It is the 29th century and the universe of the Human Hegemony is under threat. Invasion by the warlike Ousters looms, and the mysterious schemes of the secessionist AI TechnoCore bring chaos ever closer.
On the eve of disaster, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set fourth on a final voyage to the legendary Time Tombs on Hyperion, home to the Shrike, a lethal creature, part god and part killing machine, whose powers transcend the limits of time and space. The pilgrims have resolved to die before discovering anything less than the secrets of the universe itself.
Hyperion is one of the modern classics of science fiction, of that there is no doubt. This is a book that won the hugo award when it was published and spawned three sequels (one direct, two indirect, all related). Although told in a future where humanity has spread across the stars, Dan Simmons delivers a story that is influenced by19th century poet John Keats and the format follows one resembling Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Hyperion is a literary science fiction story if I’ve ever read one and is arguable one of the greatest science fiction novels ever.
Hyperion is a story that follows a group of characters on what is considered to be the final pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on the planet of Hyperion on the eve of what could be interstellar war between the Hegemony and the Ousters. This is a fairly simple premise and the page time dedicated to this particular thread is minimal when looking at the book as a whole. What really makes Hyperion an outstanding novel are the collection of stories that are interspersed within this framework. Not only that, but Simmons is very effective at writing these stories in different styles that suit each story.
The Priest’s Tale is the story of Father Paul Duré as told by Father Lenar Hoyt and is one where religious beliefs are put to the test, although it also a mystery that has some very interesting answers; The Soldier’s Tale follows Fedmahn Kassad, a well known soldier and has plenty of action and some interesting revelations; The Poet’s Tale is Martin Silenus’s story, and is of his struggle with his muse; The Scholar’s Tale is a heart breaking story of a unique disease contracted by Rachel, Sol Weintraub’s daughter, and his plight to help cure her; The Detective’s Tale follows Brawne Lamia as a new client, a cybrid by the name of Johnny, hires her to help discover why he was killed, but has far more wide reaching implications; The Consul’s Tale is a love story told over decades that shows how history can affect loyalties and opinions in the present.
Frankly, Hyperion is a stunning book that gives the reader so much to enjoy. Not only that, but Dan Simmons has created a believable universe that holds many questions and fascinating details. My only criticism of Hyperion is that it has a non-ending, but with a direct sequel to read you’ll have plenty to enjoy when you pick it up. For a science fiction novel that delivers a thoughtful and extremely well told story you won’t find anything better than Hyperion.