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Olympos
Dan Simmons
Gollancz, 691 pages

Olympos
Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1948. With a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, and a Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971, he worked in elementary education for 18 years. Simmons has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado. In 1995, Wabash College awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions in education and writing.

Dan Simmons Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Song of Kali
SF Site Review: Ilium
SF Site Interview: Dan Simmons
SF Site Review: Worlds Enough And Time
SF Site Review: The Crook Factory
SF Site: Dan Simmons Reading List
SF Site Review: Rise of Endymion
SF Site Review: Song of Kali
Dan Simmons Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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"This fact, Paris killed in single combat with the merciless Apollo, has been a reality for nine days -- the great funeral involving both Trojans and Achaeans will begin in three hours if the god-chariot now over the city does not destroy Ilium completely in the next few minutes -- but Helen still cannot believe that her Paris is gone.""
The sequel to Dan Simmons critically acclaimed novel Ilium is no less complex. The opening situation finds what, in our history, were the opposing armies of the Trojan war, united. Their common foe, none other than the mighty Zeus and the other angry gods familiar to students of Greek mythology. It is at this point that I should make clear Olympos is best read after its precursor, rather than as a stand-alone title. The sheer complexity of the threads from which Simmons weaves his tale makes this essential. The plot covers three worlds; an Earth that is now sparsely populated, the terraformed Mars, and another Earth, in a galaxy where Homer's epic heroes and stories -- Iliad and Odyssey -- actually happened. Although, there are several enormous differences. The Mount Olympus where these gods dwell is to be found on Mars, and their powers derive from manipulating quantum probability, with liberal doses of string theory and other esoteric branches of physics. When Hector and his new ally, the legendary warrior Achilles, launch an attack, it is through tears between the fabric of the universe known as brane holes. If this isn't enough to send your head spinning, consider the plight of old Earth, where the idyllic existence of the few remaining humans is wrecked when the global power system suffers catastrophic failure. The survivors are, literally, out in the cold and facing ranks of revolting Voynix; former servants who now intend on eradicating humanity. The third major strand concerns invaders known as Setebos and Caliban, which have been brought into existence from the imagination of poet Robert Browning, via distinctly unwise experiments with quantum reality. It is their intent to engineer a state where sentient life cannot exist.

Readers who make it this far might like to invest in a seat-belt, as the ride becomes bumpy, in the manner of a rocket ride. Characters from history, and the imagination of several of the world's most celebrated classicist writers, are brought together like the ingredients of a lavish meal. The array of huge ideas, epic journeys, literary tips of the hat, and macrocosmic character studies might, in the hands of a less skilled author, have tumbled into irreversible confusion. But Simmons handles his imagination with seamlessness and surety, creating a compulsive page-turner. Much of what is set in motion comes to a satisfying and credible conclusion, with only some of the wider, less personal issues, left to bait the reader. Possibly for whatever Simmons has planned for a future work set among these worlds. This too feels good, as some questions do not have ready answers. Simmons also has the good grace to pay respectful deference to the long dead authors whose works he loots, and almost equally acknowledges the repository of established science fiction ideas, from which he enthusiastically pilfers. Almost in the manner of a musician who samples others work, disparate elements are combined in a new and inventive manner.

In summary, Olympos, and its forerunner Ilium, are stunningly rendered works, a thinking man's SF, without any of the stuffiness or lecturing that often spoils the harder side of the genre. The panoramic sweep, depth of character and sheer audacity they offer puts them on a level with the space romps of E.E. "Doc" Smith, the multiple worlds of Philip José Farmer, and the lush characterisation of Jack L. Chalker.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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