May 202007

Hi guys, its been a while since I showed up right here. I could say it took so long, because I was neck deep into some new books.. but well… you would know its not true.

But actually I DID come across a story I’d like to share with you, rather, point your attention to, cause its so unique, so absorbing and so thrilling. The book, the two books – one continuous story – are called “Ilium” and “Olympos” by Dan Simmons.

Dan Simmons - Ilium

I first came in contact with it as an audio book of the first few chapters of “Ilium”. It took me under its spell right away, so I picked up the books from the store and sucked them in in record time.

The genre?

Let’s see… Classical-Greek-Hard-Core-Science-Fiction.

Makes no sense?

Alright, one basic idea of the story is to transfer Homer’s Iliad into a Science-Fiction novel set on Mars. Its the story of Thomas Hockenberry, who once was – when he was alive in the middle of the 21st century – professor for philosophy and downright Homer-expert. He finds himself revived by the Greek Goddess Aphrodite right in the middle of the ongoing Trojan war and gets assigned as her personal embedded war correspondent, equipped with some high-tech gadgets like a quantum teleporter, morphing capabilities and more. How, why and what for… that keeps in the dark for quite some time.

But there are two more completely independent story lines.

The second is the story of Mahnmut of Europa and Orphu of Io, two totally different Moravecs, artificial life forms, robots you might say hailing from the moons of Jupiter. The society of Moravecs gets aware of dangerously increasing amounts of quantum energy on Mars and send out a spaceship to check it out. Mahnmut and Orphu happened to be in contact for long years discussing the writing of Shakespeare and Proust in detail, but never met before. With a handful of others they set out on their way to Mars…

The third story line is set on Earth. There are living exactly 1 Million people on Earth, everyone gets exactly 100 years old, until then they cannot die, rather get revived immediately after any lethal accidents. Dumb cyborgs called Servitors are there to do any difficult task. Humans do nothing but partying and having sex, they can’t read, they don’t care what’s going on around them, they just “fax” around the globe and having fun.

Dan Simmons - Olympos

Though one must admit the book consists of not a single actually completely “new idea” (heavily using classical literature in all three story lines, like the Iliad, Shakespeare and Proust, the Eloy-theme from “Time machine”), its absolutely intriguing how Simmons puts all these ingredients together and actually DOES create something very new. If you ever needed a proof for the sentence “The result is always more than the sum of its single parts”, here you have it.

It takes all the way through ’til the end of “Olympos” before you actually start to understand, how the three story lines fit together. Actually its only then that you suddenly notice you WERE looking at the same picture all the time through the two books, just from totally different angles.

The book has very strange moments, that will stay in my mind for a while, like hearing Greek Gods talk like New-York-born teens, or witnessing two centuries-old robots discussing Shakespeare’s attitude about love or his gayness, or being introduced to a post-apocalyptic former high-tech society, that’s still using all its resources and inventions, but doesn’t understand it anymore. And what more can you ask for from a book other than staying on your mind for a while?

Simmons succeeds in doing the splits between Classics and hard core Science Fiction right on the edge of today’s technical and physical knowledge. The only demerit in my view are the way too often used references to events from the late 20th, early 21st century. I mean, hey, why would all people living in a few 10000 years from now always use examples from this minute period of time? If Thomas Hockenberry does it, alright, he’s meant to have lived then, but all other acting characters as well? But that’s just my own view… still its a must-read for anyone, who’s a little bit into Science Fiction, but still is able to think outside of ones own box.

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