Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Dan Simmons
Bantam Spectra, 1989 (my copy is from 1995)
Size: Average (my copy has 482 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person (small parts are in the first-person)
Main character: Several (although one could argue for the Consul)
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Hyperion tells the story of 7 pilgrims who are on a quest to meet the Shrike, a quasi-mythological creature that appears occasionally in the world of Hyperion. This world, which becomes pivotal to the plot, is located in the outskirts of what is considered the Hegemony territory, a plethora of worlds all connected (both in terms of information and physical travel) through advanced technology. However, great changes to the existing society are predicted to occur soon, and this pilgrimage might change the fate of the universe.

The book is the first in a series of four novels, and I was not able to switch to another story until I read all 4. This first book narrates the pilgrimage until the point they enter the valley where the Time Tombs are located and where the Shrike roams. During the book we hear the individual stories of the 7 pilgrims (in fact, we only hear 6 stories due to an event that takes place during the trip), and we learn about their background and motivations in great detail. This made a great setup for the other books. Notice that this book should only be read if you are going to follow-up with (at least) book #2 in the series.

The author manages to hint at some profound and sensitive topics, such as our dependence on machines, the self-destructive nature of mankind, and religious fervor, without creating a somber view of hopeless future. In fact, the entire series is quite uplifting in terms of the power of an individual to change the face of the world.

The story is fast-paced and even though this first book does not have the excellent action packed adventures of books #2 and #3, it keeps us continuously wanting to know more about the plot and the fate of the pilgrims. The entire series is able to keep an atmosphere of mystery which works very well and makes it difficult to put the books down. What is the Shrike? Will the pilgrims make it? What face awaits the Human race? Also on the positive side, some mysteries are explained throughout the story in books #2 and #3, although some loose threads are only fully tied in book #4. I personally do not like plots that only add new divergent lines at every chapter, without ever explaining them.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
Of the 7 pilgrims, only 6 make it to the Time Tombs. Het Masteen disappears mysteriously before he has a chance to tell his story, and we later learn why in a later book of this series. In this book you never get to learn the nature and purpose of the Shrike, again explained in a later book. We learn that the Consul is a spy for the Ousters (actually a double agent), the grandson of Siri and Merin from Maui-Covenant, a world devastated by the Hegemony. The concept of the cruciform, an alien parasitic life form, is introduced and will set the stage for the other books, where the cruciform is a key issue.

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