2014 Challenges, Books

Book 283: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) – Dan Simmons

Simmons, Dan - HyperionIf there is a novel that could make someone fall in love with and/ or enjoy Science Fiction, this is the novel. My friend Alex gave Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion, along with a couple of other books, to our house for Christmas. When I asked him which ones I should read he specifically said these and boy was he right! I was so excited finishing this one up, while I was purchasing a guidebook for my sister I picked up the third book in the Hyperion Cantos (four books) and will definitely read all of them.

This review WILL NOT contain spoilers, but no promises for the rest of the Cantos. The way I read, I read an entire series as one story and sometimes blend things together not knowing what comes from which particular installment, but the first one is always easiest to keep spoiler free. What was most exciting about this novel and what kept me so interested was Simmons’ intelligence and writing ability!

An author who can drop a phrase like “Clovis point” and only provide context clues without defining it and dropping mentions to poets and classical musicians left and right is clearly an intelligent man. Add in that Simmons writes six distinct voices and plays with poetry and mirrors Chaucer’s opus The Canterbury Tales with his structure and there are so many opportunities to go wrong, but Simmons doesn’t! (For the record I only knew a Clovis point because I paid attention in Anthropology :-D) I’d be hard-pressed to choose which of the six stories was my favorite as each one of them contained a story, or more than one story, within the story.

The novel and all of the pilgrims’ stories revolve around The Shrike, that creepy metallic thing on the cover. And revolving around the Shrike we have multiple factions including the AI/Core (machines), the Hegemony, the Ousters and The Church of Final Atonement. I could easily write a post about each of them, so I’ll just say the politics are just as confusing and convoluted as ours are and I was impressed at Simmons’ ability to gloss over them while still including enough to keep the myriad parties relevant.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I found some parts of it to be incredibly simple compared to other parts. I’m guessing this has to do with Hyperion being one of Simmons early novels, but it wasn’t really that noticeable or maybe it’s a part of the genre that I’m not familiar with (the over simplification of “1 + 1 = 2” type simplification). I’ll be the first to say that I’m more of a “fantasy” person than a “sci-fi” person. Give me dragons and magic or ancient kingdoms and myths, but Simmons created a universe I’m desperate for more of.

Even at his most “techy” moments, for example when a cybrid (human/cyborg hybrid) is in the dataweb and they’re explaining what’s happening I got completely lost, Simmons only does this to provide context. I wish he would’ve explained a few things earlier on, like “time-debts” and “TC²”, but they were eventually explained and it’s all part of starting midway through the story.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this to any type of reader. It borders on the long side at just under 500 pages, but with it being distinctly divided into six sections you can’t go wrong! The end of the novel was just as witty and humorous as the beginning was intelligent and serious. I can’t wait to see what comes next in The Fall of Hyperion.

Opening Line: “The Hegemony Counsul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintined Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below.”

Closing Line: “Still singing loudly, not looking back, matching stride for stride, they descended into the valley.” (Whited out.)

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13 thoughts on “Book 283: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) – Dan Simmons”

  1. I also was struck by the intelligence of this story! I thought the writing was beautiful and the short story format was really fun. It seemed like each character had a very unique voice, which I’m sure is hard to do.

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    1. I know! It actually reminded me a lot of Cloud Atlas and Mitchell’s ability to write in so many different styles! Throw in all the literary references and I was convinced. I’m about 50 pages into The Fall of Hyperion and am enjoying it.

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  2. Oh, this has been on my to-read list for such a long time. Sounds like it definitely needs bumping up to much nearer the top. I didn’t realise it was structured like The Canterbury Tales–that’s a fascinating idea. Great review!

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    1. You definitely should! I’m still impressed with all the literary allusions that he’s included throughout the two I’ve read. I am starting to wonder if I should read the two follow ups, written a good while after, but I’ve alread bought one so I must!

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