Author: Dan Simmons
Series: Hyperion Cantos #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars
The Overview: 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.
“Hyperion” was an interesting book, but it’s difficult to convey what the story was about in a summary. It’s one of those books that gradually reveals its purposes as the plot progresses. In a nutshell, a handful of POV characters journey to Hyperion – an enigma of a world made even more mysterious by the presence of the Shrike (see cover for visual – it’s the big metallic being). As each character expands on their connection to this world, you start to get a sense of what’s really going on.
“Hyperion” is definitely a thought-provoking book. Although it started out with heavy religious overtones (the first perspective being the religious POV), it soon captured my imagination with a complex mystery and only got more engaging from there. It was not a feel-good story. It was the kind of gritty, morbid tale that kept me page-turning well into the night despite the ever growing knot in my stomach. Then it kept me up even longer as my brain tried to sort out all the information learned about this world, the Shrike, and their effects on time itself. It’s ironically exhausting… and kind of brilliant.
Time manipulation in stories is a tricky thing. It can go from a clever idea to convoluted in a heartbeat. I often find myself finishing such books or shows slightly confused, wondering if I missed a critical detail somewhere or if the author just failed to communicate it clearly (it’s usually a bit of both). In “Hyperion,” Simmons did a decent job of presenting his concept in segments which were easier to digest. In fact, his overall presentation of all pertinent information was very carefully placed and effective. It allowed me to build my own theories alongside the characters based on every new revelation. That’s the sort of engaging interaction I always enjoy within books. Overall, it’s one of the better conceptual time-manipulation novels I’ve ever read.
Another note in “Hyperion’s” favor was its timelessness. It was written when I was 4 years old (O_o) yet read as though it was written within the last couple of years (and will likely do so for many to come). It illustrated just how smart Dan Simmons is at story construction. Surmising from just the text, Simmons comes across as a very well read, intelligent person. It was awesome to pick up on all the literary references throughout the plot, and I’ve always been impressed with authors who can present POV characters with such integral differences in perspective on complex issues such as religion and politics, and do so convincingly. I have no idea where the author’s personal stances are on these issues, and that something I oddly love about his writing.
I can easily see why classic sci-fi lovers rave about this book and defend their 5 star ratings to the ends of the earth. My conservative 3 star rating, however, hopefully conveys appreciation for the book while acknowledging that it didn’t quite blow me away on all accounts. I think the culprit might be the fact that there’s no silver lining or hope in this book. It definitely doesn’t leave you with anything but gloom and that aforementioned knot in your stomach. Now, I don’t need books to be about butterflies and rainbows to enjoy them, but I do need at least a tiny ray of sunshine to give me hope that the story could end well and that the characters are working towards something meaningful. Part of this can be attributed to the format of this first book – the multiple POVs were presented in a reflectional format where all the focus was on what came before. While interesting, it didn’t leave a lot of room for plot advancement, and in fact made most of the book read like a collection of prequel novellas leading up to the actual beginning of the story.
Overall, I liked “Hyperion” but it didn’t land among my favorites. It is still an awesome contribution to classic sci-fi and worth your time if you like the genre.
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