagine the Trojan War taking place on a terraformed Mars, with gods that are really highly advanced post-humans. Add to that a variety of races of sentient biomechanical organisms living in the outskirts of the solar system, a reincarnated professor from the 21st century working as an observer for the gods, handheld time-travel devices, and Little Green Men, and what do you have? One word: Hugo!
The re-creation of the Trojan War is only the foundation for this multilevel, truly extraordinary space opera. Thomas Hockenberry, a professor who once lived in 21st-century America, has somehow been reborn and thrust back in time to the last days of the Trojan War, as chronicled by the blind poet Homer. He is now working for the gods, secretly observing the events of the epic war. When a goddess enlists him in a plot to kill another deity, the pot-bellied scholar realizes his life is forfeit either way -- but in his desperation he begins to look at his strange reality in a different light…
Easily Simmons' best work to date, Ilium is a breathtaking novel that is sure to garner accolades and awards.
Paul Goat Allen
The New York Times
For answers to the mysteries laid out in Ilium -- from the true identity of the Olympian gods to the fate of robots and humans and of the ''little green men'' on Mars for whom communication means death -- you will have to wait for the promised sequel. For now, matching wits with Simmons and his lively creations should be reward enough. Gerald Jonas
The Washington Post
Dan Simmons launches a new multi-volume epic with Ilium -- one that recalls his ambitious Hyperion series -- and its opening novel is a doozie, as three colorful plotlines eventually merge in impressive fashion.
Hugo and Stoker winner Simmons (Hyperion) makes a spectacular return to large-scale space opera in this elegant monster of a novel. Many centuries in the future, Earth's small, more or less human population lives an enjoyable, if drone-like existence. Elsewhere, on some alternate Earth, or perhaps it's the distant past, the battle for Troy is in its ninth year. Oddly, its combatants, Hector, Achilles and the rest, seem to be following a script, speaking their lines exactly as Homer reported them in The Iliad. The Gods, who live on Olympus Mons on the planet Mars, may be post-humans, or aliens, or, well, Gods; it isn't entirely clear. Thomas Hockenberry, a late-20th-century professor of the classics from De Pauw University in Indiana, has, along with other scholars from his era, apparently been resurrected by the Gods. His job is to take notes on the war and compare its progress to Homer's tale, noting even the smallest deviations. Meanwhile, the "moravecs," a civilization of diverse, partially organic AIs clustered on the moons of Jupiter, have been disturbed by the quantum activity they've registered from the inner solar system and have sent an expedition to Mars to investigate. It will come as no surprise to the author's fans that the expedition's members include specialists in Shakespeare and Proust. Beautifully written, chock full of literary references, grand scenery and fascinating characters, this book represents Simmons at his best. (July 22) Forecast: An 11-city author tour, plus the anticipation over Simmons's first new SF epic in years, will fuel sales. The conclusion to this two-part saga, Olympos, is due in 2004. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A three-pronged start to another gigantic series from Simmons (the Hyperion Cantos) that will leave most readers waiting breathlessly for the next installment. Ilium, of course, is another name for ancient Troy, and the tale opens on the blood-soaked plains of that besieged city as the Greek armies carry on their nearly decade-long attack, while Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D.--"the unwilling Chorus of this tale"--studies the whole affair. Reassembled from scraps of DNA thousands of years in the future, Hockenberry and a host of other scholars were gathered up and sent to the past by a race of creatures with awesome powers and fickle tempers (the Greek gods) to serve as their recorders for what they saw as this grandest of games. Hockenberry is a past master of the Homeric epics, so the job has its rewards, namely comparing Homer’s poetry to the specifics of the battle taking place in front of him. It’s a harrowing affair, since ancient warfare is more horrific than he imagined (the Greek and Trojan "heroes" are often just overmuscled nitwits), and since one of the "gods," Aphrodite, has just enlisted him to help kill Athena. The two other story arcs (which link up later) take their cues from The Tempest (and more than a touch of The Time Machine) rather than from The Iliad. In one branch of the story, a band of research robots dives into the terraformed atmosphere of Mars, while in the other, a small race of impossibly spoiled people putter about in the genetically altered, gardenlike playground that is Earth far in the future. Just as unwieldy and pretentious as it sounds, but Simmons (Worlds Enough & Time, 2002, etc.) never lets the story get away from him, using copious amounts of wit tokeep the action grounded--and utterly addictive. Author tour
Read an Excerpt
The Plains of Ilium
Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus' son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die, sing of the rage that cost the Achaeans so many good men and sent so many vital, hearty souls down to the dreary House of Death. And while you're at it, O Muse, sing of the rage of the gods themselves, so petulant and so powerful here on their new Olympos, and of the rage of the post-humans, dead and gone though they might be, and of the rage of those few true humans left, self-absorbed and useless though they may have become. While you are singing, O Muse, sing also of the rage of those thoughtful, sentient, serious but not-so-close-to-human beings out there dreaming under the ice of Europa, dying in the sulfur-ash of Io, and being born in the cold folds of Ganymede.
