The number "60" is a lot more daunting today than it was last night for some reason...
Anyway, on to Ilium. (You'll notice Ilium is not the third book on my list; however, I'm getting a lot of these on hold requests from the library, so you sort of have to read them as they're available) Ilium won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of 2004. (The winners of the Locus Awards get a certificate. Dang. I gotta win me some Locus Awards) It was also nominated for Hugo Award that same year. I don't know if that's more prestigious or less, but Starship Troopers won a Hugo Award in 1960. (Maybe Starship Troopers goes on the next reading list?)
If you don't know who Dan Simmons is (and I didn't), the back of this book has words of praise from Dean Koontz, the Denver Post, and Stephen King, who says, "I am in awe of Dan Simmons." Well, I'm sold.
Then again, Stephen King also seemed to like Jerry B. Jenkins, so...(Maybe some non-Left Behind Jenkins gets on the next reading list?)
As for the story of Ilium, it appears to be the Illiad in the future. In space. Mingled with some Shakespeare. Really, I don't know what else you need to know about this book.
Nevertheless, here's the opening, the invoking of the muse, if you will:
Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus' son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die, sing of the rage that cost the Achaeans so many good men and sent so many vital, hearty souls down to the dreary House of Death. And while you're at it, O Muse, sing of the rage of the gods themselves, so petulant and so powerful here on their new Olympos, and of the rage of the post-humans, dead and gone though they might be, and of the rage of those few true humans left, self-absorbed and useless though they have become. While you are singing, O Muse, sing also of the rage of those thoughtful, sentient, serious but not-so-close-to-human beings out there dreaming under the ice of Europa, dying in the sulfur-ash of Io, and being born in the cold folds of Ganymede.
Oh, and sing of me, O Muse, poor born-again-against-his-will Hockenberry--poor dead Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D., Hockenbush to his friends, to friends long since turned to dust on a world long since left behind. Sing of my rage, yes, of my rage, O Muse, small and insignificant though that rage my be when measured against the anger of the immortal gods, or when compared to the wrath of the god-killer, Achilles.
On second thought, O Muse, sing of nothing to me. I know you. I have been bound and servant to you, O Muse, you incomparable bitch. And I do not trust you, O Muse. Not one little bit."
570 pages (576 if you count the Dramatis Personae)
Published 2003, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York