After reading this book I understood that the stories of the pilgrims of the first part, "Hyperion", work as a clever device to reveal to the reader the magnificent and intriguing universe that Simmons has created for this series. If you finished
the first book with a feeling of disconnection between the stories, like I did, this is the part where all is blended together. The different patches are stitched together and the whole plot is laid before your eyes in all its complexity.
The scope of the story suddenly expands and it deals now with nothing less than the surviving of the human race. Difficult decisions affecting the destinies of entire worlds have to be made by leaders on the basis of insufficient and unreliable information. War rages. What is the role of the planet Hyperion and the shrike on this grand scale drama? Who can you trust?
The story offers some very interesting and not so obvious twists at the end. It has a sense of closure, but not all the issues are resolved. Actually, I think that the main issue is merely postponed to a time deep in the future of which we are offered only glimpses.
At times the story is difficult to follow because the pilgrims are split. Then we follow one of them for a while, and when
something extremely important seems to be about to happen... we shift to another pilgrim or subplot and start accumulating tension again. This format has the advantage, though, that it adds some suspense, and I liked it.
I assume that if you are considering reading this book is because you have read the first one. Go ahead! It will answer some of the many questions you must have. In case you have not read the first part, I do not think this second part is a stand-alone book; you need the background of "Hyperion".