It rewards patience. You’ll be horribly lost for the first three chapters. And just when you start wondering how it got nominated for a Hugo and Nebula award, that’s when the story illuminates itself. Not all at once, but slowly, like a pale fire growing brighter. That’s when Dan Simmons’ novel really sinks its teeth into you. Here’s a space opera set on Mars two thousand years in the future, where Homer’s Iliad is played out in all its bloody, manipulative glory. A non-stop barrage of ideas, this is crazy, extravagant, convoluted, imaginative literature at its most unrestrained.