Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Olympos by Dan Simmons

I like to read a wide variety of genres. Most of what I read is handed to me by a few friends, my mom, or my husband. Depending on who gives me the book will determine the genre. When my husband gives me a book to read, chances are it will be Science Fiction or Fantasy. Olympos is one of those books. It is the sequel to Dan Simmon's Ilium. And at 900+ pages the two books could have easily been divided into a trilogy rather than just a two-parter.
Dan Simmons is an amazing writer. His story combines a futuristic human world, the stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and robots who have studied Shakespeare and Marcel Proust. The futuristic world grapples with a lot of contemporary issues - nuclear power/weapons, playing with human genes, taking technology to its logical extreme - and in some cases its very illogical extremes. Simmon's grasp of all of these different stories and his ability to combine them into one engaging futuristic/apocalyptic storyline is impressive. However, there are moments when it reads as though he consciously wants his reader to think, "Wow, Simmons is impressive!" You can only read so many two-page descriptions of minor characters from The Iliad who have no real role in the plot of Olympos before you began to yawn and skim ahead.
When I told my husband about my frustration with the drawn out lists of names and descriptions he was surprised. To him Simmons perfectly mirrored the style of the original Iliad, further demonstrating his genius as a writer. After all, Homer felt it necessary to give a person's lineage when he introduced them, so it would make sense for Dan Simmons to do the same. I personally found it pedantic and unnecessary. It didn't add to the storyline in my opinion.
The last two-hundred pages are fascinating and fast-paced. The way that Simmons ties together all of his diverse story lines and creates a world that makes sense amidst all of the chaos he has let loose is inventive and definitely the mark of a creative literary mind.
If you enjoy heavy science fiction, you have a grasp of classical literature, and are curious about how someone would weave together a coherent storyline that incorporated those two aspects, then read Ilium and Olympos. But, if you only somewhat enjoy science fiction or you are not interested in reading extremely long-winded literary descriptions, then spend your 1500 pages on something else.

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