Saturday, February 20, 2010

Closing Thoughts: Olympos

Pages: 691
Pages so far: 6,812
Avg pages/book: 358.53

Ah, thus concludes Dan Simmons' Illium/Olympos duology. I kept getting the titles jumbled in my head, partially due to my lack of sleep this week, partially due to the complex and often confusing nature of this story, and partially due to the fact that my mind's a little screwy anyway. The new jumbled title for this novel ended up being "Opium."

Which ended up being fairly accurate, as there were times when it felt like one might find portions of the story more palatable with some mind-altering substance. ;-)

I liked this book. I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Ilium, but I still liked it. I managed to read it in less than a week (while reading that lousy Evil book concurrently on Monday through Wednesday), which is quite a feat for me, especially given the length of book and number of words Simmons could cram onto each page. The story was still engaging, it just felt a little jumbled toward the middle.

(The rest of this review will involve some minor spoilers for Ilium, but I don't think I'm going to be ruining anything major)

The first book follows three main narratives throughout the novel, and they really don't weave together until the very end of the book, which is really just a major cliffhanger and set up for this book. Simmons is able to juggle the three stories pretty well without really alienating any of them for too long, and while there was some pretty crazy crap happening, it was still digestible because the chaos was only breaking on three fronts.

At one point in Olympos, the story breaks into seven separate branches which occasionally appear to be headed toward some kind of uniting element only to veer off in their own crazy directions yet again. It's still manageable, but the choppy style kind of took some of the fun out of the mystery for me and made it harder for me to stay engaged in any particular storyline for awhile. Again, it never really lost me, per se, but at times it just felt like the story was getting more complicated than was really necessary.

Other complaint, and I'm noticing a trend here at WAR: a sex scene rarely needs to go on for three pages. I. Get. It. Understandably, Greek epics feature a lot of rough sex. But this story added it where it wasn't needed, and took it places it didn't need to go when it was needed.

Skip the following paragraph if you don't want examples:

Example one: Hera entices Zeus to make love to her--as the gods do--and she toys with him first, doing things to him while making him confess that he wants her more than any of his former lovers. Individually. All of them. Three pages of this scene. Gross and unnecessary. Example two: a woman has been sleeping in a state similar to cryogenisis, completely nude, of course, and the only way to wake her is for our (married) hero to...make love to the lifeless woman in front of him. Gross and unnecessary.

And there was more. Add the really course language and the graphic portrayals of killing and maiming with primitive weapons (again, Greek epic, it comes with the package), and this book is not for the faint of heart. I'd give is a -3 out of 5 for family friendliness.

As I said, I liked Ilium better. I think it was more focused and more plausible, and because things weren't so scattered, I found the characters more interesting and empathetic in Ilium. That said, this is still an incredibly imaginative story that plays in the sandbox of Greek mythology with Shakespearean overtones and robotic warriors from outer space. If you can skim some laboriously long passages of prose, technobabble, and gods gone wild, it's a fun read, and obviously a bit of a page-turner, seeing as how I finished it so quickly.

If you read and enjoyed Ilium and want to know how the story ends, I'd recommend reading this one, too. I won't say everything necessarily comes to a satisfying conclusion, and there is definitely some serious deus ex machina going on(fitting, though, since this story prominently features both deus and machina), but it does wrap up most of its loose ends and does a good job of telling a pretty original epic in a manner that is entertaining and wildly imaginative.

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