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Just where do you start with what surely deserves the title of this
summer's biggest book for sci-fi and adventure fans? I thought my
imagination was pretty supple until I entered, once again, the
intensely symphonic prose of Dan Simmons in his latest epic,
OLYMPOS. And I found myself returning more than once to that first
thought after putting down his gargantuan prequel, ILIUM --- how
could this saga about old humans, post humans, future humans, and
all their various nemeses possibly get any bigger, more complex,
more richly veined, more compelling?

It's not simply about literal size, temporal dimension, character
multiplication games, word counts, body counts, special effects,
plot variations, imagery, or other semantic virtuosities. I've read
b-i-g books before in this genre and so many of them start with
lofty concepts, only to implode into a mass of descriptive goo and
plotlines that are positively Wagnerian in their refusal to
harmoniously resolve.

In fact, to stretch the musical analogy a little further, Simmons
orchestrates the movement and meaning in his immense
multi-dimensioned future universe much more along the lines of a
Mahler symphony. The result is huge, but never flabby; vast, yet
tightly and purposefully integrated.

So, although I was often lost in a sea of imaginative and visceral
depth, I was never abandoned there. Amid its core dependence on the
fantastical creations of classical myth and literature, OLYMPOS
never lets us forget about the precious fragility we all share as
"old style humans." As limited as we are in both story and history,
humans repeatedly invent ideas, objects and machines that seem
stronger and more clever than their makers. Simmons's ancient and
modern mythic sources are full of such potent irony and he has
brilliantly mined that lode for all it's worth.

The creations and characters met in ILIUM --- a must-read
prerequisite --- grow, develop, live, love, strive or die, along
with the added rank, file and super-beings of the monumental
OLYMPOS. It's no surprise then that every page teems with forces of
good and love contending with a Pandora's box of bizarre and
grotesque evils. But along the way (along myriad ways, in fact)
Simmons immerses this epic of struggle, defeat and triumph in
layers of authentic emotion that, without warning, can leave one
deeply touched.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch ( on January 13, 2011

by Dan Simmons

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Eos
  • ISBN-10: 0380978946
  • ISBN-13: 9780380978946