In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention. On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening. And the secrets they contain mean that nothing–nothing anywhere in the universe–will ever be the same.
SPOILERS FOR HYPERION
That’s what was going through my mind through almost all the book. But let me back up a bit.
This is the sequel to the excellent Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. I loved Hyperion, so I was really looking forward to this. The last book consisted of tales narrated by the pilgrims on their journey to meet the Shrike. The book ended with the journey almost at an end, with the human hegemony at war with the Ousters, the Time Tombs opening, the Shrike killing people left and right. Chaos.
With The Fall of Hyperion, the author shifts gears to somewhat more conventional storytelling. The major narrator of the book is Johnny Keats/Joseph Severn. Apparently the TechnoCore had a copy of the Keats persona that died in the previous book, and he is now resurrected, and is in the service of Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone. He is able to dream of pilgrims, and it is through these dreams and his waking hours that we see the story unfold.
And it’s good story, mostly. Nothing as mind-blowing as the original tales from Hyperion, but engaging and expansive and epic. We follow the pilgrims as they encounter the Shrike, and those parts are quite great. We also follow the huge war raging across the galaxy. That also makes for great reading. We are made privy to all sorts of interesting and intriguing stuff as the plot unfolds and the mysteries of the first books are resolved. Dan Simmons vision of the future is as detailed and full to bursting with marvellous ideas and imagination as ever. There are a lot of climactic and amazing events.
BUT. Underlying all this is Keats. Now, I know he was a great poet, and from the name of the books, and the fact that it’s dedicated to Keats, we know that Dan Simmons is a great admirer of the guy. So far, so good. Problem : I am not. I did not care at all for Keats’ philosophizing and spouting verse and generally being boring as hell. And that irritation just kept getting worse, until I found myself skipping paragraphs – because the story had almost ground to a halt – and even considering abandoning the damn book. I persevered though, and it was worth it, because the ending was better. I most enjoyed Gladstone as a tough-as-nails but in the end good politician, her masterful handling of the huge conflict. The end finally provides some closure to this series.
But it also leaves too much unanswered. There’s the famous saying that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. I was reminded of it again and again as events unfolded that were spectacular and deep, but just did not make sense. Dan Simmons almost randomly does stuff that seems to have no explanation other than “plot reasons”.
In summary, the book had its high points, but in the end my frustration with the poetry and Keats, and the nonsense answers and senseless events left me with a bitter taste. I certainly won’t be continuing with the Hyperion Cantos.
If you’re a fan of Keats though, and enjoy his poetry, you may find the book a lot more to your liking.