Though I own a few Dan Simmons novels, I had yet to read the award-winning work which has become a genre landmark. My bad, I know. . . So when I was caught in a sudden downpour in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, like everyone else I ran for it and entered the first store I saw. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be a bookstore. Even better, I was running out of stuff to read. So I browsed around, waiting for the rain to stop. Perusing the SFF section, something drew my attention. I wasn't aware that Gollancz had released an Hyperion omnibus, and I needed very little convincing to purchase it.

Of course, I didn't get to read it till I was back home. But hey, what the heck? I bought it, so now I had to read Hyperion. I mean, when a science fiction work is compared to Frank Herbert's Dune in scope and originality, what else can one do!?!

Here's the blurb:

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope--and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

The structure of the narrative is extremely unusual. It works perfectly, mind you, but it does take a little while to get used to. Indeed, not much occurs in "real time" throughout the novel. Which is mostly due to the fact that Hyperion is nothing more than a vast introduction meant to present the protagonists and set up the various storylines for their culmination in The Fall of Hyperion. Hence, Hyperion is not so much about the pilgrims' journey to the Time Tombs and the Shrike. In the end, it's about each of the main character's back story, which elaborates on their reasons for becoming part of the pilgrimage to Hyperion.

This atypical structure also influences the rhythm of the novel. Depending on the back story in question, the pace will be crisp or sluggish. Again, it takes time to get used to this uncommon form of narrative. Yet Dan Simmons' evocative prose and multilayered tale sucks you in, and by the time you reach the second story, you are captivated.

The prologue captured my imagination and I was hooked from the get-go. Having said that, I did find the first back story, The Priest's Tale: "The Man who Cried God", to be slow and offputting. By far the least interesting storyline, but it did establish the reason behind the presence of Father Lenar Hoyt.

In the back stories that would follow, the characterization and worldbuilding are head and shoulders above basically every science fiction yarn you have ever read but the undisputed classics. The characters come alive and the universe is given shape through a narrative that creates an imagery which leaps off the pages. Believe me when I tell you that it doesn't get much better than this.

Colonel Fedmahn Kassad initially comes across as an unlikeable military man, but The Soldier's Tale: "The War Lovers" demonstrates just how fascinating a character he truly is. The same can be said of Martin Silenus' back story. The artist comes off as a complete jerk, but The Poet's Tale: "Hyperion Cantos" shows that there are more layers to him than meets the eye.

In The Scholar's Tale: "The River Lethe's Taste is Bitter", Sol Weintraub's back story regarding his daughter Rachel made my eyes water. This undeniably moving piece offered us a glimpse of a more humane side of Dan Simmons. In The Detective's Tale: The Long Good-Bye, Brawne Lamia's back story, quite entertaining in and of itself, is also the first real opportunity for readers to discover more about AIs and the TechnoCore. The Consul's Tale: Remembering Siri is another powerful piece about love and loyalty showcasing a deft human touch by the author.

My only complaint would have to be the fact that Hyperion is not truly a self-contained tale. It's the opening chapter of a much bigger story whose main purpose is to introduce the pilgrims and various concepts. Having said that, you nevertheless reach the end thinking that you have just read one of the very best scifi works ever written. Which bodes well indeed for The Fall of Hyperion.

Moving, thought-provoking, entertaining, astonishing; Hyperion is all that and more!

The final verdict: 9.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, AbeBooks

25 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

I really need to get my hands on this book. I just recently read Ilium and Olympos and LOVED them. Since so many people seem to sing the praises of Hyperion, I figure it must be better than Ilium...? Regardless, I enjoyed Ilium and Olympos so much I have to explore what else he can do.

Ted Cross said...

Dubrovnik! I took a trip there in 2004 and it is such an amazing place.

Like you, I have procrastinated on reading this, but only because I have so many great books on my shelf. I have the whole series; I should really get going on it, but I am reading The Road right now.

Anonymous said...

anything less that 10/10 is blaspheme! jk Pat, nice review. Keep up the good work. less us know what you think about The Fall of Hyperion

Unknown said...

Hyperion blows Ilium/Olympus out of the water. Not that they're not worth reading or are bad, but they're in distinctly different classes of quality.

Anonymous said...

The Endymion books are also available in an omnibus edition like this one. If you're reading Hyperion, you should definitely read that too. They're my favourite part of the four.

Simon said...

Interesting, I found The Priest's Tale ("The Man who Cried God") as the of all the tales. True, it starts slow but then it gets amazing. A great sf short story in its own right.

The Dude said...

Hyperion's structure is based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It's really amazing how well Simmons pulls it off.

The Fall of Hyperion takes a more traditional approach, but is just as good. They are by far the best science fiction novels I've ever read.

You might also try the Endymion duology after this. It takes place on the same universe as Hyperion, but about three hundred years later.

Simeon said...

Haha, told ya. I agree about the priest's story. It's not very cool that this is the first one in the book.

Also, Sarah, Ilium doesn't hold a candle to the glory of Hyperion ;)


Charity said...

