Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hyperion Cantos

Hyperion CantosHyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hyperion: On the eve of interstellar war between the Hegemony of Man and the barbarian Ousters over the fate of Hyperion, seven pilgrims embark on a journey to the Time Tombs and their mysterious protector, The Shrike, a three meter tall, four-armed monster covered with blades. One pilgrim will have his wish granted and the others will be impaled on the Shrike's Tree of Pain. Only one or more of the pilgrims isn't what he appears to be...

Every once in a while, a book comes along that eclipses many that came before it. Hyperion is one of those books. Told with a structure similar to the Canterbury tales, Hyperion is the story of seven pilgrims on a journey that will end in death for most of them. Interested yet?

Each pilgrim tells his or her story and Simmons doesn't skimp. We get a horror story, a detective story, action, tragedy, comedy, the whole nine yards. Instead of info-dumping the back story of the complex world he's created, Simmons rations the information and doles it out one bite-sized morsel at a time, mostly in the stories told by the pilgrims. The Shrike is going to stick with me for a long time after I'm finished.

The writing is superb. Simmons continues to wow me with his versatility and the concepts he introduces are amazing. Farcasters, tree ships, time debt, reverse aging, artificial intelligence, it's amazing the sheer amount of thought that obviously went into Hyperion's conception. Surprisingly, Hyperion is a fairly easy read. I have no idea why I've waited this long to accompany Kassad, Masteen, Lamia, and the others on their journey to meet the Shrike.

Fall of Hyperion: The situation in the world web rises to a fever pitch as all out war between the Ousters and the Hegemony of Man erupts. Or does it? And what do the pilgrims on Hyperion and an artist named Severn have to do with it? Is the Hegemony of Man doomed? And what does the Core have to do with everything?

That's about all I can reveal of the plot without blowing all the twists. Suffice to say, Dan Simmons is the man. The story of the seven pilgrims continues and the plot threads hinted upon in Hyperion are tugged and stretched to the breaking point. Things that seemed of minimal importance proved to be integral to the overall plot. Questions are answered, more questions are raised, the shit hits the fan, and dogs and cats begin living together. I never would have guessed whose blood it was in the wind wagon in the first book.

I can't imagine not reading the Fall of Hyperion after reading the first book and it must have been agony for those waiting for it when it was first published. I'd better wrap this up before I start giving away plot details about Brawne, Hoyt, Kassad, and the others. Suffice to say, The Hyperion Cantos are now on my measuring stick list of books, along with the Dark Tower, The First Chronicles of Amber, and the Matthew Scudder series. Highest possible recommendation.

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