Emerald City, prestizni SF webzine koji je ove godine u konkurenciji za nagradu Hugo donosi u novom broju opsiran tekst o prvom Simmonsovom SF romanu posle sage o Hiperionu,Ilium
. Ilium je hiperliteralno delo u kome je Simmons, obuhvajuci sve raspolozive prevode Homera, Sekspira sa "Burom" i Mracnom Damom iz soneta, Prustovu "Potragu za izgubljenim vremenom" pokusava da ponovo kreira mit o Trojanskom ratu. Grcki Bogovi, teleportacije, vremenska putovanja - miks u najboljem Simmonsovom maniru. Uzivajte u tekstu! http://www.emcit.com/emcit094.shtml#HeroesThe Age of Heroes
High upon the towering slopes of Olympos Mons, mighty Zeus gazes down on Earth. They are puny things, these humans, who war so enthusiastically before the gates of Troy. And yet they have struck a chord somehow with the Gods and Goddesses. This war has become a special project for so many of them: bold, pushy Athena; quiet, scheming Aphrodite; brash, stupid Ares; swift, deadly Apollo. Yes, even his proud and dangerous wife, Hera, has become obsessed with the quarrelsome and heroic mortals. And so she should, for is not the champion of the Achaeans Zeus’s own son, the fearsome Achilles? She is a jealous one, Hera; she will not want Achilles to triumph. So Zeus too, will play a role, will plot and scheme from his citadel on green, terraformed Mars. And he has an advantage over his rebellious brood. You see, Zeus has read Homer’s Iliad. He knows how the war will turn out.
And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded his Mars with suspicious eyes, and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against him. (And with that part of their processing power that was not required for the task in hand, they debated the relative merits of Shakespeare and Proust.)
The moravecs of Jupiter space come in various forms and conceits. Mahnmut spends his life navigating his submersible around the seas of Europa and has opted for a humanoid shape. His friend, Orphu of Io, looks rather like a very large metal horseshoe crab, some three meters by five in size. Neither of these unlikely heroes expected to be called upon to save the Solar System from a potentially disastrous overuse of quantum tunneling. Still, pollution is pollution, and whoever those people are who have terraformed Mars, they need to learn a few laws of neighbourliness. Besides, they might have an interest in literature. They might even know why so many moravecs are obsessed with human writings.
Meanwhile, what of poor little Earth? What of those poor humans who, last we saw, were helpless pawns in the machinations of the Gods, or at least in Homer’s script? We have three views of them. Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Paris, Odysseus and the rest drink, brag and fight their way through their lives in exactly the way in which the ancient bard relates. Disturbingly accurately so, in fact. One might think that it is all the real thing, and that Homer was actually there, memorizing what was said. Perhaps it is.
But why, exactly, have the Gods resurrected a bunch of 20th Century literature professors to monitor the course of the war and comment on just how accurate Homer was? The expense must be enormous: the morphing gear to allow them to take over the roles of various minor characters while they perform their work; the quantum teleportation devices to carry them back and fore between Troy and Olympos. And given that we are dealing with QT, there could be real time travel here. They could indeed be watching the real Trojan War. Then again, that morphing stuff sounds suspiciously like taking over someone’s avatar in a sim. Who knows? Certainly not the hero of our tale, one simple scholar by the name of Thomas Hockenberry; as quiet and unassuming example of American manhood as you could hope to get. And one of the very few American males ever to get a chance to sleep with Helen of Troy.
Our third view of humanity is also on Earth, but by no means necessarily the same Earth, or at least the same place in the time stream, as that used for the War. Dawdling idly in the gardens and cities left to them by the departing posthumans, the last few remnants of mankind party away their lives in blissful ignorance of all things. They are Eloi in all but name, but there are no Morlocks in their world, at least not that they know about. Indeed, the strange creatures called voynix have been provided precisely to protect them from danger. They can chase off passing dinosaurs, and that sort of thing. Not to mention pull carriages, there being no such thing as horses any more, and the dinosaurs and giant, carnivorous birds being rather unsuitable for that type of work.
Daeman is perhaps an archetypal human. He lives only to party, and in particular to seduce beautiful young women. His current target is called Ada, but she has some very strange friends. Why, that fellow Harman claims that he has taught himself to read! Of all the bizarre, wasteful activities. What possible purpose could that have? Except perhaps if you were about to embark on a very unusual adventure involving a wandering Jew, flying machines, being chased by murderous voynix, and visiting the orbital cities where the posthumans are said to dwell. Except perhaps if you are about to meet a disgusting barbarian of a man who calls himself Odysseus after a character in a shroud drama about some ancient war and claims that everything you know about your world is a lie.
Completing our cast of characters, we have Prospero, who may be a computer program; Ariel, who might be Gaia; and Caliban, who is most definitely a monster and who enjoys eating humans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then there are the Little Green Men on Mars, who seem to worship Prospero. It is all very complicated. And let’s face it, we would be deeply disappointed if we got anything else from Dan Simmons.
This, then, is Ilium, the first science fiction book from Simmons since the completion of the Hyperion quartet six long years ago. I’d like to tell you how good it is, but that is a little complicated seeing that all we have is part one of a very long novel and we are going to have to wait until next year for the rest of it. On the other hand, as you will have gathered from the above, Ilium is positively bursting with ideas, and despite all my reservations about voting for part-works I’m certain it is going to be amongst the Hugo finalists in Boston.
What I can tell you is that Ilium is very literary. Simmons appears to have read every translation of Homer available, and has Hockenberry and his colleagues comment of the various merits of them during the story. He has, of course, read Shakespeare and Proust. Only Prospero and co. from The Tempest, and the Dark Lady of the sonnets, have yet made it into the novels. But who knows who will turn up in part two? Meanwhile Mahnmut and Orphu have been busily debating the merits of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, known in English as Remembrance of Things Past, but less commonly as In Search of Lost Time. Did you remember that there was a possibility of some time travel in this book?
The Proust work is famously complex in its use of time, so to understand what Simmons is getting at us poor reviewers probably also need to read Gérard Genette’s famous commentary on it, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Then there is Ada, whom the perceptive Mr. Clute has noted may bear some relation to Nabokov’s novel of the same name. So, add that to the reading list, as well as Brian Boyd’s definitive study, Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness. The nature of consciousness is, after all, a good science fictional theme. And we do have robots and AIs in the story. Not to mention those Little Green Men who appear to be a group consciousness. Oh dear, Mr. Simmons does make us work hard.
Then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.