Thank you for reminding me of this series. I remember reading somewhere, as the Dude says, that the structure was based on the Canterbury Tales. Reading this series was emotional and thought provoking, and those are things I love in my science fiction. It is also easily in my top ten as far as world building is concerned.

Now I think I need to go read it all again.

Unknown said...

I'm ashamed to say that while I own the book, I haven't read it yet; I bought it while in the middle of a series, and it's buried on my bookshelf somewhere. You've inspired me to dig it out and read it (once I'm finished the Avery Cates series, that is).

Jeff said...

I kind of hated Ilium. Despite some clever ideas, it seemed to me to largely be a Mary Sue story of Dan Simmons fantasizing about hooking up with Helen of Troy. For that reason, I didn't read Hyperion for so long. Big mistake.

Anonymous said...

I read Hyperion and Fall Of Hyperion when they were first released. One of my great joys is introducing this novel/series to my friends. Hyperion & Fall of Hyperion have been at the top of my favorite science fiction novels list ever since I read them. As for Ilium and Olympos I really loved them. They are not as good as Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion but when they came out it was great at the time to see Dan Simmons get back to his literary space opera antics once again.

Liviu said...

I read Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion in 1991 and Endymion and Rise of Endymion on publication and while I agree with the must-read status for anyone interested in epic sf, I had some issues with the series.

Hyperion is indeed as good as it gets and a stunning novel, but Fall of Hyperion while with great moments and a great duology ending just does not match it.

As a sucker for first person narration and with Raul Endymion such an endearing narrator, while Aenea is quite memorable too, I actually loved the Endymion duology more despite that it lacks the power of Hyperion.

But and that was a big one, the re-interpretation of the context of the series almost at right angles with what came before made re-reading Hyperion difficult

I would not say that Endymion ruined Hyperion since that novel is too powerful for that, but it definitely made it far less re-readable, so of less value for me at least.

Simeon said...

Personally, Ilium proved to me that Simmons doesn't always know what to do with his ideas. I think Endymion mostly ruined the worldbuilding of Hyperion, so I've never reread it. I prefer to disregard its existence.

Also, despite the difference in structure, Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion are actually one book split in two due to publishing reasons.

Unknown said...

please ignore the detractors of Endymion and Rise of Endymion. Read them and form your own opinion. i personally think Rise of Endymion is not only the best of the four but is bar none one of the post powerful pieces of fiction regardless of genre. Rise of Endymion ties every loose end together and will break your heart many times over.

machinery said...

i read the first of the 4 books.
i should return to the rest i guess.
it's not that great, but worth some time i guess.
one thing i hated, though, was the emphasis of the author on poets as if they are the greatest minds on earth.
please, do me a favor, dan simmons, go throw yourself in a lake and talk about poetry ...

Simeon said...

Yeah, may I smirkingly suggest that there's no point in you returning to the series.

machinery said...

roland, oh for shame, what shall i do with your scathing words ???

please , do me a favor, go read poetry and pretend that you're inetelectualy superior to a chipmunk.

patrick, why is it that people here ATTACK others for having a different opinion ?
did i attack any poster here ?
do i not have a right to despise certain authors and their work, as u often do here ?

Simeon said...

Although I am not Pat, I think I could answer your question. You do have all those rights, Sir, and more besides! Yet, I also have the right to comment on how you choose to exercise them.

I do not read poetry. I'm not smart enough for it and it doesn't work for me, most of the time. I do, however, read SFF. A lot. Have done so for decades. Thus my reaction to your post. Please, do feel free to be as outraged as you wish.


machinery said...

roland, what i don't understand about people LIKE YOU who attack first and justify themselves later is :
why bother ?
why bother attacking someone you don't even know for having an opinion you disagree with dislike ?
you're a child when you act like that.
and at my 34 years of age, i have been reading sff for 20 years.
i have matured in the genre, i like what i like and the opposite.

but even 50 years from now and how know how many books more, i still won't attack someone like that.

but i guess you need to learn this eventualy.

Anonymous said...

Endymion was truly horrifying. I am going to reread the Hyperion next month and simply pretend that the Endymion books never existed. They are bad enough to truly prevent a reader from enjoying the Hyperion duology.

Anyone who read "Carrion Comfort" knows that Simmons has no idea how to wrap up his stories. But "Carrion Comfort" the novella is a truly sublime piece of work; its quality is likely impossible to sustain at novel length.

Simeon said...

Actually, you will notice that I made a random comment on your dislike of such a huge work of SF because it had poetry in it. It was YOU who attacked me afterward with the comment on reading poetry. Carry on, though, I don't mean to interrupt your righteous crusade for tolerance.

machinery said...

roland roland roland, so now it is me who attacked you.
strange that you adressed me in person first with that sly comment.

strange how i answered you later.

i guess to people like you, time can be shifted.

Simeon said...

Or - easier still - we may resort to NON-oversensitivity and not consider my comment an attack? While what you say could hardly be interpreted in any other way? Which didn't stop you from bemoaning OTHERS' lack of tolerance? ^_^ God, I love talking in rhetoric questions.

Anyway, bored now.


sky said...

I will have to get this book! Or books.

Roland, see what you get for being witty.... and misunderstood...