Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Olympus by Dan Simmons

(Book Review)

This is the sequel to "Ilium", which I reviewed last month. Although sequel isn't really the right word, because that implies each book can stand independently. This is one long story that, for whatever publishing or marketing reasons, is being sold as two different books. The "Kill Bill" of literature, if you will.

I suspect that the primary reason for this would be the sheer length of the story. At a combined total of close to 2000 pages, it would be hard to fit it all into one binding. However in my opinion, the publishers of this book are being slightly dishonest, because the book jacket really should read, "Don't even think about buying this book if you haven't read 'Ilium' yet, because it will make absolutely no sense." But there's not a word about this book being a sequel on the cover. In fact for someone just wandering through the bookstore, like I was a couple months ago, it is very hard to tell just by looking at the book covers which book is a sequel to which.

Marketing quibbles aside:

...Much of what I said in my review for "Ilium" still holds true for this book. I thought Simmons did an excellent job of re-writing the characters from Homer's Iliad. At this point in the story, the meddling Dr. Hockenberry has succeeded in diverting the Trojan War from its normal course, and Homer's characters are now off on a new adventure, but all the more fun to follow these classic characters as they go down a new unknown path.

I was absolutely glued to this book during the Trojan War sections. However, as I noted in my review of Ilium, unfortunately the Trojan War sections are only 1/3 (maybe even less) of this story. The rest deals with the standard post-apocolyptic future being terrorized by cyborg killing machines, resurrected dinosaurs, Caliban and the characters from Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and some strange half organic robots from Jupiter. It all ties together somehow at the end, but for me, it got a bit too bizarre. Furthermore I never really got interested in any of Dan Simmons's original characters the way I was interested in the Greek and Trojan heroes.

Dan Simmons is juggling several balls at once in this story line, and I don't think he really does any of them justice. The plot, to the extent there is a plot, becomes this huge monster of a story line, which has several loose ends and unanswered questions by the time the book comes to a close. Furthermore several of the side stories could easily have been pulled from this book without making a difference. For example, the whole story about the Trojan War taking place in the future didn't really impact the other storylines in this book all that much.

Furthermore there are several errors in this book, both in regards to Homer's story, and continuity errors in regards to Dan Simmon's own story, which indicate a lack of thorough proof-reading or editorial oversight. To give one example from many: Dan Simmons claims Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus, which is technically true in Homer's Iliad, but Simmons apparently forgot that in his own story Patroclus was kidnapped by professor Hockenberry before the last chapters of the Iliad were allowed to unfold. These kind of things don't spoil the whole book, but there were enough of them to annoy me.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
It was common among 1960s and early 1970s United States leftists to write Amerika rather than "America" in referring to the United States. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] and is still used in political statements today. [6] [7] It is likely that this was originally an allusion to the German spelling of America, and intended to be suggestive of Nazism, a hypothesis that the Oxford English Dictionary supports. It may additionally have been an allusion to the title of Franz Kafka's 1927 novel Amerika

Link of the Day
Evicted From Wikipedia

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