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Muse of Fire (2007)

by Dan Simmons

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1735122,469 (3.58)5
In a remote future age when the human enterprise has all but ground to a halt. a wandering troupe of players is dedicated to presenting the works of Shakespeare to every accessible corner of the settled universe. When aliens take an interest, the players find themselves giving command performances of King Lear, Hamlet and the Scottish play for a series of increasingly important alien species, with evidence that the fate of all humanity may rest on the quality of their work.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
It's the far-future, and humanity has been made a race of slaves to several alien species. A Shakespeare troupe which tours the galaxy preserves one of the last remnants of human culture.

Not fully realized and lazily executed, but it has some ideas. It also pulls off a decent crowd-pleasing ending. I got the impression Simmons couldn't let this idea go but also decided he couldn't devote much time away from his major novels. Ultimately, this is silly but mildly enjoyable. A very quick read. ( )
  patronus11 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Except for the rather extended summary of Romeo and Juliet (which I pretty much know by heart), this was a compelling yarn of a Human theater troupe in a universe where humans are the lowest of the low. ( )
  aulsmith | Jan 29, 2013 |
“They can see and hear and maybe translate the words, but how can you translate Shakespeare to alien minds?” –Wilbr, “Muse of Fire”

This digital version of this short book has been on sale and is well worth the price. In the far future, in a far part of the universe, a space-travelling group of actors wander worlds inhabited by human slaves, performing the works of Shakespeare. Narrated through the voice of a secondary player, Wilbr, Simmons builds a world of creatively crafted aliens, religions and gods.

The title refers to the name of the troubadour’s ship. The Muse her/it-self is a being that runs the spacecraft, reminiscent, but in a much less dark way, of John Scalzi’s god-driven starships in his short “God Engines’.

Simmons builds his plot around a series of these Shakespearian performances on grand-universal stages to a variety of beings. Even at fewer than 100 pages, Simmons crafts realistic and believable characters and the framework of a fascinating and detailed universe.

In “Muse”, Simmons emotes a passion for The Bard and I couldn’t help but think that he’d not yet gotten Shakespeare completely out of his system after writing his duology “Olypos” and “Illium”, which relies heavily on Shakespeare-driven themes. While not giving the ending away, Simmons may acknowledge that he finally found some creative Shakespearian closure with “Muse of Fire”, when an alien suggests to Wilbr, “You people need to learn some new poets.”

Simmons continues to prove that his creative abilities go well beyond a narrowly defined genre such as science fiction. He writes so sharply and with an imbued sense of intelligence that his literate capabilities lift the literary sense and pleasure of his readers.
  JGolomb | Sep 20, 2012 |
In a distant future where humans find themselves lacking in culture and identity, where they are slaves at the bottom of the hierarchical food chain and spread across thousands of planets within the vast universe, Wilbr is a member of a troupe of actors who travel from planet to planet performing Shakespeare's ancient and awe-inspiring plays. In a time when humans are piteous wretches, these plays allow people to capture, if only briefly, their previous humanity.

It is, in my opinion, a very interesting premise for a book. I was excited about starting it, and I admit I had high expectations. Considering the subject matter, I was expecting a sort of poetic elegance within the prose. I was expecting soft sentences that rolled off the tongue and were filled with beautiful imagery. Well, that wasn't exactly the case...

That's okay though! It's my own fault for thinking just because the book is about Shakespeare that the author would write similarly, and you know what? It's still a good book. It's a short read, and it has one of those great endings that instantly make you want to bump the book's rating right at the end. My copy was 105 pages; on page 102 I was prepared to give the book an average 3-star rating, and then on page 103 I was enthusiastic about the book and wanted to give it a 4-star rating instead. Yes, it's one of those books.

I've given myself some time to think about it I still believe it deserves a 4-star rating, if only for the ending. It's a very short book, so reading it for that alone sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Just be careful about reading the other reviews here though, one of them ruins it with spoilers. ( )
4 vote Ape | May 5, 2011 |
Earth's Men is a Shakespeare troupe that performs from the ship Muse of Fire. Muse also refers to the 'embalmed' human at the ship's core. Normally the company performs for groups of human worker/slaves. They are performing Much Ado About Nothing, when the overlord species arrives. Suddenly, the Earth's Men are ordered to perform for audiences of ever more powerful aliens. ( )
  ktoonen | Jan 28, 2009 |
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I sometimes think that none of the rest of the things would have happened if we hadn't performed the Scottish Play that night at Mezel-Goull.
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In a remote future age when the human enterprise has all but ground to a halt. a wandering troupe of players is dedicated to presenting the works of Shakespeare to every accessible corner of the settled universe. When aliens take an interest, the players find themselves giving command performances of King Lear, Hamlet and the Scottish play for a series of increasingly important alien species, with evidence that the fate of all humanity may rest on the quality of their work.

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