As mentioned at the end of my Ilium review, I wasted no time getting into Olympos, the concluding book in the duology. Olympos picks up shortly after the end of Ilium and returns all the surviving characters, though with a slightly different focus. While the first book was largely centered around events on Ilium and Mars, most of the page time in this one is spent on Earth as the events there take on greater importance.
As a warning, minor spoilers concerning the end of Ilium follow the break, as do my general thoughts on this book. Those that don’t want to continue should stop here. For everyone else, please read on.
While on the whole I enjoyed this book, it didn’t quite equal Ilium. One of the things that really got me into the first book was that the three separate locations from which the story was told were each interesting in their own way. This time around I really wasn’t into the Mars/Ilium arc. Hockenberry was probably my second favorite character from the first book; however, in this edition his exploits and the siege of Ilium are of much less importance to the story. Gradually his scenes get more and more scattered and irrelevant as Achilles for the most part takes over with his arc, and I just wasn’t a big fan of Achilles. I get that perhaps I wasn’t supposed to be, but considering that these portions of the story also weren’t as strong or coherent as the others, I found it hard to stay interested in these sections. I also could have done without an awkward sex scene featuring Zeus and Hera. It fit the plot but was just, well, somewhat off-putting. Enough said.
Secondly, and this is more of a nitpicky point, there were certain parts of the story that I thought got wrapped up in a somewhat underwhelming manner. I get that there was only so much space in this book to address the larger issues, but it did leave me confused about how certain people ended up being not as important as one might have expected going in. This didn’t adversely impact the story necessarily, it just seemed kind of odd or rushed for a few characters.
There was a lot more that this book got right, though. In terms of the ending, the big questions, namely what happened on Earth, what is the fate of the post-humans, and why is the Trojan War raging again, are more thoroughly addressed and resolved. Without giving anything away, one of these answers partially reminds me of something that happens in the Hyperion Cantos, which was some a somewhat intriguing if not entirely unique idea. The other parts, while at first difficult to fully grasp, certainly work in the context of the story and go a long way in explaining the abundance of references and allusions throughout the series even though I’m sure that somewhere those guys from Starfleet’s Department of Temporal Investigations are shaking their heads. The final scenes I felt captured the spirit of the series perfectly and definitely left me satisfied upon completing them.
In contrast to the Mars/Ilium arc, the Earth arc in this novel was rather strong and, perhaps most importantly, informative. The slow build-up regarding Earth’s past that had developed since the first book paid off well in this story. While I didn’t feel strongly about any particular human character, Harman’s journey in particular makes for good reading, and it is through it that we discover the details of humanity’s fate and the events behind the quantum disruptions. The other characters here are essentially asides by the middle of the book; however each in their own way make important contributions to the story and see a lot of action to keep these parts exciting.
The Moravecs, though, for me are the not-so-subtle show stealers. They appear in greater numbers than they had for most of the previous book and their diverse personalities and ingenuity are at once interesting and amusing. By mid story you begin to appreciate both how thoroughly idiosyncratic yet unstoppable the race may be. I just can’t help but enjoy the image of these machines from the outer solar system bickering their way across space and time about everything from Shakespeare to Star Trek and metaphysics to Quantum Theory as they try to save the day. Mahnmut in particular is the one character that really stands out for me. He/it is no doubt my favorite character from these books and provides a good deal of the series’ dry wit and feelings of adventure. Paired with his friend and kindred spirit Orphu, he helped make the Moravec sections consistently among my favorites.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would rate the series favorably. While I don’t think I would re-read these books, I am glad that I picked them up. Sometimes out there, sometimes amusing, and sometimes just kind of odd these books do entertain and take you on an interesting journey. I’ll be sure to pick up something else by Dan Simmons eventually, and probably get my hands on a copy of Robert Browning’s poem Caliban Upon Setebos since it’s so explicitly referenced early on. I’ll actually probably first return to Hyperion, though, which this series definitely reminded me of in a few places. The more I think about it, Hyperion has the potential to achieve regular re-read status for me. Possibly in the way that the Dune series has (at least the Frank Herbert ones), but those are posts for another day that will likely require more beer than I have on hand.