Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Writer
Joined
Jul 14, 2007
Location
UK
#1
Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I kept reading about how good the two Hyperion books were so I eventually bought an omnibus edition including both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. It is the size of a substantial doorstop so it sat on my shelf for a few months while I found excuses to read shorter books. However, I eventually stiffened my sinews, gritted my teeth and got stuck in.

It isn't quite what I expected, which was a conventional, if superior, space opera. In fact, it's an unusual book with an unconventional structure and an inconclusive ending (just as well I have its sequel available, or I'd be feeling frustrated). The setting is a 29th century human commonwealth known as the Hegemony, which spreads over a couple of hundred worlds in one sector of the galaxy. Two other groups with a major influence on events are the Ousters, a renegade human group who had departed long before to live in space away from the rest of humanity and are now in conflict with the Hegemony, and the TechnoCore, consisting of human-created artificial intelligences which had thrown off human control and now had a parallel existence, mostly virtual but occasionally via human avatars. One of the avatars with a significant role is a recreation of the poet John Keats; the author is clearly a fan.

The plot concerns seven very diverse people called by The Church of the Shrike to undertake a hazardous pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on the remote world of Hyperion. These mysterious, empty objects predate humanity and are surrounded by strange time eddies. They are also haunted by the deadly Shrike, a legendary being of only partly-glimpsed form consisting mainly of red multi-faceted eyes and steel blades, with the ability to appear and disappear at will. When the seven arrive on Hyperion, they are greeted by chaos; the Shrike has broken away from the constraints which had kept it close to the Time Tombs and is roaming the country, killing at will. The spaceport is besieged by the entire human population who are desperate to leave. Despite this, the seven proceed with their pilgrimage across an empty land, believing that they stand a chance of unravelling the mystery of the Tombs and the Shrike.

The seven were previously strangers to one another so they spend their travelling time telling their stories in turn to the group in order to explain their interest in the Tombs, and the novel principally consists of these stories. This structure is reminiscent of (and presumably inspired by) Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The stories are an astonishingly varied and inventive collection, ranging from a poet whose muse was the Shrike, through a legendary military commander who appeared to have been manipulated by it, to the elderly father of a daughter who, as a young archaeologist, had been caught in a time anomaly while exploring the tombs and from then on had lost rather than gained age, and was now a baby in his arms.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have a general preference for shorter and faster-paced novels. The deliberate pacing of Hyperion coupled with the story-telling format (which, contrary to the general advice for novel writing, largely consists of "telling" not "showing") sacrifices some of the buzz of excitement of a good thriller. However, Hyperion is very well written, highly original and intriguing. I am thoroughly hooked and looking forward to reading the sequel.

(This entry is cross-posted from from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
 

Kevin

Code Monkey
Staff member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Pennsylvania
#2
Tony,

Thanks for the write-up! It sounds like an interesting read in it's anthology-like approach to the story telling of the group of characters.

In a bit of coincidence I found myself reading both your review of Hyperion and this news blurb tonight...

Producer Graham King has set up Dan Simmons' award-winning science fiction book series Hyperion Cantos at Warner Brothers, with Trevor Sands on board to adapt the first two books as one feature, according to The Hollywood Reporter. King is producing via his GK Films banner.

The first book, Hyperion, won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1990, while the second, The Fall of Hyperion, was nominated for a Nebula Award for best novel.

Hyperion deals with a space war, with most of the action taking place on a planet named Hyperion, known not only for its electricity-spewing trees but also for the Time Tombs, large artifacts that can move through time. The tombs are guarded by a monster called the Shrike, which impales people on metal trees.

King acquired the rights to the series several years ago, but its structure--inspired by Boccaccio's Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales--and its multiple timelines made the task of adapting it into a feature unwieldy and challenging.
As you work your way through it's sequel, please keep us updated as to if the story line is concluded or if they ending is left open eneded as well. So far the two books sound like they would make for some great reading material but if the ending isn't concluded I would be thinking of that the whole time while reading them.
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Writer
Joined
Jul 14, 2007
Location
UK
#4
Tony,

Thanks for the write-up! It sounds like an interesting read in it's anthology-like approach to the story telling of the group of characters.

In a bit of coincidence I found myself reading both your review of Hyperion and this news blurb tonight...

As you work your way through it's sequel, please keep us updated as to if the story line is concluded or if they ending is left open eneded as well. So far the two books sound like they would make for some great reading material but if the ending isn't concluded I would be thinking of that the whole time while reading them.
I've finished Fall Of Hyperion and it does indeed complete the tale (although not all loose ends are tied up neatly, and there are a few questionable issues). My review is in my queue awaiting posting on my blog (it will automatically be cross-posted here).

The film would certainly need to cover both books; the first one would make no sense by itself.

I already have the Endymion books, which are set in the same universe, I believe, but I think I'll read a few other things first!