Simmons's Ilium/Olympos

Just finished reading Olympos. It was really enjoyable, mostly because I love Simmons’s sci-fi/fantasy writing (his contemporary stuff – not so good), but in the end I really had no fucking idea what the story was about. Olympos quite possibly has one of the most convoluted plots ever.

It probably didn’t help that I read Ilium when it came out then just read Olympos now, so that gap screwed things up. But still, there are just so many pieces to the story --and I’m still not sure how some of them fit – that it’s hard for me to get a strong single unified image in my head of the story.

That and the fairly lame deus ex machinas/inexplicable behaviour at the end of Olympos kinda dampened things a bit for me.

Concerning Olympos.

Is it worth it?
Is everything explained ot at least developed to a satisfactory degree.

I read Ilium and loved it. In fact, it was that very book that got me a great grade for my lit essay on the relation between science fiction and actual science. Then my prof told me she found Olympos quite a let down so i left it aside to read other stuff.

Yes. It at least ties together how the posts, Setebos, Prospero, Sycorax, Caliban, the Olympian gods, the Achaeans/Argives, “old style” humans, moravecs, etc. tie together. Mostly. Lots of loose ends and what not, but I hesitate to call them “loose ends” when in fact it’s “brian’s too stupid to figure it out”.

If you haven’t read the Hyperion/Endymion set, you should run out and get it now. One of the best sci-fi epics I’ve ever read.

I did the same thing you did – just re-read Illium after reading Olympos.

Illium’s a better book, even with the fact that a third of the book had like nothing to do with the other parts. (They brought it together in Olympos).

Olympos turned into what I call a “make your head explode” sci-fi book. You know, like Eon or something where they throw physics at you until you cry for mercy. Eon had the “ride the singularity flaw down the infinite tunnel that started in an asteroid from an alternate future that went back into the past to the present day and…” kaboom

Olympos had the physics, and then they threw in the literature… Brane holes? I mean, HUH? He also sure brought in a lot of stuff that wasn’t foreshadowed at all… What was that whole submarine with the missiles thing about? What the hell was up with the Eiffel Towers!?!

Still a good book, but perhaps when you have a character actually announce “Ah-hah! I’ve figured it all out”, it should be a sign that the plot was just a littttllee too complex.

This weekend, I also read the “Ninth of Av” short story set in the same universe, staring Savi. I think I missed about 9 dimensions in that story, and when it’s prefaced by a “a bunch of people spents a weekend exploring this story”, yeah, as Brian says, that’s going to make one feel pretty damn stupid.

Warning, spoilers ahead.

Yes, the plot was too convoluted. And those were eiffelbahn towers, sheesh =)

The submarine was one of the inexplicable tangents. It seemed like it existed for exactly one reason – give the moravecs a reason to run into Harman. Prospero/Moira put Harman on that trail “knowing” that he’ll find that sub and then get dosed with rads and the vecs will spot it and fix it and discover Harman and save him and then, uh, what? That entire subplot was just ridiculous and unnecessary.

They could have excised that entire section and just have Prospero/Moira QT Harman back to Ardis. There was NO good reason for that entire tangent, both from a storytelling perspective and from a character intention point of view.

Still a good book, but perhaps when you have a character actually announce “Ah-hah! I’ve figured it all out”, it should be a sign that the plot was just a littttllee too complex.

I gotta say, I was elated when I read that line, because I was literally just reading shit and going along with a constant background “WTF?” repeating in my head.

I still don’t quite get WTF the happened in the book. I was hoping to encounter some spoiler, but short of Silent Hill’s plot this is about as convoluted a story as I’ve ever run into that still almost makes sense.

This weekend, I also read the “Ninth of Av” short story set in the same universe, staring Savi. I think I missed about 9 dimensions in that story, and when it’s prefaced by a “a bunch of people spents a weekend exploring this story”, yeah, as Brian says, that’s going to make one feel pretty damn stupid.

Simmons short stories are brilliant. Ninth of Av was interesting, but the River Styx Flows Upstream is one of the most chilling short stories I’ve ever read.

