I really was not sure what I was getting into, in picking up Ilium. It was on my list of robotics books to read and was suggested to me, but for the first three-quarters of the story, I knew naught why this was suggested in a robotics forum. I do see now, why it was chosen, but should I ever find myself in a situation where I would need to suggest a robotics novel for a researching writer, I would hesitate to suggest this tale.
It’s not that I did not enjoy my time in this sci-fi take on the Iliad, but for the effort put in (the novel runs over 700 pages), it gave me little by the way of robotics. Yes, several of the protagonists are robots (although not obviously so, and of a detriment, I’d add), but there was very little robot/non-robot interaction, especially in comparison to the amount of Proust and Shakespeare that was quoted.
Maybe I am a terrible reader, but I found the change of settings to be muddled and confusing. Perhaps it was Simmons’s intention to leave readers in the dark about where (exactly where) each piece of the story was taking place. Or perhaps, I missed a crucial moment of setting explanation, but I found it VERY hard to believe that the events of two of the three story arcs were taking place on the same planet.
Overall, there was an awful lot more writing than I would have preferred, knowing in hindsight how the story unfolds, and I am usually forgiving on drawn-out stories (I’m looking at you Wheel of Time). This time however, I feel like we could have weaned it down a little bit.
Not-surprisingly, my favorite sections of the novel were those that were as far from robotics as possible, and those were the Iliad-esque stories. I loved Hockenberry’s character and his story. I loved the retelling of the Iliad’s grandest moments. I was not a fan of the robots, and practically despised the humans’ stories.
I don’t like how many of the sci-fi elements were explained. Perhaps they were too hard-sf for my tastes (as I tend to avoid hard-sf), but I found myself reading with gaping holes in my mind as far as how things worked, or how they appeared.
All in all, Ilium was not a bad read, but I doubt I’ll read its sequel. I give it a solid three out of five.
As of May 21st, I am reading Ilium by Dan Simmons.
Photo credit: Pixabay user Activedia