Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hyperion & Fall of Hyperion

My first post in the new format is a doubleheader--a book and its sequel.
Book Talk:  In the distant future humanity has survived the death of Old Earth, but it is now facing a new Armageddon.  The Hegemony of Man is on the eve of war with the Ousters and a strange monster called the Shrike has appeared, killing hundreds and spawning a cult.  The fate of humanity rests on the shoulders of seven hand-picked pilgrims who have been sent on the final journey to meet this monster head on: a catholic priest, a colonel, a poet, a scholar, a starship captain, a private detective, and a politician.   As they travel closer to the Shrike, each shares their story, but the more they learn the more the mystery thickens. 

Rocks My Socks:  Much of the details of the plot are classic science fiction, but the structure and the way it is told are rooted in literary fiction, drawing inspiration from The Canterbury Tales.   The book is also filled with literary references, starting with its name: Hyperion.  The book actually encompasses even more genres because as each pilgrim tells their story the genre changes, with a military fiction break for the colonel, a noir detective story for the PI, a tear-jerker family drama for the scholar, and so on.  My favorite stories were the PI and the poet. 

Rocks In My Socks:  I don't normally read that much science fiction, so it was very difficult for me to get into the book at first.  There's hardly any exposition in the beginning so I was thrown into the deep end of a future with complicated technology and politics and expected to keep my head above water until I got the hang of swimming.  I don't think I understood what was going on at all for the first few chapters.  Simmons does, however, go back and explain these world-building details again later so that if you don't understand everything at first, don't worry and just keep reading.  You'll pick it up eventually.  Or drown, I suppose--maybe you should have a literary life guard on hand.

Every Book Its Reader: I'd recommend this to both fans of literary fiction and science fiction.  There isn't enough of the other genres of this book to make me recommend it to hard-core fans of those genres, but those who enjoy cross genre works (like those in Stories) will enjoy this book's variety.  I would say that this book is definitely for adults, however.  Beside it being a very dense work and at a pretty high reading level the book has many scenes of a violent, disturbing, or sexual nature and one violent, disturbing sex scene at the end of the colonel's story (don't say I didn't warn you!)
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Warning: the review of the sequel will probably contain some sort of spoiler for the first book
Book Talk: The Hyperion pilgrims have made it to the Shrike's Shrine as a group but they must meet the monster as individuals.  As they wait for the appearance of the Lord of Pain each strays from the pack one by one to fight their own, separate battles.  Meanwhile, a new Keats cybrid has been created to advise Menia Gladstone, leader of the Hegemony, on the pilgrims' progress.  His link to the other Keats persona in Brawne allows him to see what the pilgrims are doing while he dreams.  During his waking hours he witnesses the government's response to the war with the Ousters and struggles to understand the underlying force behind it all and his own place in it.

Rocks My Socks:  This book is told from the perspective of John Keats!  Allow me to rephrase: the book is told from the perspective of an early 19th century romantic poet IN SPACE!  What is not to love?  Especially since I've had a huge literary crush on Keats ever since I saw Bright Star. On a more serious note this book also delves deeper into the political machinations behind the war and into more of the ideas and actions that lead society to the point that it has reached.  This book has a lot more concepts to wrestle with, which I always enjoy.

Rocks In My Socks:  As much as I enjoyed this book, I can see why a lot of fans of the first have said that they didn't.  People who loved the first book for its story-telling framework and cross-genre sensibility will be disappointed by this book because it is told entirely from one perspective, and one that didn't even exist in the first book.  There is also less explicit genre exploration though it does continues in a subtler way.  Also, while I love the time this book takes on exploring various concepts, that does take away time from straight action so the pacing of the book is a bit slower.  Lastly while at first I enjoyed the way Simmons would write a lengthy paragraph and then subvert its content with a crisp, sentence-long paragraph following it, he used the technique so often that eventually it really began to get on my nerves.

Every Book Its Reader:  I'd recommend this sequel to those who want to really sink their teeth into the issues raised in the first novel.  I'd also recommend it to fans of John Keats just for the fun of seeing him in space.  Once again this book is pretty difficult to read and can be violent and dark at times, but if you were mature enough to read the first book without being scarred or offended then you should be able to make it through the sequel just fine. 
The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

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