Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dan Simmons, Hyperion (1989)

'We're not six fucking pilgrims, we're a mob. Hoyt there with his cruciform carrying the ghost of Paul Duré. Our "semisentient" erg in the box there. Colonel Kassad with his memory of Moneta. M. Brawne there, if we are to believe, carrying not only an unborn child but a dead Romantic poet. Our scholar with the child his daughter used to be. Me with my muse. The Consul with whatever fucking baggage he's brought to this insane trek.' (p. 405)

Winner of the 1990 Hugo, Dan Simmons' Hyperion shamelessly cribs the structure of The Canterbury Tales. The pilgrims draw lots to tell their tales in order to diffuse the tension (rather than break the tedium, as in the original) of their seemingly doomed journey to appease the destructive, chrome and blade-encrusted diety the Shrike, and in so doing influence the outcome of the incipient war between the Hegemony and the renegade Ousters.

The cumulative thematic significance of 'The Priest's Tale: the man who cried god' (p. 23), 'The Soldier's Tale: the war lovers' (p. 114), 'The Poet's Tale: Hyperion cantos' (p. 172), The Scholar's Tale: the River Lethe's taste is bitter' (p. 237), 'The Detective's Tale: the long good-bye' (p. 315) and 'The Consul's Tale: remembering Siri' (p. 410) imbues the work with a wonderful poise and balance. It is a tremendously satisfying read, and as the protagonists dance hand in hand down the yellow brick road towards their doom (I am being entirely literal rather than figurative here), the reader will be grabbing their coat to scamper off to the bookshop to buy the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion


Mark Bormann said...

I've just started reading "Hyperion", after seeing your review for it here. I'm up to the beginning of the priest's story and am enjoying the book so far. There's a lot to take in at the beginning of the book and there isn't much explanation to go with it, but I'd rather be left to figure things out for myself over the course of the story than be hit with a tedious info-dump.

I'll let you know what I think once I've finished.

Andrew Spong said...

Hi Mark. Thanks for stopping by again. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

Mark Bormann said...

Well, just finished "Hyperion". A terrific read, especially in the way things gradually revealed themselves over the course of the book and the six individual stories. The way this book has been put together really is quite amazing.

I think too many books set in the future fail to recognise or refer to the cultural history of humankind. It's not like we're going to forget all of this stuff, whether it be mythology, literature or popular culture. If anything, this stuff is now more accessible to the wider population than it has ever been.

Simmons has obviously embraced the fact that we won't be forgetting all of this stuff. How could he have written that final scene otherwise?

A true future classic. So, what am I reading next?

Andrew Spong said...

What did you read next? :)