by Dan Simmons



704pp/$25.95/June 2005

Cover by Gary Ruddell

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In Ilium, Dan Simmons attacked the Trojan War with time travel, Greek Gods, mechanical creatures, and just about everything else up to the kitchen sink.  His epic re-envisioning of Homer's epic was a success, which clearly set up a second book to provide the denouement.  Simmons has now provided the second half of his story in Olympos.

While Ilium allowed Simmons to slowly introduce the seemingly disparate pieces of his puzzle into the story, Olympos, picking up the tale in mid-stream, must assume the reader's familiarity with the world and piles all the seemingly unrelated items together. In the previous novel, Simmons had three primary points of view, Thomas Hockenberry, Mahnmut, and Daemon.  Each reported  on different areas and times.  In Olympos, Simmons jumps in with additional viewpoint characters, including the various heroes of Trojan mythology and the Greek Gods.

From the earliest chaotic pages of Olympos, it would appear that Simmons has lost his way between the two novels.  However, as he continues to write, and drags the reader through his complex worlds, Simmons slowly demonstrates that apparent randomness aside, he has a clear idea of his destination, and is more than willing to escort his readers there if given a chance.  Simmons doesn't always tie up his plot points in neat ends, but he still manages to give the reader enough to sate their curiosity and need for closure. 

The term epic is bandied about frequently in science fiction and fantasy, often for the wrong reasons.  Everything about Olympos (and Ilium, they are really a single novel, split into two massive volumes), is epic in scope.  Beginnings with the works of Homer, Simmons sprinkles in Shakespeare, Proust, and numerous other authors.  To these he adds ideas of artificial intelligence, mechanical life forms and the fate of worlds, removing the science fictional clichés from ideas which often seem stale in other hands.

Olympos is not light beach reading.  Simmons plays with several complex ideas in the course of the novel and is likely to quickly lose anyone who does not have the desire or willpower to follow his intricacies.  Along the way, Simmons incorporates red herrings, dead ends, and a few too many "where did that come from" moments.  Olympos offers a companion volume to Ilium which doesn't quite recapture the best moments of that book, instead trying, and not always succeeding, in expanding the scope of his epic.

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