on 12 May 2004
This classic work has so much to recommend it that it’s difficult to know where to start. Its overall reference to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – in that seven pilgrims each tell their tale as they journey toward their goal – is only one facet of a novel rich with literary reference and wryly judged future historical perspective.
At one point, Martin Silenus the poet tells of his great work ‘The Dying Earth’ the title of which, he points out, was taken from an old earth novel. In the same section his literary agent tells of the realities of book-marketing in the Twenty-Ninth Century. Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ she tells him, is permanently in print, although no-one actually reads it. The poet blithely asks who Hitler was.
No doubt Jack Vance, and many other readers who picked up on the reference to his Nineteen Fifties novel, will be amused at the idea of Vance novels being remembered in an age where Hitler is a name known only to those in the rarefied strata of academia.
The pilgrims have been chosen by the Church of the Shrike to make the pilgrimage to the Time Tombs of Hyperion and petition the Shrike, an alien godlike creature bristling with metal horns and claws.
Each pilgrim tells his tale of why they think they were chosen to take the pilgrimage and in doing so, slowly fill in the backstory of this Hegemony of Worlds, of Hyperion itself and the mysterious Shrike.
Each tale fills in a piece of the jigsaw puzzle depicting complex galactic politics in which it is difficult to judge who are the players and who are the pawns.
A cabal of AIs form the Technocore which seceded from human control centuries ago, although they still manage the web of farcaster portals which link the worlds of the Hegemony, and the Allthing which is, in essence, a futuristic internet. The AIs have their own reasons for being very interested in Hyperion, its network of alien labyrinths and the Time Tombs, to which they believe something is travelling back in time from the future.
Structurally, thematically, stylistically this book is a marvel. Each tale has a distinct voice and its own magic, and each is tied into a seamless whole.
In Hyperion we follow seven pilgrims as they move towards the Shrike Temple on the planet Hyperion.
Initially we know little of how the seven came together, why each of them is on a personal pilgrimage, and why the Shrike Temple is significant.
As they journey, they agree to tell their own reasons for the pilgrimage, and thus we get a series of short stories, or vignettes, where we learn the background of each individual. And in doing so, we learn more of the universe in which they live.
There is a bigger story here, a greater canvas on which these icons have been painted, but we only learn part of it - the rest is saved for the sequel - The Fall of Hyperion.
[As an aside, there are four books in total - in addition to the two I have mentioned, we have Endymion and the Rise of Endymion. In reality, it is two pairs of books - the Endymion books are set 250 years later and with a mostly new cast, although knowledge of the earlier books vastly aids their enjoyment. Reading the Fall of Hyperion greatly adds to Hyperion itself, but you can stop there if you wish. Endymion is a new venture - albeit a fabulous one.]
Dan Simmons writes with impressive clarity - while other authors hide behind jargon, Simmons keeps it real and in doing so gives you a clear visual image of his universe. And it is that writing style that makes this a light and pacy read, without losing any of the depth of content.
As a stand alone book, this can seem a disjointed read, but still a worthwhile one. Viewed together with the sequels, it is a wonderful achievement, and one of the great sci-fi classics.
Few books come as universally-applauded in the genre as this one. It was getting to the point where people seemed to be questioning my fitness to blog about SF since I hadn't read Hyperion, so I thought it was time to take the plunge. For those likewise ignorant of the book, Hyperion is the first in a four-volume sequence known as The Hyperion Cantos, consisting of Hyperion (1989), The Fall of Hyperion (1990), Endymion (1996) and The Rise of Endymion (1997). The sequence is heavily influenced by both the poetry of John Keats and the work of Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales is the clear structural inspiration behind the first novel.
The 28th Century. A war is brewing between the Hegemony of Man and the Ousters, a race of 'barbaric' humans living in arkships drifting in the depths of space. As the war drums sound, seven individuals are summoned to the remote frontier world of Hyperion by the Church of the Shrike, the godlike entity who roams that world killing people for unknown reasons or hanging their still-living forms on its giant mechanical tree. As the seven pilgrims journey through space to Hyperion, then on a gruelling ground journey across the planet even as the Hegemony and Ousters do battle in orbit, they tell each other the tale of how they came to this place and the reason for their interest in Hyperion and the Shrike.
