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on September 11, 1998
This is not a review of "Hyperion", per se. It is, instead, a summation of what I consider to be the strengths and shortcomings of a critically- and reader-acclaimed science fiction series.
If I were to advise a reader, my advice would be that they acquire and read the first two novels ("Hyperion" and "Fall Of Hyperion") in succession. It is my opinion that the tertiary and quaternary novels are fundamentally weaker than the primary and secondary, to the extent that they actually cause harm to the narrative. I evaluate the "Hyperion" series as two two-book series'; the first series being "Hyperion" and "Fall Of Hyperion", and the second series being "Endymion" and "Rise Of Endymion". I'll refer to them as the "Hyperion books" and "Endymion books" hereafter.
The "Hyperion books" stand, in my estimation, with classics such as "Dune" and "The Hobbit" in their conception and realization of potential realities. The "Hyperion books" have consistently enthralled me, even after repeated readings, and I value that experience. When I discover new plot points in a book after the fiftieth reading, I believe that points to the author's command of meta-threads within the narrative. The narrative has not fundamentally changed, but the overarching framework that contains the narrative threads has evolved, and presents new opportunities for intellectual ferment. If I were to give them a rating, it would be four and a half stars; there are some fundamental weaknesses in linking the narratives and in character reasoning that stop the "Hyperion books" short of a five-star ranking.
Now, the "Endymion books".
"Puagh. Vomit.", to quote John Ashbery.
Well, perhaps not THAT bad. But, still. To be blunt, the "Endymion books" ___ by comparison to their predecessors. The character development is weak, the narrative veers from mildly interesting to Barnum and Bailey "I Gotcher Suspension Of Disbelief Right Here Behind The Egress" outrageousness, and the precise, complex and highly developed feel of the "Hyperion books" is almost entirely absent. In general, I don't recommend that readers who adore the "Hyperion books" continue with the "Endymion books" because, like I said, the narrative is actually damaged by the "Endymion books". If I were to rate the "Endymion books", I would give them a two-star rating. And a healthy "Puagh".
I think the best way to sum up how I feel about the series as a whole is as follows: "Hyperion" and "Fall Of Hyperion" are brilliant, and well worth reading for any fan of science fiction. "Endymion" and "Rise Of Endymion" are like books adapted from screenplays; you suspect them of being capable of much more than they deliver. They are what they are, though; and, for me, it's more fun to imagine what they could have been than to read their rather disappointing reality.
Buy "Hyperion" and "Fall Of Hyperion". Borrow "Endymion" and "Rise Of Endymion". And then write a review so that we can all argue with you.
Thanks for reading,
Ashton Treadway END
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on May 17, 2003
Most importantly, understand that this is NOT a complete story in itself. It is the first book in a series, and it ends very, very abruptly. This was my only problem with it, though a big problem. I've been an avid reader of scifi since I was in elementary school, and I can definitely say this was one of the best I've ever read. The writing itself was superb: clever and often humorous. The plotting could serve as a textbook for a novel-writing course, perfectly planned and executed. The characters were varied and reasonably believable. The author's imagination was incredible. He came up with worlds, societies, and situations that were mind-boggling. By the time I was 90% of the way through the book, I was ready to pronounce it perhaps the best novel I'd ever read. Then it stopped. Dead. It just ended. None of the myteries were solved or explained. None of the questions were answered. It felt like the author had been tragically killed, and the publisher just went with what was finished of the manuscript. So be prepared.
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on June 20, 2003
I can understand why this book won the Hugo. I just don't happen to agree. This book is a strange amalgam of originality and confusion, exotic imagery in the service of melodrama, bold visions in search of meaning. It tries for, but falls short of real depth.
I admired it for its spunk, its willingness to take risks, its determination to say something. But, in the final analysis, it is a failure: a respectable failure perhaps, but a failure nonetheless.
This is the sort of work where the writer leaves things ambiguous to afford us the freedom to reach our own conclusions. Normally, I would be beside myself with joy. Most writers do not respect their readership enough to take such chances, and to happen upon such boldness is a cause for celebration. If daring were the only criterion for good SF, Hyperion would constitute greatness.
But there is more to science fiction than daring. For one thing, there must be a sensible and coherent vision: something that aims for the mind and not just the heart, or in this author's case, the gut. This book fails because it suffers from a case of intellectual dissipation. The various episodes are almost sessions of free association. Only the most superficial threads connect the various stories. The common world that the characters share is made up on the fly; contrived as a vehicle for what is basically a pastiche of personal horror stories. This is simply unjustifiable self-indulgence on the part of the author.
