Main articles: Ilium novel and Olympos novel The series centers on three main character groups: that of the scholic Hockenberry, Helen and Greek and Trojan warriors from the Iliad; Daeman, Harman, Ada and the other humans of Earth; and the moravecs , specifically Mahnmut the Europan and Orphu of Io. In reality, their numbers are much smaller than that, around ,, because each woman is allowed to have only one child. Their DNA incorporates moth genetics which allows sperm -storage and the choice of father-sperm years after sexual intercourse has actually occurred. This reproductive method causes many children not to know their father, as well as helps to break incest taboos in that the firmary, which controls the fertilization, protects against a child of close relatives being born.

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Start your review of Ilium Ilium, 1 Write a review Shelves: science-fiction , abandoned , reviewed I love the idea of a throwback, an author who takes cues from classics and puts a new spin on them.

Each of his intertwining stories features a slight variation on the standard science hero, that idealization of the author that we all roll our eyes at: the adventurer who is a bit dorky, out of place, more at home in the safety of a library, but who is now stuck on Mars, or floating in space, or trapped in a dystopian conspiracy respectively , and must get by with only his smarts and good character.

Like most such stories, the plotting is convenient--instead of being motivated by their own desires, the story is imposed upon the characters. They are vessels for the reader to inhabit instead of thinking, feeling beings.

The main plots roughly parallel classic sci fi texts: like Riverworld , we have powerful, advanced beings recreating humans to toy with them, taking on the role of the gods. The main character goes on and on about how hot his cousin is, and how he wants to sleep with her--however, since he is rebuffed and mocked at every turn, we have to assume that this is meant to be a satire.

The literary turn is curious, seeming to promise that more thought has gone into this work than the average genre adventure.

The inner lives of the characters, their motivations, the finer points of the plot, all are stated outright, then rehashed and restated. The reader is told what to think, how to react, and what it all means--it all becomes rather overbearing. Much of the bulk of it and it is bulky comes from the fact that the author is never willing to leave well enough alone.

A grand and strange idea needs grand and strange prose to propel it. Otherwise, the anxious urge to control every aspect and get it just right is going to strangle the life out of it, until there is no room left for mystery or strangeness. In bad fantasy, it often feels like the author has set themselves the masochistic limitation of constructing a book solely using words and phrases cut from an antiques catalogue--which would explain why, by the end, the swords, thrones, and banners have more developed personalities than the romantic leads.

Likewise, in bad sci fi, it feels like authors are forced to do the same thing with an issue of Popular Mechanics--filling out the text with little gadgets and a blurb on the latest half-baked FTL propulsion theory. We can go back as far as Wells and Verne and see the split between social sci fi and gadget sci fi: Wells realized that it was enough to simply have the time machine or airplane as story devices, things that might change society.

He did go on his preachy tangents, but they were always about the effects of technology, not particulars dredged from an engine repair manual. Verne, on the other hand, liked to put in the numbers, to speculate and theorize about the particulars--yet here we are, still waiting on the kind of battery banks he describes as powering the Nautilus.

A communicator or phaser or transporter is just as inspiring and fascinating on Star Trek without bothering with vague pseudoscience for how the thing is supposed to work.

In the end, focus on the story itself, on the characters and the world, and leave out the chaff. The Nautilus is no more or less! So why, thirty and forty years after the Speculative Fiction revolution, should we end up praising a regression like this? Beyond that, the technology in the world makes no sense--they have advanced in huge steps in things like teleportation and energy conversion, and seem to be able to create whole new people and races from thin air, and yet their ability to heal injuries is extremely limited, slow, and cumbrous.

It makes it difficult to believe that this book was published as recently as It feels quite adolescent--physical instead of emotional, women described at length and men not at all--and not just in the Ada section, where it makes a certain sense as an homage, but throughout the book. Butthead: And then she puts on a robe, but you can totally see through it. And then, she like, rubs her boobs on a pole. Butthead: Huhuhuh, and then she rubs her thigh on the pole.

Beavis: Like, her inner thigh … Butthead: Yeah. Is this list of body parts supposed to be arousing? Is this what passes for seduction? One of these women is probably the closest we have in this book to a strong female character, and yet we only experience her through the eyes of the chubby, naive dude who keeps trying to sleep with her. We get an insight into his desires, which might actually have contributed something to his character, and neither are we allowed to understand what draws her to him--the description keeps turning back to her breasts and skin and hair, so that the consummation ends up feeling less like personal, carnal fulfillment and more like smacking two dolls together--except the child has only bothered to undress Barbie.

At last, he begins to exercise some free will, to play the role of active agent in this book instead of just a passive observer. Otherwise, why include it at all? Is this supposed to excuse it, somehow?

Like, if a guy fires off a gun into a house that he suspects is full of children, and then we later find out that it was empty, is that supposed to make him somehow less reprehensible? Why include it at all? Likewise, the idea that he had been forced into it could work, that he is nothing more than a pawn of the gods which is altogether likely , but that also requires the proper setup: bits of foreshadowing and signs of internal conflict--all the details that would make such a plot turn interesting instead of merely convenient.

Clearly, Simmons is attempting to present himself as thoughtful and deliberate. Beyond that, the reader can see that Simmons is trying very hard to do something here, and between that and the passably interesting turns of the plot, it was almost enough to keep me reading. And yet, it makes the same mistake as any bad writing: trying to force through repetition and overstatement instead of doing all the difficult work of integrating those ideas into the book.

Certainly, we should take lessons from the past, but good sci fi is always searching out the new thought or experience, exploring what it is to be human, and what it might be like in the future--the scree of gadgets is just a distraction, the same urge some shallow folk have to get the newest iphone.







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