It's a pretty straightforward structure, and indeed the book comes across as a collection of linked short stories with a prominent framing sequence. What is unusual is that Simmons varies his style slightly between each story, so the Priest's Tale is a mystery (albeit a mystery enlightened by electricity-spewing trees); the Soldier's Tale is a war story; the Poet's Tale is one of hubris; the Scholar's Tale is an almost heartbreaking tragedy; the Detective's Tale is a thriller; and the Consul's Tale is a romance told across decades. Simmons' writing skills here are extraordinary, with some stunning imagery and moments of emotional intensity transmitted through clear-cut but often evocative prose. Each story is a contained narrative in itself, but also contributes to the whole.
Hyperion (*****) is simply unmissable for anyone interested in the genre.
The Fall of Hyperion is the second novel in the four-volume Hyperion Cantos, although it does effectively resolve the storylines opened up in Hyperion. When the first book ended, the pilgrims had arrived at the Valley of the Time Tombs on Hyperion where each was supposed to confront the Shrike and petition it for a wish. However, one of their number, Het Masteen, had vanished without a trace. At the same time, the 'barbarian' Ousters are launching a massive assault on the Hyperion system which the Hegemony of Man's space fleet, FORCE, has proven unable to repulse. All eyes in the Hegemony turn to the Hyperion system where the fates of billions will be decided.
The novel proceeds along two parallel paths. In the first, we see events unfolding on Hyperion as the surviving pilgrims explore the Time Tombs. In the second, we follow Hegemony CEO Gladstone as she plans the defence of the Hegemony of Man against both the Ousters and the AI TechnoCore, humanity's extremely unreliable ally. Both storylines are related through a second 'cybrid' based on the poet Keats, who is telepathically linked to Brawne Lamia, one of the pilgrims on Hyperion, and has also been called into the advise the CEO.
Fall of Hyperion is therefore a somewhat different book to the first. Much bigger and more explosive events are depicted than in the first book. This is definitely a less character-intense book, although it could be argued that the original Hyperion did such a good job of defining the characters we don't really need to delve further into their skulls. Fall of Hyperion is, however, more action-packed and much faster paced, developing into a real page-turner as the book proceeds. In particular, Gladstone becomes a fascinating character, her decisions at the end of the book likely to doom her to infamy for all time, despite the necessity of her actions.
There are a few more problems than there were with Hyperion. The Keats angle in the first novel was interesting and allowed Simmons to explore his obvious love of the poet quite thoroughly. However, having a second Keats avatar pretty much relate the entire story of the second novel is a massive overkill. If you have no interest in the poet, there are long stretches of this second novel that are just extremely tedious. Also, after the massive build-up to galactic apocalypse with the promise of billions dying and humanity falling into a huge dark age, the ramifications of 'the fall' are seriously downplayed. Perhaps the next book in the series, Endymion, which picks the narrative up some 200 years later, will do a better job of expanding on this, but it feels like Simmons pulled his punches at the end of the book.
That said, Fall of Hyperion is an enjoyable, at times gripping science fiction novel and a worthy sequel to Hyperion. Well recommended.
The Fall of Hyperion is part two of the four-part Hyperion Cantos.
In Hyperion we met seven pilgrims on their journey to the Time Tombs of the Shrike. We heard their stories - distinct and vivid stories with little overlap, except that they all ended up on the Shrike pilgrimage just as war threatened to envelop the Hegemony.
The Fall of Hyperion begins as where Hyperion leaves off - the Time Tombs are opening and the Ousters are on the verge of attack.
I will resist any temptation to reveal the plot, but I will say that the Fall manages to explain an awful lot. Hyperion introduces various loose ends in terms of technology, key players and history. Rather than neatly ignore these, as most authors do, Simmons hits them head-on in the Fall and in doing so weaves a very credible story.
The two books are a natural pair, although they do work better as distinct novels rather than a single large tome, and are an excellent read. Highly recommended and amongst the best sci-fi I have read in the last 5 years.
Still not convinced?
Okay, there is more. Much more.
Hyperion sets the scene for Endymion and the Rise of Endymion - the completion of the four novel saga. The Endymion books are quite extraordinary - they are profound, absorbing and truly moving, and they set Simmons apart as one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
To read Endymion you need to read Hyperion and the Fall of Hyperion. Click to purchase!
on 4 October 2015
HYPERION BY DAN SIMMONS
REVIEW BY ALEX RODDIE
Hyperion is one of those books that has been on my to-read list forever. I'm now an Audible subscriber, so I took the opportunity to listen to the audiobook while hiking the Tour of Monte Rosa in September 2015. Is this classic work of science fiction worth your time? Here's my review.
