Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Dan Simmons' ILIUM

Dan Simmons' ILIUM

Book review by Dennis D. McDonald

While I would not put this in the same class as my favorites by Stephenson (e.g., Diamond Age) and Vinge (e.g., A Deepness in the Sky) it’s still pretty darn good and I look forward to the sequel.

It’s long. I’d say it really starts cranking about page 420 when the Women of Troy make their demands on one of the (human) protagonists. Till then there’s a huge amount of back story which, while entertaining, leaves the reader wanting more.

It’s incredibly imaginative. Especially in the last third of the book I found myself shaking my head in amazement at the cleverness and originality. But I do have two beefs that prevented me from enjoying the story more:

  1. I didn’t find any of the human characters engaging. Fully a third of the story is taken up with a group of post-technological humans trying to discover What’s Really Going On and none of them seems to register emotionally — even the Wandering Jew. Actually, I found the two deepspace robots to be much more interesting, given their focus on Shakespeare and Proust.
  2. It’s violent. The author revels in detailing the bloodshed and havoc that occurs in the battles in front of Troy. It gets tiring after a while, even when the Gods are involved.

Still, it’s a very good and interesting read. But it is certainly not as psychologically or emotionally engaging as another Simmons novel The Terror, which I am still digesting. Nor are there any characters with the depth of mystery of the Shrike, but that’s asking a lot.

Review copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald


on 2011-10-04 12:27 by Dennis D. McDonald

I tried reading the follow on novel in the series, OLYMPOS, but gave up about half way through.

It’s awful awful awful. Plot lines go all over the place, characters fade in and out, and plot points and events appear that just don’t make any sense. At one point we are treated to the possibility of a main character practicing necrophilia. Ick.

That’s about where my interest started to shut down for good. My guess is that Simmons just didn’t care and actually found himself using a random idea generator at key points to figure out where to go next. Or maybe writing the eminently superior THE TERROR just was too much for him.

Major disappointment. Made me want to swear off fiction for a while.

Bernard Cornwell's AZINCOURT

Bernard Cornwell's AZINCOURT

Charles Portis' TRUE GRIT

Charles Portis' TRUE GRIT