Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Published: March 1990 by Spectra Books (first published 1989)
Format/Source: Purchased from used book store
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
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.
When I first discovered the Sword and Laser podcast, book club, and YouTube show, their first book that I was around for was Hyperion. I’m not traditionally a huge science fiction fan, but dropping into the discussions surrounding this Hugo Award-winning book, my interest was piqued enough for me to buy a copy of it at a used bookstore.
I’m so pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed this book.
I have had trouble in the past understanding some of science fiction’s elements. I’m not math and science smart; the theory of relativity makes no sense to me. But I’m beginning to understand that the elements that appear in science fiction are pretty similar between books. So once you begin to dip your toe into this genre, you can start to immerse yourself more into the story.
I experienced that with Hyperion. Yes, there’s a few things that I barely understand. I treated them like I’d treat hazy magic in fantasy. I accept it at face value and move on. And I’m so glad I did that because this is definitely a story that will linger with me for a while.
I’ve been explaining it to people as a science fiction retelling of Canterbury Tales. (Use that comparison lightly; despite having an English degree, I’ve never actually read Canterbury Tales. *ducks*) Seven pilgrims depart to meet with a mysterious diety horror figure on the planet of Hyperion for a variety of reasons. Each chapter details each pilgrim’s backstory, told in appropriately different styles and voices. There’s a priest, a military colonel, a poet, a templar, a scholar, a detective, and a diplomat. They each view the mysterious Shrike in extremely different ways, and there’s also the larger issues of the fate of their universe.
It’s quite dire and suspenseful, each tale shedding more light on the larger story as well as on each other. It ends abruptly though as ‘word on the street’ would have it, apparently it was never really supposed to be broken apart from its sequel, The Fall of Hyperion.
I started this book knowing about the possibly unsatisfactory ending and believing that I would just read Hyperion and stop there, regardless of how the story went. Wrong! While this is yet another series, I would love to continue with it, at least to get all the answers to its mysteries!
If you can handle a wordy, world-building science fiction story with great literary voices, I would recommend this book!
One of my favorite quotes: “…it is character which wins or loses immortality upon the vellum. Haven’t you ever harbored the secret thought that somewhere Huck and Jim are–at this instant–poling their raft down some river beyond our reach, so much more real are they than the shoe clerk who fitted us just a forgotten day ago?” (pg. 180, The Poet’s Tale)