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Hyperion, Dan Simmons

2013/03/21

This is actually a reflection on both “Hyperion” and “The Fall of Hyperion,” which the author has mentioned were indeed intended to be published together, but page count resulted in them being published in separate volumes. As I approach the final quarter of the NPR Reader’s Choice Sci-Fi and Fantasy — now almost two years old! — I’m getting into the books I’ve put off reading for one reason or another. I’m finding that I don’t finish many of these, or if I do, I don’t continue on with the series. However, I ended up reading both of these, though finding a copy of “Fall” was a little tricky.

It’s the 28th century, and the human race has permeated the galaxy using FTL ships and farcasters, a network of instant travel portals, a technology which has allowed humans to colonize dozen of planets. In “Hyperion,” the backstories of the main characters is told by each; they have come together on a mission to the Time Tombs on Hyperion, which is reported to be guarded by a creature called the Shrike, which has a religious following. The travelers collectively (more or less) decide that sharing their stories will help them better understand the situation at hand. The characters are varied — a Catholic priest, a Mars-born soldier, a brain-damaged poet, a Jewish scholar and his Time Tomb afflicted daughter, a private investigator, and a governor formerly of one of the colonized planets. These stories take up the bulk of the first novel, and in “Fall,” having arrived at the Time Tombs, the plot begins to unfold, complicated by the presence of the Shrike, the opening of the Time Tombs, and an attack on the human Hegemony society by the rebellious Ouster society. The CEO of the Hegemony, a woman named Meina Gladstone, is forced to confront and evaluate not only the activities on Hyperion, but the impeding destruction threatened by the Oursters, being advised by a reactive and fearful senate.

I’m not really sure if “like” is the proper word for how I feel about this book — horrified, enthralled, repelled, angered, confused, and frustrated are all true as well. In particular, Father Dure’s torment, Rachel Weintrub’s affliction with backwards aging, and Meina Gladstone’s political turmoil all provoked strong emotional reactions. The fallout of decisions made towards the end of the novel and the impact that these had on the various Hegemony societies was really interesting, especially looking at modern parallels in our current reliance on technologically aided communication and commerce. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth a read.

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