Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
I've been neglecting the book blog thing lately. Well, it's not because I'm not reading anything.
Lately I've finally got around to reading Dan Simmons' books Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. These books were first published back around 1989 and 1990 but I have only become aware of Simmons recently. Last year I read his historical book The Terror about the ill-fated 19th Century Franklin expedition to find the North-West Passage. That book was simply stunning and was one of my three favourite novels that I read in 2008. (If you want to know the other two i can always post about them here.)
Anyway, back to Hyperion. The story is told across two books and you really need to read both to get the full story. I feel that calling The Fall of Hyperion a sequel is a bit inaccurate as it's actually where the real action happens after the sceen-setting in book 1.
The books have been compared to Dune. When I read that I got all sniffy as Dune is my favourite novel, but as it turns out it is the only appropriate comparison I can think of to describe the world-building of Simmons.
The books are set in the far future where the Hegemony of mankind is living a comfortable existence. Citizens are able to "farcast" across the "web", travelling light years in moments through star-gate type devices. Earth was abandoned centuries before after the Big Mistake, an accident with an artificial black hole. Sentient AIs reside in the mysterious TechnoCore and assist the humans when it suits them. And the Ousters are coming... They are an offshoot of humanity that have shunned the Hegemony and TechnoCore and have proved unbeatable in war.
Still with me?
The key to all this is the strange planet of Hyperion, a world that contains the "time tombs" which apparently move backwards in time. Also on the planet is the Shrike, a four-armed spiky killing machine that can move in the blink of an eye.
The first book deals with a number of pilgrims all going to Hyperion. At the start of the book they are all strangers and each takes his or her turn to tell the story of why they are going there. By the end of the book the reader has got to know these characters intimately and will have to go straight to book 2 to find out what happens next. (The fate of Rachel in particular had me on the edge of the seat chewing my nails and biting my lip at the same time.)
Book 2 then picks up the story and it's a full-on adventure space-opera with multiple viewpoints and shocks aplenty including the real face of the Ousters and the TechnoCore. Planets are burned to cinders and the CEO of the Hegemony has a difficult choice to make... You'll see!
Along the way we get discussions on the nature of God and meet the reincarnated 19th century poet John Keats.
Indeed it seems that much of the sequence, including the titles, are inspired by Keats.
If you like SF you have to read these books. And if you don't like SF read them anyway.
Endymion and The Rise of Endymion complete the story.
And a movie of the first two books is apparently in the works. Good luck to them!