At its best, I believe that science fiction should ask more questions than it answers. The purpose of SF is not to tell us what the future will look like; its purpose is to enchant us with possibilities, make us think about our purpose in the universe, and warp our preconceived notions of how things are. Hyperion asks many questions but provides very few answers. Who or what is the terrifying Shrike? And the Time Tombs, mysterious structures moving backwards in time, associated with the Shrike but understood by nobody – what do they signify? Will Hyperion fall under the assault of the Ouster battle fleet? Is Martin Silenus really hundreds of years old, born on Old Earth before the Hegira? Will the pilgrims making their way towards the Valley of the Time Tombs obtain what they desire, or will they end up impaled for eternity on the thorns of the Shrike's metal tree?
The story resonates with symbolism and enchantment. The structure – that of a frame story – is inspired by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and skilfully brings each of the pilgrims to life. They're all great characters, richly developed with their own tragic histories that, one by one, compel them to seek out the Shrike in the hope their wishes can be granted. The 19th century poet John Keats is another theme that recurs throughout the novel (one of the characters is even an AI-based 'cybrid' entity modelled on the persona of John Keats). The enigma of the Shrike and the Time Tombs provides a compelling undertone of mystery.
In many ways, Hyperion is fantasy rather than science fiction. I was strongly reminded of the work of Robert Holdstock – in particular Mythago Wood, which is similarly vibrant with mythology and unanswered questions.
The science fiction aspects of this book were less original and trod the well-worn path of a galactic human civilisation linked by starships and 'farcaster' portals enabling instant travel between distant points. There's also a nebulous outside threat (the 'Ousters', who seek to invade Hyperion and defeat the Hegemony of Man). The traditional sci-fi elements didn't impress me anywhere near as much as the mythological themes, but actually I think the sci-fi background is almost unimportant and merely provides a backdrop to the true story.
Time is another recurring theme. The Shrike is a fearsome demon sent from the distant future to wreak havoc, and the Time Tombs are travelling backwards in time and surrounded by anti-entropic fields. A subterranean Christian cathedral is discovered on Hyperion that appears to be 750,000 years old. One of the characters, Rachel Weintraub, contracts a temporal disease while studying the Time Tombs and begins to age in reverse. The 'time debt' accrued during FTL interstellar travel creates some interesting subplots too. These themes are not particularly original, but in combination with the ineffable sense of mystery and wonder woven throughout the book you have a winning combination.
The book ends on a cliffhanger. As I read other reviews I see that other readers didn't like that, but for me it felt like a natural ending – albeit one that immediately prompted me to buy all the sequels.
I'm normally the sort of reader who reads a book and either likes it or doesn't, then moves on to something else, rarely thinking about what I've just read. But I can't seem to stop thinking about the extraordinary events and questions in Hyperion. Elements of the story drift to the forefront of my thoughts at random times, and I find myself analysing and re-analysing interpretations of the mysteries, trying to figure out what's going on. I suspect that the symbolism goes even deeper than I give it credit.
In short, it's an incredible work of fantasy/science fiction, and I'm already enjoying the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. If you like this kind of book then Hyperion is a must-read.
on 16 October 2011
Finally I finished this book. It was a long, complicated, drawn out road - a bit like this review - but I got there. Overall I prefer Hyperion, and I'll tell you why.
Fall of Hyperion continues directly from the end of Hyperion with the Shrike Pilgrims arriving at the valley of the Time Tombs on their journey to meet the Shrike, whilst the planet Hyperion prepares for Ouster invasion and the leaders of the Hegemony prepare for war. Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone has summoned the cybrid version of John Keats (Joseph Severn here) to help her with her plans, ostensibly to draw portraits of her, but he has a connection to the pilgrims that can be used to monitor their progress. Meanwhile there are stirrings in the TechnoCore...
Gone is the structure of the previous novel, the individual tales set amongst the frame story of the pilgrimage, now replaced by a more straightforward narrative, or so you would think. Fall of Hyperion is a complicated, sprawling mess of a book, frequently jumping from world to world, from first person to third person, and from one time to another and back. When I say mess I don't mean that it's terrible as such, but merely that it's all over the place. It begins reasonably enough - chapters alternate between Severn's adventures with the politics of the Hegemony and Severn's dreams of the pilgrims' continued plight in the valley of the Time Tombs. It's not long though before Simmons abandons this and things spin out of control, both with the story itself and the narrative employed in telling it. It's a complicated story that could have been just that extra little bit clearer. Some may find the challenge of understanding it all rewarding.