Also, Summer of Night was an excellent horror story. Too bad his other horror stories have been middling (Song of Kali, Children of the Night). Darwin’s Blade was just embarrassingly bad.

Yeah, I finished it up about a month ago and felt kind of the same. I enjoyed it and everything but I still kind of felt like I missed something. I almost felt he could have used one more book to finish it up. Not that it felt rushed but just that he needed to expand on and explain some of the ideas a bit more.

I thought the submarine story was to demonstrate the insanity of the posts world and how crazy religious zealots can act. I drew a direct correlation to Al-Queda.

Um, sure, except that those items had nothing to do with the theme of the book. It was like this random tangent out of nowhere. And I think the insanity of the posts was pretty clear given, you know, the whole gods thing.

The submarine was one of the inexplicable tangents. It seemed like it existed for exactly one reason – give the moravecs a reason to run into Harman. Prospero/Moira put Harman on that trail “knowing” that he’ll find that sub and then get dosed with rads and the vecs will spot it and fix it and discover Harman and save him and then, uh, what? That entire subplot was just ridiculous and unnecessary.

I think the submarine was kind of a narrative excuse. It could have been plenty of other things, but I took it as a small bit of author’s social commentary. Judging from some political essay’s I’ve read of his, it certainly fits.

Anyway, I loved 'em. It WAS really convoluted, but it was also rather good. Couldn’t put it down, and neither could most of the friends that I’d lent it to.

-Brandon

BTW, was it just me or did the moravecs actually use lines straight out Aliens? At one point one of them said “Let’s nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” and I can’t remember what the other line was…crap, why can’t I internet search a goddamn book?

Oh wait, I can…Amazon to the rescure…3…2…1.:

General bin Adee’s advice then had been to nuke the blue-ice cathedral above Paris Crater from orbit-it was the only way to be sure to get the Setebos thing

I’m about four fifths of the way through, and seriously, to hell with Dan Simmons.

(SPOILERS!!!)

The voynix are Jew killing machines made by the Palestinians? AND they made the rubicon virus to kill off Jews as well. I got through this far just for Simmons’ little anti-Islam rant so he can make us pay for his therapy? Orphu had better get some serious time to kick some ass or something equally cool so that this can overcome.

Oh, and nice to see the man is still totally awkward at writing sex scenes.

Well, he’s no John Varley, granted.cough

I actually thought he did a pretty good job, especially with Endymion and all. Not spectacular (I think he should write a little less about it… as in less emphasis) but what he did write was okay. =)

Oh boy, sci-fi sex scenes. He could sure have done without them. I haven’t read any sex scene so awkward and unnecessary since Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars.

I like the way he is half-way through Olympus and is so disgusted by the implausibility of it all that he his characters say so for him.

Still, it passed the time.

I’m wondering if he’s jumped the shark since Rise of Endymion. None of his books have compared to his Hyperion series (much like none of Vance’s massive bibliography really approaches his Lyonesse stuff), even though I enjoy Simmons other stuff (except Darwin’s Blade…shudder). His short stories are excellent – consistently very high quality.

The Moravecs are creatures that have been psychologically designed to constantly reflect on the “genius” of Lost Ages creativity. The two main moravecs reflect on this at one point, when I believe Orphu drops the bomb that he knows why everything is happening. If you recall, the main purpose of this was to strengthen the reality of the alternate “universes” that were reflections of the creative works of these people.

What I’m wondering is if Simmons included this line as a throw-away, or if we’re to believe that the writers of Aliens are to be considered on par with the likes of Joyce, Proust, and Shakespeare.

The voynix are Jew killing machines made by the Palestinians? AND they made the rubicon virus to kill off Jews as well.

I could be wrong, but I recall that the virus was actually made in a lab by the jews, and hence they had some innate resistance to it. The voynix were sent through time by the Khan to destroy the jews before they could create it, and Prospero got to them before they could finish the job and reprogrammed them to be servitors to the old-style humans.

Of course, I just finished Olympos yesterday, so this is all a little fresh for me.