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Taking the events and characters of the Iliad as his jumping- off point, Dan Simmons has created an epic of time travel and savage warfare. Travellers from 40,000 years in the future return to Homer's Greece and rewrite history forever, their technology impacting on the population in a godlike fashion. This is broad scope space opera rich in classical and literary allusion, from one of the key figures in 1990s world SF. Ilium marks a return to the genre for one of its greats.

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May 11, 2008


This is possibly the first science fiction book I've come across that rewards its readers for being ridiculously well-read. Allusions to Proust, Shakespeare's sonnets, "The Iliad", "The Time Machine," "The Tempest," "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," and Judeo-Christian mythology are all woven into the tapestry of this novel. There are probably many more that I simply did not catch.
"Ilium" is intelligent, earnest, and funny, leading the reader on a deliriously intricate ride between far-flung plots which seem impossible to fit into one single novel. However, Simmons managed this feat with ease. As the plot kept getting weirder, the author increasingly imbued the characters with more humanity and empathy, so that I truly cared about their fates through the climax of the story. Even better, the development of the characters occurred naturally and believably because of the events of the plot, not out of convenience or necessity as a plot device. Simmons ably made it a joy for the reader to try and put all the pieces together. Overall, the effect was like mashing up a traditional science fiction novel with a sudoku puzzle. It was a great ride, but it was also an active read.
Be ready to have the sequel standing by on your shelf, however, because he definitely leaves the reader hanging at the end of the book. I've never enjoyed being so in the dark.

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