Rank Dan Simmon's Books


Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2012
I have not read any Simmons yet but I have his Hyperion omnibus on the shelf. How do his other works compare with these? I notice he writes horror too but those get lower marks at Goodreads.
I've only ever read the first Hyperion book. It was pretty good. Very dark at times, with intriguing mysteries to solve. I never read on in the series though so I can't speak to how it finishes.
So far I've read four of his books:

Hyperion. It took me a while to get into it, and as I was reading I was thoroughly confused by a good deal of the plot and history thanks to his approach (as you probably know, seven "pilgrims" relate their backstories to each other as they journey towards the murderous Shrike, and each story is told in a different style) but overall I enjoyed it thanks to some terrific world-building and interesting characters, and that despite the confusion, much of which remained at the end, the multiple questions left unanswered, and the focus on John Keats, whose poetry is mostly too self-consciously hyper-poetical for my taste.

The Fall of Hyperion, the immediate sequel to Hyperion, about which I had conflicting views. The first half was stunning, and I could hardly put it down, since it had everything – vivid description, imaginative worldbuilding, fierce action scenes, nuanced characters who were interesting and real, genuine pathos, drama, political intrigue, thought-provoking themes and ideas, suspense, and poetry (even if it was by Keats). But dissatisfaction grew over the last quarter of the book as things were wrapped up. Sentimentality, which had been kept well at bay up until then, became rather more prominent, as did some rather contrived and unrealistic episodes which to me short-changed the whole novel, not to mention what appeared to be gaping plot-holes. I found it a disappointing ending to an otherwise very good book and it made me reluctant to carry on with the sequels.

Flashback. This is one of his more recent books, from 2011, and is a detective story set in 2036 in a disintegrating and drug-addicted USA. I found it gripping and intriguing from the get-go, but the heavy-handed far-right-wing politics (avowedly not Simmons's own, which makes the explicit and recurrent Obama-bashing in the narrative -- ie not in the mouth of the characters -- somewhat odd) became disturbing, and when looked at objectively none of the various conspiracies actually made sense. Nevertheless, a fast and enjoyable read.

Drood, which someone warned me was long and boring and I should have listened... An opium-studded tour of Dickens's last years of life, as related by his best friend and apparent worst enemy, Wilkie Collins, it's most definitely long, being just shy of 800 pages, and tedium is not helped by Collins-Simmons' fixation with telling us the minutiae of Dickens' (and his family's, friends', acquaintances', enemies') life, work, parties, interests, health, hates etc etc. I managed to get through the whole of it but only with some difficulty, though the pace did pick up a trifle towards the end. An interesting and inventive book, but even as a reflection of Wilkie Collins's vebosity and hubris as narrator and Simmons's homage to Victorian-length writing, to my mind it was far too long to sustain the conceit.

Not sure if that helps you any, save to keep you from even attempting Drood!
The Hyperion books get most of the attention from critics and aficionados, but some of his horror tales are pretty good also. I would recommend Summer of Night, more than 20 years old, but a compelling tale of kids versus evil.
I loved Summer of Night and of the Simmons's booked I've read, it definitely my favourite.

That said, I have only read the Hyperion and Endemion books and Carrion Comfort.
I saw Carrion Comfort in the bookshop the other day and wondered about it, but I'm not fond of horror stories. On a scale of 1-10, how horrific is it, would you say? Is it worth the read?
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I wouldn't say that it was horror per se, although there were elements or horror in it. Although i did enjoy the book, it was my least favourite of the books that i have read of Dan's and i would say that it was too long. (If i remember rightly, it is nearly a thousand pages.)

The book revolved around a group of people (one of them a former Nazi), who are able to control people with their thoughts.

Here's a link to the Wiki page.
Hmm. Might go and have another look at it, then. (I was attracted by the title, as it's from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, but as soon as I saw the word "horror" I dropped it!)
Thanks for the feedback; looking forward to these. I'll start with the ones I have.
Anyone try Ilium or Olympos? Not sure if they are really sci fi, fantasy, or something in between. Basically most sci fi now is fantasy with technology, or fantasy is sci fi without technology.
Loved Hyperion Cantos but avoid The Terror - most cliched bag of crap I ever had the misfortune to attempt to read...

I can't say that it was badly written. I admit to not finishing it. But my reason was that the author had based the entire tale on actual events that include the still unsolved mystery of what became of the Terror and her crew. He just superimposed his own nightmarish version of possible (or not so possible) events. So I was put off and abandoned it.
Song of Kali is pretty good horror novel as is Carrion Comfort. Also his anthology Prayers to Broken Stones is quite good , It has a story that takes place in the Hyperion. universe:)
Andrew T, I loved Ilium. Loved it.

Simmons is an ambitious author. The title, Ilium, gives you an idea of the story... The Trojan War. And that's just Simmons' launching pad. Proust's philosophy, Shakespeare's sonnets, terraforming, quantum physics, cybernetics, space-time travel, little green men, the educated American's suburban world view of a 1940's baby boomer, fate, destiny, The Odyssey, The Tempest, the future of humanity, and the age old question "What does it mean to be a man?" all figure into this epic. Mythology and Space Opera... it's like Mythic Opera.

I whole heartedly recommend, endorse, acclaim, vouch for, and generally, uh, put in a good word for Ilium.

I don't understand Tolstoy or Dickens. They bore me. Truly. Ilium is broader is scope and has more endearing characters than War and Peace. Ilium raises more concern for characters and more demands on humanity than A Tale of Two Cities. On the other hand, Olympos, Simmon's sequel to Ilium, just did not possess the same pathos or pace... maybe that's because he was wrapping up instead of unwrapping shiny possibilities.

Hyperion is the only other Simmons book I've read. Very ambitious. There's a lot of meat on this bone. A combination of hard sci-fi, space opera, The Canterbury Tales, the later life of John Keats, alien intelligence, planetary sentience... I think knowing there were three more books in the series, while still being confused about the plot and the general story and the fact that there are always more books I want to read, allowed me to not pick up the sequel.
I read Summer of Night back in the 90s and really enjoyed it at the time as he was able to portray the wonder and energy of youth very well. Well recommended of you enjoy the horror genre.
The Terror crew probable died because of Lead poisoning.
This came from eating tinned food.
The tins were very large and their lids sealed with lead solder.

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