There is also a self-conscious cleverness about the writing that is extremely annoying. One can almost see the author congratulating himself as he tweaks this particular symbolism, or that particular allusion. 'I've just likened the Ousters to heaven, and the Technocore to hell. Ain't I clever?' Or: 'marvel at how neatly I subvert the crucifix icon.'
What this book lacks is self-discipline. The author is so enamoured of his bold visions, that he throws them all into the book like a vegetable stew. The book would have been far more effective had the author resisted the temptation to overdose on originality and sacrificed some of his exotic ideas for the sake of structure and coherency.
This book reads more like a fantasy novel than a work of science fiction. Fantasy is a genre much more forgiving of undisciplined flights of fancy. Science fiction demands form and precision: more like to classical than to jazz.
It is obvious that many readers have enjoyed this novel, so I am not about to tell you that you won't. But it isn't the masterpiece that some would have you believe. It is interesting, provocative and disquieting, but at the end of the day, it leaves one feeling unfulfilled. This is a failing that exists not so much in the heart of the novel as in its mind-space, and limits its accomplishments to the level of the superficial.
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on July 12, 2002
One of the things that I find pretty hard to do is review a book that I partially dislike. It is even harder to write about a book that I thought it could have been a masterpiece. Well, "Hyperion" is that type of book.
Simmons is without a doubt a talented writer with a fertile imagination but he has a series of conscious vices that thwart this book. The strong point of "Hyperion" is definitively its structure. Simmons uses the style of Chaucer's classic, 'Tales of Canterbury' as a reference where each individual in a voyage narrates its personal story and the reasons for taking a common voyage (thus we get The Priest's Tale, The Poet's Tale, The Colonel's Tale, and so on.). Most of the stories are interesting and build tension in an impressive way. The Priest's and The Scholar's tales are my favorites but found all of them to be well developed (they are not short stories, all have their own theme and style) and to have sufficient weight by itself. Also, the manner in which the stories end converge in the reasons of each individual to take the voyage to the dreaded "Tombs Of Time".
So far, I will say this is a masterpiece...but unfortunately it is not. The simple reason is that instead of writing a fine piece of speculative fiction, Simmons diverged and in some places (few but very intense) thought he was writing a pulp horror story. This is no surprise as horror is Simmons' main writing field. The result is that we get a series of gratuitous descriptions of bad taste violence that do not add anything to the story. The scenes could remain there but the way Simmons likes to describe them, slow and with painful detail is simply annoying and without any constructive or literary purpose, other than satisfying the cheap market which cries for that type of graphical violence. On a more personal ground I also found quite viscous the way Simmons negatively pictures the Catholic Church which he certainly seem to personally dislike (despise?), thus giving a superficially non-objective and immature perspective.
The book is non conclusive in itself as there is a direct sequel ( "The Fall Of Hyperion" ) and two other related books ( "Endymion" and "The Rise Of Endymion" ),
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on March 13, 2001
In our distant future, galactic war has broken out, and the computers that run our society have begun to plot against us. All eyes now turn to Hyperion, a mysterious planet which holds the fate of mankind.
Seven pilgrims have been chosen to make a final journey to Hyperion because of their remarkable connections with the planet and its horrific protector- the Shrike! Prepare to be blown away as each of the pilgrims share their bewildering tales, and try to solve this great riddle.
That is pretty much all this book is- a very complex collection of short stories, which serve to 'set the stage' for the concluding novel, FALL OF HYPERION. But don't get me wrong... This is an outstanding book, for each of these short stories is so unique and riveting- you will be left in awe! Simmons has combined action, mystery, horror, and futuristic fantasy with outstanding ability. One of the tales in particular, was so heart-wrenching that I almost had to put the book down!
Hyperion has won the Hugo Award for a reason, and it is definitely a must for any fan of fantasy and sci-fi. I would say it compares quite admirably with the original Foundation Trilogy- Highly recommended!
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on July 23, 2000
Travelers, well met- each with an agenda; each with a tale to tell-... So much of classic literature begins in such a way. Put 1200 years between Geoffrey Chaucers' and Dan Simmons' narrator's , tweak the political intrigues of the eras, and change the names of the guilty to misdirect the innocent... Well, there it is. Except it most definitely is NOT. The core of humanity itself has undergone a root transformation in HYPERION. The masters of fate are no longer the Priests of Rome, but the Technocore..(singular, plural, plurosingular?) The Hegemony of Man has sold itself out for a set of calculations to divine the future. The catch?.. The sellers have to do all the work to destroy themselves! Oh, they don't know this even though the final blow is coming without stealth. The Hegemony is warring with a bunch of radicals called "Ousters" and each blow is being looked over Olympus-like by the AI Technocore. The Technocore is itself fragmented into groups that favor the eradication of Man or the preservation of the status quo, or a wait-and see attitude. The tales and those who tell them make the best of this work. The four books together will, I'm sure weave all these plots together. It takes time my fellow readers! This will probably be the most personal of the set. I liked it, even though I have not a inkling what the Shrike may be, or how it's church arose. I can't wrap my head around the time tombs or some of the weird things in the travelers stories. I have a lot of respect for Dan Simmons. I like his work, his style and his mind. Anyone who can use L. Frank Baum like a guerrilla tactic...well... Now you gotta read it.
