Book Reviews

Book Review: Hyperion

49333TL;DR:

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, is a disturbing and compelling story of humanity and a murderous metallic monster called The Shrike. The book seems to be regularly billed as science fiction, but I felt like the science fiction in the book was really just a backdrop for the actual story — humans.

Simmon’s characters are all compelling and well written, his story is engaging and interesting, and the world he creates is mysterious and inviting. With only some ugly editing mistakes (which I believe are strictly related to the ebook version I acquired), dated science fiction language, and a completely unsatisfying ending as serious points of contention for me, I would feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone looking for more serious, thought-provoking read. I would not, however, consider this book to be an easy read.

The Bad:

  1. My copy of the book has some pretty ugly editing mistakes. However, it is my understanding that the digital versions of this book suffered from awful editing. None of them are bad enough that the book becomes incomprehensible, but the mistakes are consistent enough to be noticeable.
  2. One of the problems I regularly run into when I’m reading older science fiction is how the science in that book stands up to the science of the modern day. Simmons will throw words and phrases such as Cybrid (cyber hybrid), Dataumplane,  Ultramorphine (Ultramorph for short), and Deathwand at you. All of these terms felt silly and dated to me. At one point, one of his characters talks about running telephone wire for communication purposes. While Hyperion is far from the worst offender I’ve ever encountered (I’m looking at you, Ray Bradbury), there’s enough that I felt that it merited mentioning.
  3. The ending of the book was completely and wholly unsatisfying.

    ****Spoilers beyond this point*****

    For the entire length of the book, the reader accompanies Sol, Brawne, The Consul, Silenus, Het, Kassad, and Father Hoyt on their journey to the time tombs. The book ends with the aforementioned characters skipping towards their destination while sunnily singing “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” No extra information on The Shrike or the ever-present mysteries of the book is given. I feel like these sorts of “Pick up the next book if you want to know more!” story endings are inexcusable.  (This is not to say that there is no closure. The reader is granted with some closure through the fact that they now understand every pilgrim’s motives and reasons behind wanting to see the Shrike. The reader is also granted a moment of clarity which allows them to see the subtle connections through the rest of the book.) But the ending felt hollow and disappointed me.

The Good:

  1. Each character in the book is written superbly. Within the first several pages of meeting them all, the reader has a clear sense of each one’s personality. These initial impressions are then shored up and expanded upon as the reader gets to explore each pilgrim’s reasoning for wanting to visit The Shrike.
  2. The world, Hyperion, and the universe it exists within are both rich with culture, history, and beauty. Beyond this, the mysteries and intrigue that swirl around Hyperion only grow deeper and more alluring as the reader learns more about the world through each pilgrim’s tale.
  3. The storytelling is admirably done. Instead of handing the reader an epic filled with laser swords, beam pistols, and space battles (although there are space battles), Simmons presents the reader with the story of seven pilgrims as they travel to meet The Shrike, each of them knowing that they are likely traveling to their death, each of them with a powerful story and motivation, each of their stories vastly different from the others, and each of them tied together by an intricate webwork of seemingly minor, potentially insignificant, connections.

The Meh:

  1. I hate Martin Silenus. I can’t really be upset at Simmons for writing a character so deplorable that I grew to hate him. But man, I really hate Martin Silenus.

Synopsis:

The Consul, Colonel Kassad, Father Hoyt, Brawne Lamia, Sol  Weintraub, Martin Silenus, and Het Masteen have all been chosen by The Shrike Church to participate in what may be the final pilgrimage to the time tombs. When they arrive at the tombs, they will encounter The Shrike, a mysterious being made from blades that has the ability to influence the flow of time. The Shrike will hear each of their wishes, and six of them will die while the seventh has their wish fulfilled. All the while, the threat of stellar war looms over each of them as FORCE space ships and Ouster forces paint the sky with hot white novas and exploding orange fireballs. To most, even considering this journey is insane, but each of the pilgrims have powerful reasons for risking their lives on this suicidal journey.

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