I’m slowly working through The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and I feel it’s appropriate to revisit the first book, Hyperion, before I review the second book.
First off, I have to say that Hyperion, the 1989 Hugo winner, was one of those watershed SciFi books for me. It was so engaging and so well written it fits more as good literature than a mere genre tale.
Hyperion is the story of a mysterious god machine called the Shrike that lives on the world Hyperion. Humanity is confronted by a great enemy that is threatening its destruction. They send 7 representatives to meet the Shrike and plead with it to save humanity. The one problem is that the Shrike rarely lets pilgrims leave alive, and often times are torn apart in the process.
On the journey to the Shrike each person recounts their tale of how they came to be there, and it is readily apparent that each person has a history with the machine. There is a priest, a poet, a soldier, a detective, a diplomat, a man with a diseased daughter, and a starship captain. Each persons story is vastly different, and the book as a whole proceeds in a series of vignettes to describe each person.
This book has often been called the Canterbury Tales of science fiction, and it’s easy to see why. The serial version of the novel makes for an engaging story, and keeps the reader’s attention. Dan Simmons, the author, takes it one step further and shows off his writing chops by making each story vastly different from each other in terms of tone, point of view, style, etc.
The poet’s story is full of flowery language and prose, with a little artistic arrogance thrown in. The soldier’s story has the sterile seriousness of even the best military fiction, just to illuminate the differences.
In the meantime, Simmons has created a fascinating backdrop for this story. Hyperion is a backwater world under the Hegemony of Man, the Shrike and massive continent wide fires keep many people away.
The universe as a whole is tied together by farcasters, people can walk from planet to planet while barely even noticing they’ve walked any distance at all. One could even have a house made of rooms from dozens of independent planets.
The enemy of man is a vast swarm of ships, populated by outcasts, who are coming to take vengeance on humanity. They are completely unreasonable, and outnumber the forces of men. Hence the need to visit the Shrike.
The biggest problem with Hyperion is that it ends too quickly and too suddenly, almost frustratingly so. The end of the book happens at one of the most intense points of the book, and the reader is left hanging.
Thankfully The Fall of Hyperion is there to cushion the fall.
Essentially, if you like SciFi, even in the slightest, you have to read this book. It’s just a must-read, period. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of all time.