on April 15, 2004
I am currently in the grips of the Shrike after reading this book. Unfortunately, I was not one of the wise ones who read the other reviews which suggested having the sequel, FALL OF HYPERION, ready to go. After finishing HYPERION in 3 days, I am desperate to rush out and get its sequel so I can find out what happens to the characters that I'd grown to love.
Everything everyone says is true. HYPERION is a well-written sci-fi book with technology, futuristic ideas, and moral questions that fire the brain cells the way I like my good sci-fi to!
I stumbled through Chaucer's CANTERBURY TALES in High School and cannot make a good comparison to it here. Apparently, author Dan Simmons took some inspiration from the classic poem.
HYPERION succeeds because of the expert character development. These seven pilgrims have distinct personalities that grow on you. Simmons tells his tale (actually seven of them!) through flashback. But Simmons does it the old fashioned way: he tells us tales around the campfire! Each of the seven pilgrims has a reason for being on the journey to HYPERION. Therefore each gets his/her own space (i.e. "The Soldier's Tale", "The Priest's Tale", "The Detective's Tale") As you get further into the book, some of the tales intersect, revealing the deeper mysteries of the story.
Simmons also explores time, which is such a fun sci-fi genre to mess with. A particularly moving Tale involves aging backward.
Well, I have to cut this short -- I must rush to the bookstore to buy the second book. I hope you all feel the same as me after you read HYPERION!
on April 12, 2004
Hyperion is the story, set about 700 years in the future, of a pilgrimage to a world called Hyperion and a mysterious creature known as the Shrike. The Shrike is a mysterious entity, the center of an apocalyptic cult, of great power and danger, but entirely unkown nature and objectives. It is linked to a group of equally mysterious structures on Hyperion, the Time Tombs, which appear to be moving backwards, rather than forwards through time. The events take place against a backdrop of a developing galactic war between the two subcultures of the human race that have evolved over centuries since the destruction of Earth.
As the pilgrims travel to Hyperion, each tells their story and recounts how their life has been touched, in some way, by Hyperion, the Shrike, or the Tombs. The tales, the first one told by a poet, are an obvious nod to Chaucer. There are many other allusions as well, particularly to the great romantic poet John Keats, who is a character in this book and actually the main character in 'The Fall of Hyperion'. (Keats wrote two long works, Hyperion and Endymion, each focussing on the mythical war in which Zeus overcame Cronos and rose to the top of the divine heirarchy.)
Each of the individual tales, on its own, is effective. Each also has a different style - the poet, Martin Selenus, uses an overblown heroic style to tell his story, the detective speaks in the voice of a noir crime novel, etc. Together the tales form a complex web in which, the more we learn, the more questions we have.
This is the first novel in a series of four, and readers shoud be aware that it doesn't really stand on its own. This book and "The Fall of Hyperion" form a complete story, as do "Endymion" and "The Rise of Endymion", set about 250 years later. But none of the four can really be read alone. The four together form a work closing in on 3,000 pages, but are in this case the scope of the story well matches that great length. This is one of the best SF series ever written, quite possibly the very best.
on March 23, 2004
The book is composed of essentially what serves as an introduction to a journey by seven pilgrims and continues in their individual stories of how they got chosen for the pilgrimage, plus a few chapters to describe their arrival to their destination. Those that read this one should know the next Hyperion book is set elsewhere, and it's The Fall of Hyperion, book three that finishes the stories of these characters as well as taking off where book two left.
Few science fiction books have been literary by any standard but Simmons does not fall too short. In fact I wouldn't think it's too much to say this is the scifi equivalent of JRR Tolkien's Lord of The Rings, with rich language, evocative descriptions, even some poetry although it's best not to delve deep into that; let's just say Tolkien was hardly that dead serious of his either.
The start of the book felt somewhat average until it got to the pilgrims' stories. You truly relate to them, and their accounts make fascinating short stories with various themes, bound together by the larger storyline. All the characters are far from cliched and have quite powerful contradictions - their inner demons - within what first appears one dimensional.
