|Bill and Ted and Socrates|
In my post, "Is the study of ancient philosophy like science fiction?," I explained that science fiction and ancient philosophy are two of my favorite things because they put us in touch with other worlds. Whether you're reading the Culture series of Iain M. Banks or the works of the 2nd century Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, you are temporarily inhabiting another world.
As if to highlight my point, some science fiction stories make use of ancient themes. From Stargate to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, science fiction is no stranger to the past. Below are some reviews of books that also work with this theme, which I like to call "the once and future past."
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
Whatever the book's stylistic challenges and factual mistakes about the Hindu and Buddhist traditions might be, I can't help but love the whole idea. The idea of humans using technology to deify themselves was later used by Dan Simmons in Ilium (see below). Another theme in both books is that humans might work to throw off the chains of the gods' oppression (with gods standing in for any sort of controlling orthodoxy). See my Goodreads review for more details.
The Just City and The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
In addition to all the fun, there are some serious meditations on Plato's Republic as an aspiring utopia (or is it dystopia?).
There's a third book coming soon, and I can't wait to read it.
The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson
There are also travels to other ancient times and places as well as 19th century New York. Cool stuff!
See Goodreads for my rating (I forgot to write a review when I read it a few years ago, but I hope to review the sequel soon.)
These books are wild: wild in plot threads twisting and expanding, wild in ideas, wild in intriguing questions, wild in its mashups of Literature (with a capital "L") and hard science fiction to an almost greater extent than Simmons's Hugo-winning Hyperion. There's so much going on, I can't do it justice here (indeed, one wonders if Simmons is following it all).
Sometime in the far future post-humans have, somewhat as in Lord of Light (see above), used advanced technology to become the ancient Greek pantheon and they attempt to recreate Homer's Iliad. But there's a lot more. My favorite characters are the two robots (cyborgs, technically) who study Shakespeare and Proust in their spare time as they work on the moons of Jupiter.
The books have some problems (their meandering length, the depiction of female characters, being unnecessarily Eurocentric, etc.). I liked the sequel, Olympos, a lot less (these problems become much deeper). Are these books worth their combined length of about 1,500 dense pages? I'd say so. But I'd also say I wish Simmons had done some serious editing.
For much more, see my Goodreads reviews here and here.