I consider myself a beginner when it comes to the massive expanse that is the sci-fi genre. I was told to start with the classics of Dune, Foundation, and the Book of the New Sun. It wasn’t until a close friend told me about the amazing experience he had reading Hyperion and how it would be just the read I was looking for did I decide to do a deep dive. Hyperion is a classic sci-fi novel set hundreds of years in the future. Dan Simmons wrote Hyperion with such beauty and imagination that you can’t help but be swept away. Dan Simmons also does something very unique in the way the story is told and I will go into more detail in my review. This is one of the best sci-fi books I have ever read and worthy of both the Hugo award and as a staple of the genre.
The galaxy is at war and factions are fighting for resources in the farthest corners. On the world of Hyperion, the legendary Time Tombs have been sought after and investigated by many different individuals. The trip to the Tombs has also brought great peril as the Shrike waits on the horizon. No body knows what the ancient creature is nor what its motivations are, but the sense of dread, terror, and mystery follow everywhere it goes. On the eve when the entire galaxy set to be destroyed, a final voyage is set to embark on a mission to Hyperion with seven pilgrims. Each pilgrim has come into contact with the Shrike and over the course of the novel, we will hear their tales told through flashback chapters to the end.
This is where Dan Simmons really shines as an author. The flashback chapters told by each pilgrim has a distinct voice, tone, and pacing that is unique to each character. Dan Simmons actually changes his writing style to match the character being presented and the only other author I have know to do this is Glen Cook when I read his Black Company series. The big difference here is that Dan Simmons changes the writing style mid-story while Glen Cook changes the writing style after each book. This is a big deal for me as it shows the creative talent of the author as well as the devotion to make the story more grand, engulfing, and mesmerizing to say the least. Each story told to us by the pilgrims are long enough that they can actually be considered novella’s written in the same world. We are told stories from: a priest, a soldier, a poet, a detective, a scholar, a consul, and a templar and each has a different part to play in the story. By far my favorite chapter was that of the priest with the soldier coming in second. Ironically, these are the first two characters we get in Hyperion and the story definitely starts out strong.
Hyperion is not a story about being on the front lines of the galactic war or being part of the imperial politics of the different factions. Dan Simmons throws you head first into the minds of our seven pilgrims with little to no backstory and their surprises and revelations will be felt by both them and you as the reader. Each story is meant to be read independently of the others with very specific connections that we as readers are tasked with finding. Some of the chapters are slower than others but they will all build on each other until the very abrupt ending. This will lead you to grab book two ASAP, but I want this wonder to percolate for some time.
If you are a sci-fi junkie and have not yet read Hyperion, do it now! If you are new to the sci-fi genre, I would say that this can be a good introduction along with my go-to novel Dune. The mystery’s of the universe will not be solved in Hyperion, but what is on the horizon will be sure to send shivers down your spine.
Excellent review Blaise. Hyperion was very good, but be aware that you need to read the next book, The Fall of Hyperion, to complete the story (unless yours was a 2 for 1 book?). Cheers, Mike