I’ve got to branch out from Sci-fi. I read way too much of it. But god I love it so much. But Hyperion is one of those novels that clearly has influenced almost everything after it. Not to mention it is heavily influenced itself by what came before. In short, it is one of the pillars of American science fiction.
We are deep into the future. Humanity, with the help of AIs, now separate from human control, has colonized deep into the galaxy. Worlds in the ‘Web’ are connected by ‘farcasters’, essentially portals between planets. Worlds outside the web still require time-intensive space travel, the cryogenic process keeping travelers from aging until they arrive at such worlds. But some worlds hide vast secrets, underground labyrinths of immense size and unknown origin. The most famous of these is the planet Hyperion. Which, in addiction to the labyrinths, has a series of structures known as the time tombs. Legend has it that a horrible monster known as the shrike protects these tombs. Ships that attempt to land there return without passengers. ‘Time Tides’ flow around the area, sending people backward and forward.
And humanity’s greatest enemy, the Ousters, are set on taking the planet from the Web. Chosen for reasons unknown, seven pilgrims must make the trek to the time tombs to find the Shrike and find out why the Ousters want the planet so badly. Each of them carry a terribly burden, somehow related the planet and it’s horrible guardian. And one of them is a traitor.
This book really is incredibly written. The level of detail is amazing and the attention to story and character sucks you right in. Hyperion plays with narrative convention in a fantastic way, though. The seven pilgrims meet, although it’s told mostly from the Consul’s perspective, and decide that over their journey they will reveal why they were chosen for this journey. Each tale is as harrowing and creative as the last. Revealing more and more about the characters, their motivations, and the Shrike’s role in all their lives. These stories take up most of the novel and the ‘present’ action of the narrative probably only takes up about fifty pages. But when one story is skipped, you will find yourself wishing it was told as well, because they are just so engrossing.
Equally as engrossing is the character that never speaks, The Shrike. A towering, four-armed monster covered in blades of all shapes and sizes. He is equal parts god and devil. Appearing at random, he is the ultimate wild card. Because as far as you know, he has no motivation. His reign of terror almost transports Hyperion into a horror novel. And there’s hardly a villain that captures the imagination as much as him.
Dan Simmons clearly has a way with words, and a healthy respect for the sci-fi and literature that came before him. He might enjoy John Keats a little too much, though. This is science fiction at its very best, told in a unique way and populated by the most interesting villain I’ve encountered in a while.
4 out of 4 stars.