Overall it is a great opening for the series, but the quality of the writing actually manages to improve in the following books. If you consider this impressive by scifi standards, wait until you get to Fall of Hyperion.
on February 19, 2004
I'll admit that when I first read Dan Simmons "Hyperion," I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I had read it on the recommendation of an English teacher, and I could immediately recognize the talent the author demonstrated, but it took a few weeks before I realized how much I had enjoyed the read. The prose is beautifully crafted. It flows almost lyrically, with vivid imagery supporting an amazingly creative plot (which, by the way, is a loose parallel to "Canterbury Tales"). It is filled with more allusions and references than you can believe, but it isn't written in a style that leaves you feeling lost if you miss one or don't know what is being alluded to. I caught lots, but I'm sure there were just as may more that I read without even recognizing.
"Hyperion" is an English teacher's dream, ripe with all of the classical elements of rich literature, but manages that without becoming a student's nightmare of boring, dry plot and 19th century diction that unfortunately seems to characterize so many such 'literary' books. This book is certainly science fiction, but remains clear of the pitfalls that turn many people away from the genre. The characters are well-developed and the reader has no trouble at all empathizing with them.
As a stand-alone novel, Hyperion could survive as an admirable work, though one with an abrupt and hardly satisfactory conclusion, but more importantly, it is the entry point to the Hyperion series, which is nothing short of an absolute masterpiece.
on February 18, 2004
As is perhaps clear by most people, Hyperion is the first book out of four book strong quartet: Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and Rise of Endymion.
Placed in a distant future, the four books are actually two inter-connected stories set about 200 years apart:
Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion deals with an inter-galactic war between Humanity of the Hegemony, an advanced galactic civilisation supported by autonomous AI (the techno core), and with travel between planets through instant farcasters. The politics within the Hegemony are incredibly complex, and everything is complicated by two factors: the mysterious and genetically evolved Ousters, known as barbarians to the hegemony, and the mysterious Shrike in the Valley of the Time Tomb. Everything in the Hegemony is planned and checked by the aid of the techno core, but Hyperion defies any clear analysis. All that is known is that a mysterious structure in the Valley of the Time Tombs are travelling backwards in time from the far-far distant future with a terrible message. As Hyperion stands in the balance as the universe is on the verge of intergalactic war between the Ousters, the Hegemony and the AI, a band of pilgrims are selected in order to secure the time tombs and solve its mysteries before it is too late.
In Endymion and Rise of Endymion, the story continues in the much-changed universe as it has become, in the aftermath of the conflicts of the first two books.
Reviewers typically focuses on the action in Hyperion, which is understandable, and some questions the length and level of detail. The reason for the structure of the book - six of seven pilgrims telling their tale as they travel towards the time tombs - is that not only are their stories interwoven into a larger scheme: through their stories hints are given to the reader to solve the actual and even bigger mysteries of the four stories...
And this is what makes the Hyperion quartet such an incredibly rewarding reading experience. I have read all four books two times, and still I am amazed at Simmon's ability to keep track of his story. As a reader, you are introduced to the universe at the same time as you are introduced to the mystery of the universe. As it turns out, the universe itself and the destiny of mankind through incredibyle subtle and oftentimes brutal warfare and struggles of both physical, mental and spiritual kind is the real mystery of the book.
Therefore, as an example, you actually cannot understand the full significance of the Labyrinth worlds of Armaghast, the heretic heroism of Father Duré, the apparently dumb and mindless Bikura, and the apparent innocence of Lenar Hoyt - which all appears in the story of the first pilgrim - untill you notice how the many different peaces fit into the overall scheme. The very fact that they both appear in book three and four, suffering a terrible fate, is a hint as to how subtle everything works out.
It is therefore more appropriate to see Hyperion as an ouverture and a laying out of the pieces to the first mysteries. Entertaining in and of itself but containg clues to the real and horrible and thrilling story that is the true mover of the four books.
Simmons must be given a cadeau for being able to keep track of his story. That alone needs sheer genius. That he manages to keep track of it and resolve most of it (!) by the end of book four, makes this a born classic.
Buy them - and enjoy a mindblowing trip into a possible future for mankind.
on February 11, 2004
This book, as the first in a series of four, sets the tone for what becomes a very lofty struggle that embodies the very nature of humanity in a future time where individuals are becoming less and less human. The tale is thoughtfully woven as a tapestry of interconnected events in the lives of a set of pilgrims on a journey to the most remote reaches of the Hegemony of Man (very Chaucer-esque). Along the way, we learn how each pilgrim's piece of the puzzle fits into the whole of the group, and gradually we uncover a bit of the mythos that surrounds the world of Hyperion, and how it seems that, despite its remoteness, it is at the center of everything.
