by Dan Simmons
First sentence: “Rage.”
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There are books and then there are Books. Ones that throw their heft around, demanding things (heaven forbid!) of you as a reader. This is one of Those Books.
To be fair: I don’t think I’m smart enough for this book. For starters, there’s just so bloody much going on. It’s got Greek mythology, dystopian post-apocolyptic societies, Proust, Shakespeare (in more ways than one!), magic, technology, robots, some weird species called morovecs, and Little Green Men on Mars.
The plot, you ask? Well, there’s three:
- On Mars, the Gods of Olympus are re-enacting (possibly) the Iliad, using dead 20th- and 21st- century scholars to observe and predict the action.
- On Earth (possibly), there is a group of friends who end up setting off to find the post-humans (no, I’m not quite sure what they are, either) and end up meeting a 1400-year-old Jewish woman who leads them to an asteroid above earth where the post-humans are supposed to be. Along the way, one of the party gets eaten by a dinosaur (or maybe that happens first?) and they meet Odysseus.
- There are two moravecs (robotic entities, mostly scholars of Earth, that live on the moons of Jupiter) sent on a mission to figure out why Mars has been terraformed.
For me, the Iliad one was the most interesting, and really what kept me reading the book. Then came the dystopian-human-Earth one. I do have to admit, that for a good half of the book, I skimmed the moravec chapters. I can only take so much Proust. That said, I kept hoping the three plots would converge and start to make sense. They do end up converging — and honestly, about two-thirds of the way through, it got really interesting — but I’m not sure about the making sense part.
See, the entire book, all 570 pages of it, was an elaborate set up for the next book, Olympos. (I’ve never read the Iliad: is it just a huge set-up for the Odyssey?) Which really, really frustrated me. I wanted some sort of ending, some sort of resolution, and I’m left hanging in a major way. So, I’m torn: do I want to read yet another Book (it’s 690 pages, for heaven’s sake!) just so I can figure out what the whole story was about? Or do I just cut my losses and walk away?
I’m leaning toward the latter.