I read the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons some years ago. They were haunting, though, and some images – particularly of the Shrike – have stayed with me since.
So I was excited to start Ilium. It delivers a lot of what Simmons does so well.
There’s a fantastic universe, rich beyond imagination, that he weaves so effortlessly that it serves as a rich background to the tragedy of his characters – and with Simmons it’s invariably a tragedy, or something close. In Ilium, it’s a world where humans have advanced to become god-like through their use of technology, and have recreated the Trojan war on a terraformed Mars, the ‘posts’ (post-humans) watching on high from their home on Mount Olympus.
There’s a rich literary background; from the Illiad references, to extended discussions of Shakespeare and Proust, and a few others thrown in.
There’s a sense of a civilisation collapsing or declining, and the haunting feeling that you’re walking through what was once a metropolis.
Simmons loves a cliff hanger, and he weaves them well, drawing chapters to an end just as the action pivots. It makes for what is for the most part a page-turner, although some of the extended descriptions drag. If you like good space opera, this is well worth it.