By Dan Simmons; Narrated by Kevin Pariseau
From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing—and often influencing—the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry’s duty to observe and report on the Trojan War’s progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants…and ultimately destroy Aphrodite’s sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men—an ‘adventurer’—he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable ‘final fax.’ Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate—and, perhaps, terminate—the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.
If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.
Shakespeare-quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post-humans, and old-style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.
Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints. First, there’s Hockenberry. This is told in first person. Hockenberry is called a “Scholic,” a human from our the 20th century (our time) who was rebirthed in a future where Homer’s Trojan War is being fought. His job is to report on the war … to the Greek Gods.
At first, this is completely confusing. Why? is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time. Plus, it’s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad. It’s also impressive how much research went into it, though that’s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy (but I have read the Odyssey!).
The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon. Daemon is a self-involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least. But who wouldn’t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors (sp – I did listen to the audio so forgive me), like all humans everywhere. Pleasure is their life, knowledge … is lacking.
The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet-loving humanoid robot called a “moravec” and named Mahnmut. Specifically, and only, Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa. Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.
At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring. Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker.
Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either. Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own. What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust (his work makes appearances too) for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need?
It’s crazy I tell ya. Crazy! How did I like this book this much? I’m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius. I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey. It’s amazing. I question not.
Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over-acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing. And it’s impressive given how many Greek words and names he’s got to …erm… name.
The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story. It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I’m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.
5 out of 5 Stars (Mind … blown)
Posted by Bryce L.
‘The writing is humorous, painful, awesome in its effect on both mind and heart…There are few modern novels to match it.’ —Rolling Stone
On an arid Mars, local bigwigs compete with Earth-bound interlopers to buy up land before the Un develops it and its value skyrockets. Martian Union leader Arnie Kott has an ace up his sleeve, though: an autistic boy named Manfred who seems to have the ability to see the future. In the hopes of gaining an advantage on a Martian real estate deal, powerful people force Manfred to send them into the future, where they can learn about development plans. But is Manfred sending them to the real future or one colored by his own dark and paranoid filter? As the time travelers are drawn into Manfred’s dark worldview in both the future and present, the cost of doing business may drive them all insane.
Martian Time Slip has everything I love about Philip K Dick’s writing: artificial life, unsettling visions, chaos and decay, hilarious satire, and story horizons that stretch into eternity.
PKD’s Mars is a strange and slightly alien version of 1960s California: a desert suburbia where the powerful waste water to show off their status, neglectful housewives pop pills and complain about their “whiny and dreadful” neighbors, and dodgy door-to-door salesmen offer illegal Earth foods like turtle soup and smoked frogs legs.
Since machines degrade quickly in the dry climate and resources for constructing new things are scarce, repair is a big business on Mars. The story starts when Jack Bohlen, a working-class repairman and latent schizophrenic, is diverted from a remote repair job to help some Bleekmen out in the desert.
Bleekmen are the subjugated natives of Mars, apparently related to ancient humans and the sole residents of the planet for thousands of years until the colonists arrived. Now’s they’re left to work menial jobs, and even their mystic practices are being “corrected” by the newcomers. For example, after they give Jack a lovely but creepy gift called a water witch, they explain how it works…
More carefully examining the water witch, Jack saw that it had a face and vague limbs. It was mummified, once a living creature of some sort; he made out its drawn-up legs, its ears . . . he shivered. The face was oddly human, a wizened, suffering face, as if it had been killed while crying out.
“How does it work?” he asked the young Bleekman.
“Formerly, when one wanted water, one pissed on the water witch, and she came to life. Now we do not do that, Mister; we have learned from you Misters that to piss is wrong. So we spit on her instead, and she hears that, too, almost as well. It wakes her, and she opens and looks around, and then she opens her mouth and calls the water to her.”
While on this mission, Jack runs into Supreme Goodmember Arnie Cott, the leader of the Water Works Union (one of the most powerful positions on Mars). Arnie is an obnoxious, manipulative, and racist schemer. He decides he can use Jack and so brings him in on one of his schemes to harness the precog abilities of an autistic boy, thus giving Arnie an advantage in real estate investment.
