Ben Smithgall

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Bit pusher at Spotify. Previously Interactive News at the New York Times, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.





Ilium (Ilium, #1)

By Dan Simmons

Finished reading on May 5, 2018

Ilium staggers forward through the sheer weight of its own self-important plot and ridiculous characters. Shakespeare-quoting mechanical men from the moons of Jupiter meet with a physical representation of Earth’s biome in three largely non-interconnected plots. Simmons has obviously done his research and some of his best sentences are mirrors and outright theft from various translations of the Iliad. There is also enough world-building to do to guard against his worse tendencies as a writer. But the worst sections of the book can feel like Simmons waving a report card in front of us, full of great grades because of his ability to call up references and allusions to previous writers at will. Simmons really, really wants us to know how much he can understand from Proust and Shakespeare, and this is a frustrating tendency that slows down a story told on a grand scale.