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on July 8, 2003
Dan Simmons created a masterpiece of literature in writing Hyperion. The book brings together seven pilgrims, who make the journey to the planet Hyperion in order to come face to face with the notorious and god-like Shrike. Each of the pilgrims has his/her own reason for being on the trip, and Simmons allows each pilgrim to tell his tale in his/her own style. It is the diversity of this story telling that makes it clear Simmons is a master of literature.
Slowly but surely, the reader begins to tie elements of the stories together, neatly woven to give you pieces of the puzzle, without giving away the answer. It is part of the beauty, and part of my sheer frustration, that the story really does not have an ending - rather the book finishes when the pilgrims reach their initial goal, which is to find the Shrike and the Tombs.
Once there, the question is, now what? Each pilgrim had a reason for coming, but how will they solve their individual dilemnas; what do they think the Shrike can (if he will) do about it; and most of all, why is Hyperion of such pertinent interest to the CEO of the entire Galaxy - or at least the planets that are connected to the web of technology.
The answers, like the book and its sequel, are complex. You have to read Fall of Hyperion for a satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless, the sheer beauty of this literature is astounding and deserves more than five stars.
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on October 20, 2002
After reading all the other reviews on this excellent and frustrating novel, I tried to think of anything I could add that hadn't already been said. Although I am probably repeating someone else's words anyway, it is this: you will be sorry if you never experienced the fantastic worlds therein.
Hyperion is but one world in the midst of a gorgeous mess of a universe conceived by Dan Simmons. The plot, which roughly mirrors The Canterbury Tales' format, involves the telling of personal stories from the points of views of six pilgrims visiting Hyperion. Each knows that there is a probable chance that he will die without ever having his request granted by the Shrike, a menacing creature/machine which seems to exist for no other purpose than to randomly murder people on Hyperion and which can travel through time and space masterfully well. As the pilgrims' tales unfold, information about this future Hegemony of human planets and the circumstances surrounding it starts to leak out and simultaneously reels the reader in. Frankly, I was sorry to leave Simmons' seductive world-building more than the characters themselves.
I purposely did not read the Fall of Hyperion sequel, which many others say is necessary to understand Hyperion's events, because I wanted to review this as a stand alone novel. This can be a very confusing book without those latter reveleations, but it stands well indeed. Read it if you are more than a little adventurous and enjoy a satisfying mystery with your sci fi action.
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on June 4, 1998
This is without doubt one of the best books I have ever read. The plot is gripping, because even though it is not necessarily action packed (which nothing needs to be) it can still hold the reader's attention with brilliant writing, likable characters, and a great mystery, the Shrike. I'd like to see a review giving me one character with a better combination of chill and mystery than the Shrike, one of the best characters in the book. I liked most of the stories, my favorite one being the Consul's betrayls for Maui Covenant, and how he is then forced to do something as punishment... I won't give it away. The end left me rushing to "The Fall of Hyperion" to see what would happen next! I don't understand the 1's and 2's that were given. Possibly too intellectual for them. The only reason I didn't give this book a 10 is because I don't give books 10's yet. When I'm about to croak I'll think of what books deserve 10's, but this is sure to be one of them. Not as full of action, and different kinds of character situations than "Ender's Game," another one of my favorite books.
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on September 12, 1998
Dan Simmons has truly astounded me. Never before have I seen so many Science-Fiction themes interwoven in a single book. Truly told, before reading it I would have been convinced such a feat would be impossible without the majority of it being dedicated to mere description of the themes as opposed to actual plot development; Hyperion is not merely a guidebook to the wonders and threats of the future -- it is a tale that makes the future a living, breathing being as seen through the all-too-mortal eyes of very real characters.
Simmon's characters demand the life he has given them. As I read I could almost sense their living breathing souls hovering at the periphery of each page; bearing themselves to me through the small portal of print in my hand. Indeed, even had there been no overlying plot, the character sketches Simmons provides have such rich detail and life that they almost need no cohesive bond between themselves.
Yet this book -does- have an underlying story that itself is just as well conceived as even the characters involved!
I've read Asimov, Heinlein, Brin, Herbert, Zelanzy, Niven and countless others. This work truly is among the finest (if not THE finest) Science Fiction tales ever conceived.
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