Muse of Fire was a straightforward read that has more interesting implications if you care to think about it.
On the surface, the book serves as a sort of travelogue story through Simmons' universe. The main characters are human actors in the company the Earth's Men. They travel through known space staging Shakespeare's plays for human settlements. Humanity has long since been subjugated by a hierarchy of other races, and the Earth's Men are one of the few ways that human culture survives.
Unexpectedly, the Earth's Men are asked to play for the local Archons of one planet - the alien overlords. This kicks off a multiple stop tour, each time with a different play.
The story also serves as a short, layman's commentary on the Bard. Many of the things discussed by the narrator, a skilled but not virtuoso actor, are things that I had already gleaned or read about the plays. Some others led me to consider them in new lights.
Finally, it's a bit of a tour through Gnostic cosmology. The alien hierarchy of races are lifted straight out of Gnostic teachings, and Basilidean Gnosticism is the human religion.
The ending of the tour involves a twist that I didn't see coming, and which raises questions about the parts of the book that have gone before.
Simmons' prose was up to his usual high standard - intelligent, readable, and elegant.
- Hardcover: 100 pages
- Publisher: Subterranean (28 December 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596061812
- ISBN-13: 978-1596061811
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.3 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 249 g
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