Resurrected book review: Ilium, by Dan Simmons

Though I only started this “serious” blog this year, I’ve been more informally journaling my thoughts on books for years. I looked up what I wrote about Ilium back when I read it for college in 2010, and found it entertaining enough to repost here. Though it’s not as colorful as some I recall, you’ll see what I mean about “informal.” It’s always fun to look back a few years and see how your stylistic quirks have evolved. I make no apologies for my internet slang.

Below are two separate posts I made about Ilium, one from partway in and the other after I’d finished.



I have finally gotten hooked with Ilium (by Dan Simmons), one of my books for senior sem, which [professor] recommended we get an early start on.  It’s very sci-fiy, and also…full of crack.

So, there are three different stories going on.  The first is a dead scholar from our time (lived and taught in a college in Indiana, which is a little creepy) who was sort of “reborn” as a ghost-type-thing by the gods (the old Greek ones) to observe the Trojan War.  Not a re-enactment, it’s the real characters, but I have yet to figure out whether it’s the actual original one or some kind of duplicate taking place in the future.  I have no idea what’s going on with that.  All I know is that it’s on Mars.

Yeah.  It’s on Mars.  …Unless there’s bigger time-space issues than I’ve realized.  But the gods definitely live on Mars.  Mount Olympus = Olympus Mons.  Yep.  And there’s Little Green Men setting up Easter head statues along the coastline.

IT GETS WEIRDER.  In a second story, we’re on Earth a few thousand years into the future.  It’s creepy.  No one’s literate, our present time is referred to as “Lost-Age America,” they all live exactly a hundred years without aging or dying no matter what happens to them (one character gets eaten by a dinosaur – that was awesome because that’s what you’re really hoping will happen to him by that point – and yet his cells are somehow rebuilt [or new cells, made to look exactly the same as the old] with the same memories and brain-type-thing), and then are taken “up” to the “rings,” Paris is one of the biggest cities left on the planet with about 25,000 people, and it’s known as Paris Crater (GUESS WHY) with a really horrific statue of a whore instead of the Eiffel Tower.  There’s supposed to be exactly a million people alive, but we just found out there’s really just over 300,000.  Yikes.

Oh, guess who is secretly alive though.  A “Wandering Jew” character who’s been alive about 1,400 years but still can’t recall if the Golden Gate Bridge was ever real or just a myth, as well as – ODYSSEUS.  Yes, that’s right.  Odysseus, son of Laertes, as he just reminded us.

(It’s pretty neat that all the gods/Greeks talk almost exactly like they do according to Homer and the rest, though he didn’t get all the details right.)

Though now that I think about, it’s much more likely he’s just some recently cloned version of Odysseus than the actual one who fought the Trojan War millennia and millennia ago (since they’ve brought back dinosaurs and apparently made some new species as wel).  I’m sure he’s very certain he’s Odysseus, even has all the right memories (mostly?) or something…anyway, yeah.  He just introduced himself and his father’s name, so we’ll see how this turns out.

The third storyline is about two robots – well, told in the POV of just one – who are v. sentient and have organic material in them and they looooove literature.  Specifically, Shakespeare and Proust.  They debate and analyze them all the time.  And apparently they are fully capable of appreciating love and other human emotions/motivations as forces in literature.

These two robots – Mahnmut and Orphu – are my favorites so far.  They care about each other and seem v. human, and when Orphu was (is) seriously damaged and Mahnmut scrambles to save him even while they’re in peril, and Orphu protests that he’s just a dead weight, Mahnmut tells him to shut up as he continues what he’s doing.  And he’s lying to him now about how much oxygen they have left and their chances of survival.  It’s so sweet.


So, it’s the first in a series, which explains the abrupt ending and unanswered questions.

It was…okay.  Full of crack.  Not enough of Mahnmut and Orphu, but I don’t know if I want to wade into the sequels just for more of them.

I really don’t know how I feel about it as a whole, if Simmons really got away with what he tried to pull.  There were some pretty gross scenes with Hockenberry clearly acting out authorial fantasies (including the one with him naked, tied up with leather straps, surrounded by Trojan women with daggers, including one handling his balls with her blade – TMI, please).  I think it’s a problem how I didn’t really care about any of the characters besides the robots.  Well, I cared a little about Ada, Harman, and Savi.  And what future!Odysseus was going to do (Jesus parallels what).  But I don’t know if he fully pulled off Daeman’s character development.

And I’m sure he’s making lots of statements about religion (the survival of Jesus’s name, though no one knows what it means or whom it refers to; the crosses in which the calibani recharged, right), humans vs. technology, etc., the whole institution of academia, environmentalism and the earth, but I haven’t figured them all out yet.

Lol, it figures too that The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s plays I haven’t read.

But, yeah.  Mahnmut’s devotion to Orphu killed me ded.  Devotion is…the best thing ever.

(And I think the funniest line to me is when Hockenberry saves Orphu – a giant crablike robot that’s crippled and blind, can’t move at all by itself – by taking him to the shores of Troy, with all the Greek soldiers, and he has Orphu in a levitation harness so it’s floating – and he shouts at the soldiers, “This shell is sacred to the gods!  Don’t touch it on pain of death!”  I loled so hard.)

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