However, once he brings the autistic boy Manfred Steiner and Jack together, things start to gets very, very weird (in the best kind of way).
Originally, I was almost going to give this book a low rating, thinking it might be the first PKD book I’ve read that I didn’t really like. I kept going back to the audiobook and thinking I’d re-started in the wrong place, or that I’d zoned out and missed something the last time. It wasn’t until I decided to try a print version that I realized the reason I was losing my way was a side-effect of the novel’s beautiful and crazy structure, which spirals around and folds back in on itself.
Once I had a handle on this, I fell in love with it. This novel doesn’t reward broken up or distracted reading, but if you can give it dedicated attention, it’s brilliant.
I thought the audiobook I listened to, narrated by Jeff Cummings for Brilliance Audio, was well performed and the characters were easily differentiated, even though personally the narrative style wasn’t for me. In my mind, I tend to hear PKD’s characters as sort of dry and indifferent, so some of the characters in this version seemed too enthusiastic for my taste. But this is a very subjective thing and I imagine this reading would work well for lots of listeners. Just check out the sample audio before you buy.
This is a funny, eerie, and unforgettable story and definitely recommended, especially for PKD fans!
Posted by Marissa van Uden
Talked about on today’s show:
1964, first serialized as All We Marsmen, a pair of boxing insects, threads that lead nowhere, “a wonderful train-wreck of a novel”, the two audiobook versions, repeating scenes are disconcerting in the audiobook, repeating moments, at Arnie’s apartment, is this a byproduct of the writing process?, problems with marriage and plumbers, The Search For Philip K. Dick by Anne R. Dick, “Goodmember Arnie Kott Of Mars”, Chinatown, The Two Jakes, developers, Heliogabalus, time travel, the broken Friendly Dad robot, the school is monitoring, when you’re reading your Kindle Amazon is watching you, school is to make you conservative, preserving Earth culture, the time gate anthology, Robert Silverberg, autonomous robots, door to door salesmen, teaching machines, the different robot teachers, Immanuel Kant robot, with certainty he pointed down the hall, a western bias (the interests of Philip K. Dick), Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Julius, Winston Churchill, Tiberius, Thomas Edison, warfare, history, a million neat ideas, Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great, schizophrenia and autism, experiencing time at a different rate, derangement in a sense of time, A.D.D. and A.D.H.D., Camp BG, setting your watch by the stars and by the seasons, schizophrenia as a tendency but not a disability, daylight savings time, recipe for going to jail: act as if daylight savings isn’t real, its what the novel is about, the Soviets, an American Mars, a Bradburyian Mars, Martians as elves, the Bleekmen, water witch, hunter/gatherers nomadic culture, the “tame” Bleekman, the dream-quest is payback, a “pilg” (pilgrimage), Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny, the trek through the desert, Tibor, Psychology Today, “oh, boy!”, thiotimoline, reconciling realities, “gubble gubble”, sharped tongued secretary, bicycles in outer space, she’s the predator, he’s the predator, Arnie and Manfred, sniffing around Doreen, they’re from the “TOMB WORLD”, Silvia is the most common female character name PKD uses, an analogy (or metaphor) for marriage, uppers and downers, drugs and coffee, back to the keyboard, Dr. Glaub is desperate to make some money, Dick’s own financial concerns, Anne, webbed fingers, inside the minds of horrible people, the dialogue driven sex scene is kinda creepy, why is she with this