Complexities aside, this is an engrossing story, full of deceit and huge implications, with well-painted characters and environments - nobody can doubt Simmons' writing chops. Central to the book is a cautionary tale about over-reliance on technology and the dangers of artificial intelligence, whilst at the same time there are many other facets touched on. I'm not the most observant of readers, but I'm sure there's lots going on underneath the surface of the novels here in terms of philosophy and literature. For my tastes, there is too much poetry that I can't make sense of - yes Dan, we know you're a fan of Keats, but the poetry and obscure literary references are becoming a bit much for poor old ignorants like myself. The book starts well and ends well, with several surprises saved until the end (although they could be guessed) and many threads left open for the next books. I do find however that the mystery and confusing nature surrounding the Shrike and its actions is becoming a bit tiresome at this point.
There are some niggles with the writing style, particularly with phrases that are repeated all too often. Phrases such as:
"Lapis lazuli sky"
"(character name) made a gesture with his hand..."
"Sol fed Rachel one of the last nursing paks..." (I'm paraphrasing)
There's also far too much nodding in this book for my liking. Everyone nods too much, or the fact that they have nodded comes up far too often. Next to shrugging this has become my new pet hate for repetition in novels.
But yes, I enjoyed the book. Not as much as Hyperion, but I enjoyed it for the continuation of the story and resolution of some threads whilst others were frustratingly unresolved or new ones were added. It's more complicated than it needs to be, but the challenge is enjoyable.
Note: I will not be reading Endymion for a while, I need a break from this series!
on 15 July 1999
I'm somewhat surprised by some of the reviews for the Hyperion series, especially the latter two, Endymion and Rise of Endymion. I agree that Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion are the /slightly/ stronger of the four, but again they are the foundational works which support the rest of the series, which branches off into a more ornate, but steadfast, structure. Looking at the structure of the Hyperion saga as a whole, both as science fiction and as literary fiction, few stories come close to matching the width and depth of Simmon's conceptualization of the future.
Sci-fi ornamentation aside, much of the saga's strength lies in it's most literary qualities. The plot is epic and the characters are depthful and realistic, but Simmons raises the bar a notch above the average space opera's best, weaving a rich tapestry of allusion and parallelism that would challenge literary fiction's finest offerings.
Stylistically, Simmons writes with detailed clarity and a dry sense of humor that underpins every book in this series. While the story may bog at times during the particular verbose descriptions of the latter stories, the pacing is never derailed. Necessarily with any work of fiction, there are miniscule lapses of continuity and logicality. (What /did/ happen to Leigh Hunt?) But I would argue that these nits are so glaring only because the whole of the series is so well-implemented. To remain quotable, the saga is a spectacular tour-de-force, breathtaking in scope with heart-touching characters. Please read these books.
on 27 February 2006
"The Fall of Hyperion" is truly masterful and riveting. Told in a more conventional, linear fashion than "Hyperion", this narrative focuses on the government of the Web and its leader, Meina Gladstone, as observed by Joseph Severn, a cybernetic re-creation of the poet John Keats, as well as the seven Shrike pilgrims, who may affect the war's outcome. Simmons pits good against evil, with the religions of man and those of the machines battling for supremacy. The Time Tombs are opening and the pilgrims all must confront the Shrike in their own way. Many of the answers to our questions are answered, and I loved every minute of the unveiling. And yet there are unanswered questions: Where DID the Shrike come from? What will become of the hegemony now that interstellar travel has changed so drastically? This is truly wonderfully grand science fiction with a literary nod to the poet John Keats.
on 15 February 2015
I found this and its predecessor excellent reads overall. I won't go into the content, as other do (foolishly). That's for you to find out. The story is expansive, believable, revisionist and encompasses many differing styles of storyline that anyone can, and will, enjoy. I find myself wanting to recommend this series to all my friends and family, as it has a little bit of everything in it, albeit a scifi novel at heart. If you are into poetry, this will wet your intellect, but possibly annoy you. If you are religious (you probably don't read scifi, but hey) then this will make you think, or choke(!), if you are a scifi buff, you'll love it, but please don't apply science reason to the storyline too harshly. If you want a romance, you have it here, if you want politics that too! Be assured none of it is lightly done. The story-line is tightly woven, very much shows the authors interest in religion and ethics ( some views do come through) but you will finish this novel feeling sated in many ways. I for one will look up Yates.
Faults in the novel? Whoever proof read this needs to be shot... Pure and simple. The English mistakes are unforgivable, the use of 'replace and paste', lazy ( lighted for lit throughout the book? Change your job!).
However, read this series - it's enjoyable and worth the time you put aside.