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Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Werthead

Lemming of Discord
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
2,037
Just finished Hyperion:

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. It is available from Gollancz in the UK, either by itself, as part of the Future Classics range or in an omnibus with its immediate sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. It is also available in the USA from Bantam Spectra.
 

Thadlerian

Riftsound resident
Joined
Jun 6, 2005
Messages
989
I had hoped you would have had at least a couple more words to spare for this terrific novel. Not that you review need them technically, but just because there are so many great things about this book that deserves mention. Like the atmosphere of the journey across that vast, eerie planet, with the Shrike looming ominously in the background constantly -- you think of it even when it hasn't been mentioned for a while. At least that was what completed the reading experience for me.

Also, earlier in your blog, you said that Hyperion does not quite live up to the hype of being "the best SF since Dune". Why is that?
 

Werthead

Lemming of Discord
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
2,037
There were a few others I enjoyed more, such as some of PF Hamilton and Al Reynolds' work, maybe a couple of David Brin's Uplift books. I'd also gone through literally more than a decade of people bigging this series up to me and it didn't quite live up to that.
 

Ajid

Only Saltwater Fish Drink
Joined
Jan 24, 2016
Messages
587
I've recently finished Fall of Hyperion and I'm keen to read the two Endymion books I've been advised to wait quite a while before reading them. I'm not expecting them to be as good but do you think it's really worth waiting a while or should I go ahead and get them?
 
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