guy?, access to all the booze, why does Jack go back to his wife?, the perfunctory affairs are unbelievable, unredeemable, somehow it seems to all work, the Swiss rocket, Bleekmen are homo-sapiens, the S.M. Stirling Lords Of Creation novels, Mars as California, Australian aborigines, “dreamlines dreamsongs and dreamtime“, Ludwig Binswanger, psychiatry, psychology, Ellen had split her life, the “tomb world”,” degenerate and degenerating”, being trapped in your own body, “a narrowing a contracting”, gubble as a marker, Being John Malkovich, “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!”, our bodies with their low needs distract them from our purposes (if we have any), oblivious to suffering, depression, it’s all brain chemistry, anorexia, obsession with death, Mafred’s “sick” drawing, Amweb as the “tomb world”, the Manfred illustration, the nightmare woman, “her tongue wants to cut”, seeing into the future is seeing death, awesome imagery, a recurring image, The Minority Report, armless and legless (limbless characters), the movie adaptation of A Scanner Darkly, dialogue driven storytelling, what are they reacting to?, mental processes, “it was there to be found”, Virgil Finlay, reading it harder, a post apocalyptic zombie novel, building up a picture, open to being expanded, PKD is concise, most books aren’t dialogue driven, creative writing classes, showing off descriptive skills, novels vs. poetry, is J.R.R. Tolkien responsible for this?, a reverence for the landscape, what color is the dust?, visuals are everything has colonized Science Fiction and Fantasy in the last 30 years, eating meals and walking the landscape, this book isn’t a distraction from life, a meta-description of life, what makes this a SF story?, “the chamber”, the technology is your mind and your brain, even Mars isn’t very different, mars rats, what do the bleekmen hunt?, water witches!, does the water witch protect Jack?, the pistol, the real SF idea behind this is PKD is trying top figure out what déjà vu is, the “I know what is going to happen next” feeling, we are very poor at capitalizing on our future knowledge, the slipped gear, “Oh, little Jackie.”, Philip K. Dick’s science fiction is Psychology Today, an ansible, this problem in science and the social situation between these characters, lying in bed in a hypnagogic state, doing dream style processing of mental white noise in a semi-conscious state, “all different all equally true”, different angles, the broken mosaic, the fact that these books are dated doesn’t age the books, the Brilliance Audio audiobook narrated by Jeff Cummings, Grover Gardner (Tom Parker) narration of Martian Time-Slip, the bicycles floating into space, a horrible human being (he wastes water), Heliogabalus -> Helio (sun -> son) will Gabalus (gubble) less, Elagabalus, the religion of the Roman Empire, a scene, W.A. Mozart, “I love Mozart!”, Bruno Walter conducting, that hideous racket, encoding messages, Manfred Steiner, is this the sign?, they emerged from her pores, whoever’s perspective we see the scene from they all enter the “tomb world”, “teeming with gubbish”, “he wanted to bite her lip”, the pivot point, screeches, the screech of the bus, music, what do dogs think of music?, what do autistic people think of music?, trance music, a Dickian idea, music and sound, the bus brakes screech, “fire!”, bears at the zoo cavorting for peanuts, the suicide, “more evidence that Arnie is a horrible human being”, we just need a little bit of hope, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Galactic Pot-Healer, Fair Game by Philip K. Dick, The World Jones Made, there are 36 public domain Philip K. Dick stories, Time Out Of Joint (is Paul’s favourite Dick novel), a constructed town,
Posted by Jesse Willis
Professor Eric S. Rabkin talking about Mars.
