That’s a picture of Schliemann’s wife wearing gold found at Troy.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011


My younger son knows that I like Greek literature as well as science fiction, so he gave me Ilium by Dan Simmons for Christmas. I’m sorry to say that while I haven’t finished it yet, I’ve read enough (400+ pages out of 750) to say that I hate it.

Simmons has written what I can only describe as a post-modern science fiction novel. I’m not a big fan of post-modernism, thought I did like Samuel Beckett, who is considered a precursor to the movement. Don DeLillo’s White Noise, with its professor of Hitler studies and its Elvis studies I found repulsive, and the post-modern theorists equally so. Now one of the hallmarks of post-modernism is pastiche. Essentially this means taking various elements from other literary, and possibly non-literary texts, and using them in clever, amusing ways. This is supposed to be profound.

Simmons has taken the Iliad, and moved it to Mars, where gods, who may be post-humans, watch it being re-enacted. A 20th century classics professor is present and watching the whole thing. There’s elements from Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor, a character who gets eaten by a dinosaur, from Jurassic Park; characters derived from the eloi of The Time Machine, an e-ring that is reminiscent of Logan’s Run; characters who shoot blue energy bursts from their hands, from Star Wars; bits from Shakespeare and Proust. There’s even stuff from Star Trek. The fax machines are based on the transporters of Star Trek, but while Rodenberry and the writers in all of the stories left the mechanism nebulous, Simmons has come down in favor of one of the theories Lawrence Krauss gives in The Physics of Star Trek. As might be expected he chooses a materialist explanation. The result is a sprawling mess of a book that is boring beyond belief.

Next up either Forged in Fire, an anthology of stories set in David Weber’s Honorverse, or Condi Rice’s autobiography.