For these books, I can think of no one more apt to describe the worlds that he has created. In much the same way that Frank Herbert created the desolation of Arrakis, Simmons manufactures plants, animals, and breeds of people to populate his fantastic section of the galaxy. In this way, he generates a certain depth to the book that exists because there is nothing overlooked. As with all great science fiction, he takes the high road and doesn't dumb the book down by writing it for a 20th (or 21st) century reader by explaining every nuance and term used in the book. In fact, over the course of the four book series, there are quite a few things that are never explained, but would logically be perfectly clear to someone who lived during the times covered in the books. This, in my opinion, really gives the book a sense of time and story that comes through as a mature writing style.
This is a series of books that I reread on a fairly regular basis, and the stories are never far from my mind. Highly recommended for a lifetime of enjoyment.
on January 26, 2004
Excellent. Hard scifi.
As they make their way toward the Shrike and the Time Tombs, on the planet Hyperion, six characters tell their individual stories. Each of them have been altered by the mysteries of Hyperion in his/her own, unique way, and now they have been called by the Shrike church to make a pilgrimage to the Shrike.
Each story is fascinating, and often macabre and tragic.
As we hear the stories one by one, we also get to know more and more of the universe in which our characters live. The introduction to the universe is painless, and integrated seamlessly into the tales.
And the universe is magnificently constructed. A Hegemony of mainstream humanity, guided/used by a Core of Artificial Intelligence. There is a description of interacting with the AI Core in a manner similar to that popularized recently in the Wachowski brothers' "Matrix" movies. There is a population of humans evolving separately, the "ousters", feared and fought by the Hegemony. Both groups left Earth many centuries ago (the "Hegira"). The Hegemony worlds are connected by instantaneous-travel portals. But to reach non-Hegemony worlds, such as Hyperion, one has to do real near-light-speed travel, with the corresponding relativistic effect of aging slower than the people on the planets.
Human nature and capitalistic greed haven't changed much. The Hegemony civilization trashes the environment and life of new planets, and exploits populaces as it expands. Lower classes continue to live miserable lives, in underground slums. There is a rich crime under-world. Publishers continue to exploit poets.
The future-view is eurocentric, but not excessively. Among the pilgrims, there is a palestinian and a jew, and a most important character, the Consul, appears to be of Pacific Island ancestry. In fact, the colonization of the Pacific Islands happens again in this far future, as the Consul's native Maui-Covenant planet is incorporated into the Hegemony. There is an Indian planet and an East Asian planet, and many references from non-White cultures --the Hegira, the Benares, goondas, maybe other references that I've missed.
Other than human nature and imperialism, the story is also -- quite surprisingly -- about poetry.
And finally the question -- which of the six stories did I like best? I thought for a long time and couldn't come up with an answer. They are all excellent. The Scholar's tale is maybe the saddest on a personal scale. The detective's tale introduces us to Hegemony technologies and the AI core.
Maybe the Consul's story is the saddest of all, on a global scale. It expresses the author's idea that imperialism and genocide are fundamental to human civilizations. And just as Whites have crushed the rest of us here on Earth today, so will dominant cultures continue to scr_w others, for eternity.
on January 13, 2004
Hyperion is an SF homage to "Cantenbury tales". Six people are travelling together and tell each over their stories, which brought them to the trip. It sounds simple but isn't. The stories are all different and each of them is great. It's not obviouse at first, but these tales represent the evolution of SF. We have a lost diary kind of horror story, not unlike Lovecraft, then there is military SF in the vein of "Starship Troopers" or Gordon R.Dicksons' Dorsai novels then ... well, maybe you'd better find out by yourself.
The world of this novel is very well written and it feels like a real future, not some stock footage you find in many other novels. There was a lot of thought put into the universe of this book.
Hyperion is followed by 3 more books - Fall of Hyperion, Endimion, Rise of Endimion. Many readers were put back by a complete change of style in the second book. So you'd better be ready for a VERY different second novel, which is still good.
The Hyperion cantos is one of the definate SF cycles of the late 20th century. If you read even a bit of SF (and judging by your being on this page you do), you should take a trip to this world.