Saturday Morning Physics – March 25, 2006.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about in this episode:
Dust on Mars is too thin to allow for sandstorms; terpkristin says NASA would never build a faulty antenna; and we finally introduce the book; is The Martian science fiction?; the one-way Mars mission Mars One; reminiscent of Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky; Mike tracks Watney’s journey through Google Mars; why NASA picks boring locations to land their first missions; Andy Weir on Science Friday; the most far-fetched element of the book is its lack of budgetary concerns; Bradley Cooper in the film adaptation?; The Martian and Gravity have depressing implications; the novel’s (Heinleinian?) lack of character development; Mark Watney is in “full on Macgeyver mode”; most pilots are boring; many LOLs in the book; Andy Weir’s webcomic Casey and Andy; strong language in the novel; stoichiometry; feasibility of plot points; engineer-as-hero motif pitted against bureaucracy; Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum; Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Robinson Crusoe on Mars starring Adam West; The Makeshift Rocket by Poul Anderson, a spaceship powered by beer; From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells; Robinsoniad; Thunder and Lightning series by John Varley; Rocket Ship Galileo by Heinlein, featuring Nazis on the Moon!; the United States falling behind in the Space Race; Stephen Hawking on the dangers of artificial intelligence; Mars Attacks!; the novel’s lack of Earth focus makes it literally escapist; Heinlein’s prophetic Destination Moon; send more potatoes to space; pop culture references; “I’m a space pirate.”; The Case for Mars by Bob Zubrin, a non-fiction proposal for reaching the Red Planet; Red Mars and other Kim Stanley Robinson novels; Marooned starring Gregory Peck; Gravity; Apollo 18, a found-footage horror film; Falling Skies; Bruce Campbell and Martin Koenig in Moontrap; Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs; A Walk in the Sun by Geoffrey Landis; Transit of Earth by Arthur C. Clarke bears a strong resemblance to The Martian; new party game: “You an astronaut on Mars. What’s the last music you listen to before you die?”; We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ; hope in fantasy and science fiction; Jesse hopes they don’t make a sequel; locked-room scenarios; Portal; would Earth really expend so many resources to save a single human being?; Ascent by Jed Mercurio; T-Minus: The Race to the Moon; Limit by Frank Schätzing; Planetes; The Souther Reach by Jeff VanderMeer for more botanist action; The Apollo Quartet by Ian Sales; Voyage by Stephen Baxter, dramatized by BBC Radio.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Mars / NASA / survival /
I’m pretty much f**ked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare. I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe 100 years from now. For the record… I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.” And it’ll be right, probably. Cause I’ll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did. Let’s see…where do I begin?
This book should be subtitled: Keep It Together. Work the Problem.
Astronaut Mark Watney is marooned on Mars after a freak dust storm literally blows him away from his crewmates. Thinking he’s dead, the mission is scrubbed and the rest of the crew head back to Earth. Mark hopes to survive until the next NASA mission to Mars in four years.
Most of The Martian consists of Mark’s log entries which read like a MacGyver episode. He keeps as lighthearted a mood as possible while recording the details of how he is attempting to grow food, find water, and so forth. It is this lighthearted element which helps keep this from being merely a manual of “how to survive on Mars.” For example, Mark’s selection of entertainment from among the things left behind by his crewmates yields the complete series for Three’s Company. His occasional comments on the series afterwards made me laugh out loud.
Fairly early in the book, NASA’s side of the story begins being interwoven with Mark’s struggle for survival. Since Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies, the comparison is inevitable and irresistible. NASA must juggle PR, competing agencies, rescue plans and more … while we see Mark doggedly surmount one obstacle after another. It is a welcome element because an entire book of Mark’s survival log was going to need some sort of additional depth to make it interesting.
Although I always felt fairly sure that Mark would survive, as the end of the book loomed near I got increasingly tense. What if these were his “found posthumously” logs? The author kept the tension up to the very end.
And at the end? I’m not ashamed to admit it. I cried.
Tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? Read the book and find out.
Or listen to it as I did. Narrator R.C. Bray did a good job of conveying Mark’s sense of humor and absorption in problem solving and survival. He also was good at the various accents of the international cast comprising the rest of the crew and NASA. He had a tendency to read straight storytelling as if it were a computer manual or something else that just needed a brisk run down.
The main thing a bit at fault was Bray’s German accent, which I kept mistaking for a Mexican or Indian accent. Those don’t seem as if they should be that interchangeable do they? My point exactly. However, I always knew who was speaking, I felt emotions as they came across, and it was a good enough narrating job. Not enough to make me look for other books in order to hear his narrations, but good enough.
This novel is not a short story and I felt it would have benefitted from more characterization. Yes, we get to know Mark Watney and, to a lesser degree, his crewmates and the NASA crew. However, to hear Mark’s story for so many days (sols) and get to know so little about him during that time … well, after a while it got a little boring, aside from the new problems to be solved or emergencies from which to recover.
We also got occasional forays into NASA and the spaceship crew, but more about Mark would have enriched the story. It didn’t have to be soul-baring and I realize he was writing a log, but after several hundred days some personalization would have crept in, one would think.
Anyway, that is not a huge factor because I enjoyed the story. But I was not surprised to see that the author is a computer programmer and it did cost the book a star.
Posted by Julie D.