A three-pronged start to another gigantic series from Simmons (the Hyperion Cantos) that will leave most readers waiting breathlessly for the next installment.
Ilium, of course, is another name for ancient Troy, and the tale opens on the blood-soaked plains of that besieged city as the Greek armies carry on their nearly decade-long attack, while Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D.—“the unwilling Chorus of this tale”—studies the whole affair. Reassembled from scraps of DNA thousands of years in the future, Hockenberry and a host of other scholars were gathered up and sent to the past by a race of creatures with awesome powers and fickle tempers (the Greek gods) to serve as their recorders for what they saw as this grandest of games. Hockenberry is a past master of the Homeric epics, so the job has its rewards, namely comparing Homer’s poetry to the specifics of the battle taking place in front of him. It’s a harrowing affair, since ancient warfare is more horrific than he imagined (the Greek and Trojan “heroes” are often just overmuscled nitwits), and since one of the “gods,” Aphrodite, has just enlisted him to help kill Athena. The two other story arcs (which link up later) take their cues from The Tempest (and more than a touch of The Time Machine) rather than from The Iliad. In one branch of the story, a band of research robots dives into the terraformed atmosphere of Mars, while in the other, a small race of impossibly spoiled people putter about in the genetically altered, gardenlike playground that is Earth far in the future.
Just as unwieldy and pretentious as it sounds, but Simmons (Worlds Enough & Time, 2002, etc.) never lets the story get away from him, using copious amounts of wit to keep the action grounded—and utterly addictive.