What a follow-up! After reading Hyperion, the first in the Hyperion Cantos, I immediately moved into the second! So glad Alex gave us both of them or I wouldn’t have known what to do, or I would’ve gone out and bought it. Although the style changed from the first novel, this one was just as strong and incredibly intelligent. There are definitely spoilers after the next paragraph so you’ve been warned.
The start of this book was a bit more confusing than the first, again it starts in the middle of the story, but with different characters. Rather than immediately going back to our seven pilgrims and their stories, Simmons introduces us to Joseph Severn, another cybrid (originally a John Keats), and brings in the character Meina Gladstone, CEO of the hegemony and mentioned many times in the previous book. There are of course other characters and they all add to the amazing story, but the core group remain the same.
There were two things that struck me most about this book and the series so far. The first thing that struck me is how intelligent Dan Simmons must be to include all of the references he does and the second is the entire story as a whole so far and what happened (i.e. MAJOR SPOILER).
From his first throw away reference to Clovis points in the first novel I knew this was going to be different (and Alex warned me it was amazing), but I didn’t realize how different. Not only is he a fascinating writer, but he makes incredible observations that make you stop and think.
“Silenus returned to himself in that process of allowing the world to rush in once more, much like the return to the senses following orgasm. Only the descent of the writer to the world was more painful as he or she returned, trailing clouds of glory which quickly dissipated in the mundane flow of sensory trivia.” (170)
Both Hyperion and Endymion are taken from Keats poems, there are numerous references to Keats’ life (including Joseph Severn) and his wordplay is incredibly subtle and I’m sure there was so much that I didn’t even get. Let’s just take the idea of the Hegemony, so not only was he using this in the governmental sense, but more importantly it felt like he was including the cultural hegemony aspect as well which is fascinating. Then take it even further and basically the humans have exterminated any type of intelligent life, or kept it from growing, throughout the explored universe and have created a “white-washed” version of the universe with little non-human diversity. In contrast to this you have the Ousters who fled the Hegemony early on and have evolved incredibly differently over the past seven-to-eight centuries.
And then if you take in the religious allegory and myriad aspects of religion he de/constructed and your mind feels like it’s been wrung out! Seriously the idea of a biological creature than can resurrect you after three days (with obvious detrimental side affects) is fascinating in regards to church theology and the numerous religions he briefly touches on, wow.
The second thing, which is the major spoiler and which, like Margaret Atwood’s many writings, has incredible implications in our own current future is the idea that the AIs could have the potential to take over through things that we build for our own amusement/advancement. This foreboding comment struck me, especially in the light of the recent “Arab Spring,”
“I was thinking about how free of mobs recent centuries had been: to create a mob there must be public meetings, and public meetings in our time consisted of individuals communing via the All Thing or other datasphere channels; it is hard to create mob passion when people are separated by kilometers and light-years, connected only by comm lines and fatline threads.” (265)
In this book’s case, it was the AI who provided their own network, but think about it. How many of us have smart phones, home computers, TVs, tablets and other devices that have 24/7 access to the internet? Now imagine that those objects are controlled and all our information is filtered by an Artificially Intelligent being. Now imagine that being manipulating things so that they can exist with minimum humans in existence and they have a plan. Well that’s this book and holy shit was it terrifying/creepy.
I don’t blame Gladstone for doing what she did one bit, she destroyed the system which allowed the AIs to exist and in doing so shut off all instant access to the numerous worlds throughout the Hegemony. She set many of the worlds back hundreds of years dividing friends and families by years and years of space travel. In doing so, she rid the universe of its biggest threat and has guaranteed that the future of the human race will be incredibly diverse and broad in the lines of the ousters. Cultures will branch and diverge and create different swaths of humanity that can only benefit the race as a whole. They’ll be able to become human again.
Recommendation: Definitely a must read, both of them. Writing this, I’ve lost my hesitancy on reading Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. I know they’re far enough in the future that even if I’m disappointed it’ll be a different enough story!
Opening Line: “On the day the armada went off to war, on the last day of life as we knew it, I was invited to a party.”
Closing Line: “On he flared…“ (Whited Out.)