Friday, May 27, 2005

Olympos, Dan Simmons, and Winner of the National Book Award

HarperCollins First Look Books sent me an ARC of Olympos, by Dan Simmons, and it got to my house too late. They'd sent it at the beginning of May, but I didn't get it until the 17th, so I've only had 10 days to try and wade through it.
You honestly have to be an Olympian reader just to get through this huge tome of 688 pages. I found it rough going, and I like Greek Mythology!Simmons has taken the famed classic Greek characters and turned them on their respective ears here, with lots of sex, violence, swearing and behavior that, though somewhat in line with modern characters, seems a bit too much gore and horror with no moral payoff for archetypical people who seemed to have some good reasons for what they did in the original myths. On the other hand, techno-geeks who are very fond of long, technical explanations and fantasy sex with gods and goddesses will be all over this book. I can imagine tons of male teenage geeks who lament the loss of Star Trek and are bored with Stargate reruns will find this book breathtaking. It's the kind of book Stephen Hawking or Bill Gates would have enjoyed as teenagers. Unfortunately, I am a 45 year old woman who is not amused by an author having his way with Shakespeares Prospero (The Tempest is my favorite play) and turning him into a violent, ruthless man who kills at a whim. My guess is that Simmons enjoys being a world-maker and bringing the gods of mythology down a notch or two, just for fun. He certainly takes his readers knowledge of Greek myth for granted, which is refreshing, as I don't like being condescended to, and many authors, especially those who have technical backgrounds, write as if they are talking to a dim 10 year old.
I enjoyed Jincy Willett's "Winner of the National Book Award" a great deal more than Olympos.
"Winner" was funny, fascinating and a sister-story that didn't let the "bad" sister off the hook with little or no reprisals for her actions, as did Jennifer Weiners "In Her Shoes." Dorcas had a clear and strong voice, and was witty, ironic and way too kind to her nutty, slutty twin, Abigail. Though I am generally not fond of "victim lit" this book made sure everyone got what they deserved in the end, and Dorcas didn't flinch in her honest estimation of herself or the other characters. Plus, she's a librarian with an arched brow and a solid sense of self, which I appreciated.
I also just finished Tanith Lee's sequel to "The Silver Metal Lover," called "Metallic Love" and I was saddened to see how cynical and cruel Lee had turned, in making her characters give no quarter, and even turn ugly on her original protagonist, the wonderful Jane. No one comes out of the book unscathed, and all the lovely romantic and tender sentiments of the first novel are smashed and revealed to be nothing more than cheap tricks in this book. Shame on you, Ms. Lee, for taking a hopeful and lovely novel and smearing it with your bitter cynical vitriol.

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