It is definetly up there with "Dune", "Foundation" and a couple of others.
on December 22, 2003
Like another recent reviewer, I discovered this book purely by accident. I'm not much of a sci-fi buff, and was expecting a "trashy novel" (which I happened to be in the mood for). It definitely was not that; but while I enjoyed it -- and the whole series, twice -- immensely, I thought it had enough problems to warrant 4 stars.
The six vignettes that make up the bulk of this volume are all fascinating: I found the scholar's tale to be by far the most moving, and the priest's to be the most interesting and most disturbing. They serve as excellent vehicles for fleshing out the characters (though the priest -- perhaps the shallowest character -- is fleshed out more by implication).
The poetic allusions are a little heavy-handed, and sometimes feel contrived, though they can be of interest to literary devotees. And one weakness that appears through all the Hyperion books (with the possible exception of Endymion): the ending is rather trite, and unnecessarily so. It wouldn't be a huge problem, except that it becomes disproportionately noticable given its high-visibility position. Simmons's style seems to employ a tasteful amount of camp (if that makes sense) generally; endings may be the exception to this rule.
The book's strength is, as with science fiction generally, in my experience, as a thought experiment that happens to be a novel. As becomes increasingly apparent in later books in the series, the man vs. machine theme is central, and handled far more competently than, say, the way it was handled in the recent Matrix movies. Of course, the Shrike is more thought experiment than character, but an engaging one. Environmentalist topics are dealt with as well, and in an ingenious enough way that someone not sympathetic to environmentalism (e.g., me) will give the subject a new think.
on September 23, 2003
Well, no. Not a classic. It's a cut above most science fiction, and occasionally it rises to the best quality, as in "The Scholar's Tale," in which Simmons looks at how the parent and child relationship could be reversed in a really astonishing way. But not a classic. I'm not saying that Simmons isn't capable of writing a classic, but he hasn't written one yet.
For all the irritatingly self-conscious "literariness" of this book, it's really very old-fashioned science fiction, and it has the vices and virtues of old-fashioned science fiction. The vices: the characters are wooden and stereotyped. There's not a trace of real cultural difference or sensitivity: all these characters are actually present-day Americans hastily dressed up as denizens of the future. The plot is extravagant: the fate of mankind is in the balance, of course. business as usual. The virtues: there is sometimes in Hyperion the real "let's turn the universe on its head and see what falls down!" experimentation, the "visions of the future" kind of science fiction. The dystopian elements are nicely done. Is it the barbarians or the forces of civilization that are threatening humanity? Is the destructive impulse of humanity really its salvation, really its creative impulse? Simmons runs with these as far as any classic science fiction ever did.
I haven't yet read the Fall of Hyperion -- and I plan to, so you can see that I can't be all that disappointed -- so some twists of the plot are yet to be untwisted. I may be favorably surprised. But some things can't be recovered from. The "poet" figure is a disaster from start to finish, a hackneyed comic-book version of the foul-mouthed hard-drinking artist, and the supposed insight of his tale -- that lust, the creation of art, and predation have something, vaguely, to do with each other -- is hardly late-breaking news even within the precincts of science fiction. The "soldier" is equally pointless. There's an awful lot of blood and gore mixed up with sex, which is at least thematic, here, but I still don't like it. The end of the book -- as noted in many reviews -- is really just a "to be continued": but having these people suddenly singing and skipping down the yellow brick road was an awful, awful mistake. There was supposed to be a sort of Zorba-dancing feel to it, I guess, but it gave more the feel of an motiveless authorial freak. None of these people is the "ah, hell, let's dance!" type.
So what worked well? The "framed tales" worked really surprisingly well, actually catching some of that strange, indirect narrative force that Chaucer managed to harness. Every once in a while one of Simmons' arch turns comes off and is hilarious -- when he suddenly dropped into the style and plot of the hard-boiled detective story for "the Detective's Tale" I actually laughed aloud.
What this author needs -- and, sadly, what he's terribly unlikely to get -- is a ruthless editor who will stop him in his tracks and say, "is this particular arch turn worth trashing the mood of the story?" and "what really is the heart of this story, and how does this episode take us deeper into it?" Until he gets that sort of discipline either from the inside or the outside, we'll be getting, not classics, but clever pastiche.