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.
That’s pretty much the tl;dr of my review. Hyperion is a classic of the SF genre, and it is obvious within the first few pages why that is. For a start, the world-building is just stupendous. Dan Simmons has managed to cram into one book so many ideas and possibilities that it just staggers the mind. And not only the futuristic – the relativistic ships, the inscrutable AIs, the WorldWeb, the scores of wildly original planets… No, for me, the highlight was one world – the eponymous Hyperion. It is home to all sorts of awe-inspiring, baffling and sometimes just creepy things that I can’t spoil.
And this intricate and rich world is revealed in stages by an equally amazing story-line. We start off in the thick of action, and for the first few pages I had no clue what was going on. Soon though, it is revealed that seven people are setting out to make a pilgrimage, to meet an enigmatic and lethal creature called the Shrike, The book is framed as a series of tales, as these people tell their tales to pass the time and find out more about each other.
At first I thought, okay, so this is basically a short story collection. Nope. The tales may be distinct, yet they are much more a cohesive whole than a bunch of short stories. The workings of the world and the origins of the current crisis are revealed to us layer by layer, with each story adding more context, more details, more background to the plot. And one can’t help but be impressed by how the author has managed to write the stories so that it feels like distinct people telling their tales, rather than one person (the author) writing them all. The poet speaks in allegories and metaphors, in verse and in purple prose. The soldier just tells it as it is, with a no-nonsense military precision. And so on.
Special mention goes to the scholar’s tale – a heartrendingly poignant story of a father’s sorrow, his quest to save his child, which almost brought tears to my eyes. And to my favorite, the Priest’s tale. Do NOT read this one in the night, as I did – because it is creepy and unsettling. Very creepy.
But they are all delightful in their own way, except for the poet’s tale. Sure, I appreciated and enjoyed the back-story it gave, but in the end I couldn’t care at all for the poet and his shenanigans. Maybe because I never was a fan of verse.
Unfortunately, the book ends on a huge cliffhanger, with no resolution at all to the overarching conflict and plot. That’s my biggest (only!) real gripe with it.
Great book – a must read for everyone in general, and Sci Fi fans in particular.