Oh, and sing of me, O Muse, poor born-again-against-his-will Hockenberry -- poor dead Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D., Hockenbush to his friends, to friends long since turned to dust on a world long since left behind. Sing of my rage, yes, of my rage, O Muse, small and insignificant though that rage may be when measured against the anger of the immortal gods, or when compared to the wrath of the god-killer, Achilles.
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.
If I am to be the unwilling Chorus of this tale, then I can start the story anywhere I choose. I choose to start it here.
It is a day like every other day in the more than nine years since my rebirth. I awaken at the Scholia barracks, that place of red sand and blue sky and great stone faces, am summoned by the Muse, get sniffed and passed by the murderous cerberids, am duly carried the seventeen vertical miles to the grassy summits of Olympos via the high-speed east-slope crystal escalator and -- once reported in at the Muse's empty villa -- receive my briefing from the scholic going off-shift, don my morphing gear and impact armor, slide the taser baton into my belt, and then QT to the evening plains of Ilium.
If you've ever imagined the siege of Ilium, as I did professionally for more than twenty years, I have to tell you that your imagination almost certainly was not up to the task. Mine wasn't. The reality is far more wonderful and terrible than even the blind poet would have us see.
First of all there there is the city, Ilium, Troy, one of the great armed poleis of the ancient world -- more than two miles away from the beach where I stand now but still visible and beautiful and domineering on its high ground, its tall walls lighted by thousands of torches and bonfires, its towers not quite as topless as Marlowe would have us believe, but still amazing -- tall, rounded, alien, imposing.
Then there are the Achaeans and Danaans and other invaders -- technically not yet "Greeks" since that nation will not come into being for more than two thousand years, but I will call them Greeks anyway -- stretched mile after mile here along the shoreline. When I taught the Iliad, I told my students that the Trojan War, for all its Homeric glory, had probably been a small affair in reality -- some few thousands of Greek warriors against a few thousand Trojans. Even the best informed members of the scholia -- that group of Iliad scholars going back almost two millennia -- estimated from the poem that there could not possibly be more than 50,000 Achaeans and other Greek warriors drawn up in their black ships along the shore.
They were wrong. Estimates now show that there are more than 250,000 attacking Greeks and about half that number of defending Trojans and their allies. Evidently every warrior hero in the Greek Isles came running to this battle -- for battle meant plunder -- and brought his soldiers and allies and retainers and slaves and concubines with him.
The visual impact is stunning: mile upon mile of lighted tents, campfires, sharpened-stake defenses, miles of trenches dug in the hard ground above the beaches -- not for hiding and hunkering in, but as a deterrent to Trojan cavalry -- and, illuminating all those miles of tents and men and shining on polished spears and bright shields, thousands of bonfires and cooking fires and corpse fires burning bright.
For the past few weeks, pestilence has been creeping through the Greek ranks, first killing donkeys and dogs, then dropping a soldier here, a servant there, until suddenly in the past ten days it has become an epidemic, slaying more Achaean and Danaan heroes than the defenders of Ilium have in months. I suspect it is typhus. The Greeks are sure it is the anger of Apollo.
I've seen Apollo from a distance -- both on Olympos and here -- and he's a very nasty fellow. Apollo is the archer god, lord of the silver bow, "he who strikes from afar," and while he's the god of healing, he's also the god of disease. More than that, he's the principle divine ally of the Trojans in this battle, and if Apollo were to have his way, the Achaeans would be wiped out. Whether this typhoid came from the corpse-fouled rivers and other polluted water here or from Apollo's silver bow, the Greeks are right to think that he wishes them ill.
At this moment the Achaean "lords and kings" -- and every one of these Greek heroes is a sort of king or lord in his own province and in his own eyes -- are gathering in a public assembly ... Ilium . Copyright copy; by Dan Simmons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.