Dan Simmons: “Olympos”

Olympos  Olympos

Odysseus, son of Laertes, father of Telemachus, beloved of Penelope, favorite of Athena, clenches his fists and teeth against his fury and continues to pace the metal tunnels of this shell, this hell.
The artifices have told him that he is in a metal ship sailing the black sea of the
kosmos, but they lie. They have told him that they took him from the battlefield on the day the Hole collapsed because they seek to help him find his way home to his wife and son, but they lie. They have told him that they are thinking objects – like men – with souls and hearts like men, but they lie.

Sci-Fi Novel
Pages: 690
First Published: 2005

Synopsis: Beneath the gaze of the gods, the mighty armies of Greece and Troy met in fierce and glorious combat, scrupulously following the text set forth in Homer’s timeless narrative. But that was before one observer – Twenty-first Century scholar Thomas Hockenberry – stirred the bloody brew; before an enraged Achilles joined forces with his archenemy Hector; and before the fleet-footed mankiller turned his murderous wrath on Zeus, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, and the entire pantheon of divine manipulators.

Now, all bets are off.

Dan Simmons, the multiple-award-winning author of the Hyperion Cantos, returns with the eagerly anticipated conclusion to his critically acclaimed, Hugo Award-nominated science fiction epic Ilium. A novel breathtaking in its scope and conception, Olympos ingeniously imagines a catastrophic future where immortal “post-humans” high atop the real Olympos Mons on Mars restage the Trojan War for their own amusement even while the sad remnants of mortal humankind are forced to confront their ultimate annihilation.

For untold centuries, those few old-style humans remaining on Earth have never known strife, toil, or responsibility, each content to live his or her allocated hundred years of life in unquestioning leisure. But virtually overnight and for reasons beyond their comprehension, the world around them has changed forever. The voynix – terrible and swift creatures that once catered to their every need – are now massing in the millions with but one terrifying purpose: the total extermination of the human race.

Having traveled farther and learned more of the wondrous and terrible truth of their world than any others of their kind, Ada and Daeman – with the aid of the crafty and mysterious warrior once called Odysseus, now called Noman – must marshal the pathetic defenses of Ardis Hall in anticipation of the onslaught of the muderous voynix. And they must do so without Harman, Ada’s lover and the father of her unborn child, who wanders the Earth on a great odyssey of his own. Harman seeks nothing less than the limitless knowledge necessary to defeat Setebos, an unspeakable, otherwordly monster who feeds on horror, and whose arrival heralds the end of all things.

And meanwhile, back on Mars …

The vengeful rebellion of Achilles – and the intervention of sentient robots from Jovian space, determined to prevent a potentially universe-obliterating quantum catastrophe – has set immortal against immortal, igniting a civil war among Olympian gods that may send all things in Heaven and Earth and everywhere in between plummeting straight to Hell.

A monumental work that blurs the often arbitrary line between great science fiction and serious literature, Dan Simmons’s Olympos – together with its extraordinary predecessor, Ilium – sets new standards for the genre, confirming his reputation as one of the most original authors currently working in the field of speculative fiction.

Don’t call me husband, damn you!”
Helen lifts her face. Her dark eyes are precisely the eyes Menelaus has dreamt of for more than ten years. “You are my husband. You always were. My only husband.”
He almost kills her then, so painful are these words.

My Thoughts: I finished reading Olympos in late October, but put off posting about it because I wasn’t sure what to say. Nine months later and I’ve forgotten large chunks of what happens in the book, so this might be an unusually short review.

When I came to the end of Ilium, I was so into the story that I started reading the sequel the very next day. I really enjoyed the first third or so of the book – one sequence especially, shown from Daeman’s point of view, is deliciously terrifying. (I’m actually surprised that I never had a nightmare about these books, because they definitely have their fair share of nightmare fuel.) And Oenone and Helenus, two oft-ignored characters whom I find fascinating, both make appearances, however brief. But the farther I got into Olympos, the less I liked it, and it wasn’t just the continuing abundance of typos that bothered me. Let’s devolve into point form and I’ll tell you what I didn’t like:

· Can I be bold and call it Simmons’ latent misogyny? Perhaps that’s going too far, but this book definitely features a male gaze that hates to be ignored and so forces its way into every scene it possibly can. Every time a new female character is introduced, she is accompanied by a description of her breasts. Sooner or later one of the male characters will call her a bitch, even in cases when she hasn’t even had a chance to do anything yet. This book features a scene in which a main character has to rape an unconscious stranger because the plot will come to a standstill if he doesn’t. Once conscious, the stranger is not bothered by this at all. Ada is the novel’s only female viewpoint character, but I guess I should be grateful even for that. My mind was blown when I realized that this novel passes the Bechdel Test – but it does so only because one female character begs another not to kill her, so really I’m not sure that even counts.

Oh, and don’t even ask me how I feel about Olympos’ treatment of Penthesilea.

· Simmons’ Zeus is perhaps my least favourite character ever, and so of course his scenes are the ones I most clearly remember. At least one of his scenes was so disgusting it has me wishing that brain bleach was an actual thing.

· Even more than the above complaints, I guess what really sealed my dislike of this novel is the way it fizzles out at the end. I didn’t even realize that the climax of the book was the climax of the book until suddenly I had reached the end and was looking back going, “Wait, that’s it?” Most annoying to me is that one storyline that seems like it’s gearing up for something big is left hanging as a really weak cliffhanger. I think this is one of those instances where I can kind of see what the author was trying to do in going with a quieter ending than I had been expecting, but I’m not convinced that he did it very well.

I should also mention, because after all this is a Trojan War blog, that while Olympos features characters from the Trojan War, very little in this novel has to do with the story of the Trojan War as it is usually told. I don’t consider this a criticism of the book because retelling the Trojan War by route was clearly not one of Simmons’ priorities. That’s totally fine, and there’s still a solid number of scenes in his version that offer interesting new possibilities or insights into the characters. It’s just that, as someone who only read these two books because of their connection to the War, I guess I wish the story hadn’t veered quite so far from the traditional version. Or I at least wish there’d been more Hockenberry, because in most of his scenes he was pretty awesome.

I will end this review by noting that Patroclus did not, in fact, swim across the Atlantic in order to get back to Troy, and that is a damn shame.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

“You goad me as if I have the power of a god, Pallas Athena,” whispers Achilles.
“You have always had the power of a god, son of Peleus,” says the goddess.

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