Book Review: The Muse of Fire

The Muse of Fire is a theater company from Illinois, but this post isn’t about them. But in case you’re interested, here’s their website.  The Muse of Fire is also a movie from 2013 about two young actors from London who set out to tackle Shakespearean plays.  This post is also not about that movie – but it has a great cast, here’s the IMDB link, maybe you should check out the film!

This post is actually about the book by Dan Simmons.  I got a digital copy of it from a Humble Books Bundle several months ago that focused on science fiction works.  If you are not aware of Humble Bundles you should check them out!  I don’t game, so their book bundle is good for me.

Here are the “official” summaries from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist, respectively:
Hugo winner Simmons (the Hyperion Cantos) combines his fine prose with a well-developed sense of wonder and love for reworked literary and mythological materials. In this far future, Earth is a mausoleum and the far-flung human race occupies the lowest level of a complex interstellar hierarchy. The Earth’s Men travel to distant worlds and perform Shakespeare before human servants and slaves, bringing them some moments of pleasure and notions of Earth’s lost glory. When aliens take an interest, the Earth’s Men 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. This finely crafted novella is a perfect example of Simmons’s many strengths. (Dec.)

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“The Muse of Fire schleps the Shakespearean troupe the Earth’s Men to the many planets inhabited by the slaves called arbeiters and doles, who, like the actors, are human. The players are slaves, too, really, like all humans since, thousands of years ago, the Archons found earth and erased its culture, except for Shakespeare. After a particularly good Macbeth, attended by some Archons and their dragomen (interpreters), one of the latter comes to the company and orders them to play for an all-Archon audience on another world. After that he orders them to yet another to play before the Demiurgos, who control the Archons, and after that to another to perform for Abraxas, the incarnate god. The actors thereby climb the ladder of a universal order humans have been made to believe is divine. They suspect they’re being tested. They are, as proxies for all humanity—and more. Simmons’ novella, narrated by a young male earth’s Man, is an exceptionally artful religious legend of the far future, and quite special. –Ray Olson”

Okay, now for my review.  There is some foul language and “adult themes” that i’m not a fan of.  But I did like the writing, I felt the author did a good job describing the scenes.  Maybe if I was more into Shakespeare then this would have been better? There is a religious (non-Christian, non anything we have on earth) theme that ties in with the socioeconomic factors of the book quite well.  There was not any one part of the story that I was a big fan of, but it kept my interest the whole way through – which isn’t far, it is only about 80 pages long.  All-in-all it is a decent read if you don’t mind some mature content.  Maybe three stars out of five for me?

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