Review: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Title: Hyperion

Author: Dan Simmons

Rating: 

Publisher: Spectra

Format: Mass Market Paperback

Review:
After finishing Hyperion, I am somewhat of a loss of how to review this book. First of all, I am twenty-plus years late in reading this novel. Secondly, it is the first volume in a series, and though there is a sense of completion, it does not stand alone well as a novel.

Outside of the reaches of the Hegemony of Man is the planet Hyperion. Seven pilgrims embark on a pilgrimage to the mysterious planet. On its surface awaits the Shrike (a powerful and deadly creature) and the Time Tombs (ancient monuments that defy time itself). Each pilgrim knows that death is a near certainty, but there are greater purposes at stake. In order to better understand what awaits them, the pilgrims each in turn tell their tale of what has led them to Hyperion.

The novel is a collection of stories within a larger story arc. A priest tells of his discovery of a peculiar religious cult, a soldier tells of finding a mysterious but deadly lover, a poet tells of his cantos that seems to be accompanied by a series of brutal murders, a scholar tells why he is bringing his infant daughter to the planet, a detective tells of her murder investigation, and a consul tells of a couple who ages at different rates due to the husband’s time dilation aboard a ship. While the stories these men and women tell have little in common, there is one common bond — Hyperion.

When reading this novel, it is clear that Simmons is not only establishing himself as a science fiction author, but as a literary one as well. There are many commonalities with the life and writings of John Keats and the very format of the novel is similar to Canterbury Tales. Simmons also takes artistic freedom in his frame stories, writing from different points of view and tenses. While this novel is very smart, it is far from perfect. Simmons’ literary endeavors are a bit overreaching at times, but I applaud his effort in making this a complex and beautiful novel.

Each individual story is also creative and fascinating. The characters do not embark on their pilgrimages out of curiousity — it is out of desperation and it has become their life mission to return at this particular time. I was fascinated how Simmons could make each of these stories different and unique. The priest’s tale and the scholar’s tale especially stood out for me.

I am eager to read the rest of the books in this series and then to read them again. I highly recommend this novel.

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