Book Review: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) by Dan Simmons

Book Review: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) by Dan Simmons

Hyperion (Simmons novel) - Wikipedia

 

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Hyperion Cantos (Book #1 of 4)

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Pages: 483 pages (Kindle Edition)

Published: 26th May 1989 by Spectra


My 600th review goes to Hyperion, an imaginative and magnificent classic science fiction novel.

After years of having Hyperion by Dan Simmons on my TBR, I can finally say that I’ve read this beloved classic sci-fi novel. Before I started reading this novel, I didn’t know much about the premise or the content of the Hyperion except that there’s this creature called The Shrike in it, and also this book or series is one of the most beloved and highly praised sci-fi novels of all time. I’m actually pretty shocked that Hyperion was first published in 1989. This felt like a book written way ahead of its time, and I’m not surprised this has become a classic now. Hyperion has been on my TBR pile for almost 6 years, and because I’ve been missing sci-fi a lot lately, I thought I might as well read this series now, and I’m definitely not disappointed by the first installment of the series.

“It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.”

Hyperion is the first book in the Hyperion Cantos quartet by Dan Simmons. On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, there waits a creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret.

As many reviews have stated, Hyperion is like The Canterbury Tales in space. It is essentially seven novellas in one novel, and it’s different from the majority of novels I’ve read so far. I didn’t know that I would be reading six different tales told by each individual, and this can be a hit or miss because it feels like a collection of novellas. It did take me some time to get used to the narrative structure. My degree of likeness with each story differs, but I loved how each one of the stories shed utterly important revelations regarding Hyperion and the ominous creature called The Shrike. So, my review will consist of my brief thoughts regarding each tale in Hyperion.

“You have to live to really know things, my love.”

The Priest’s Tale
This is the tale about Father Hoyt and mostly Father Dure. The Priest’s Tale is the first story told by the pilgrims embarking upon Hyperion. And I think the ending of this tale could easily be the make-or-break moment for the reader. As I said, I did not know what kind of book Hyperionwas, and reading the tale of Father Dure being told in the form of a diary took me some time to get used to. I wondered, where is this story going? What is the purpose of this tale? And when I neared the end of the chapter, my jaw dropped. What happened to the Priests was insanely terrifying and impactful. The Priest’s Tale allowed Simmons to inform his readers immediately that Hyperion will be a bleak tale. The theme of faith was elaborated carefully, and we get to find that The Shrike is not the only creature that should be feared; there are more. I loved this one, and I consider The Priest’s Tale my third favorite tale in the novel.

“I now understand the need for faith—pure, blind, fly-in-the-face-of-reason faith—as a small life preserver in the wild and endless sea of a universe ruled by unfeeling laws and totally indifferent to the small, reasoning beings that inhabit it.”

The Soldier’s Tale
If I were told to sum up The Soldier’s Tale in three words, it would be blood, war, and sex. The Soldier’s Tale tells Kassad’s fight against the Ousters and the important reason why he wants to go to Hyperion. Overall, I did not love this story as much as The Priest’s Tale. But seeing more glimpses of what The Shrike is capable of here totally mesmerized me. By this stage of the narrative, I already thought of The Shrike as one of the scariest creatures in science fiction, and reading the book further just proved that notion more. I rank The Soldier’s Tale as my fourth favorite tale in Hyperion.

Picture: The Shrike by Filipe Ferreira

The Poet’s Tale
I really loved The Poet’s Tale. The third tale in this book is told from Martin Silenus’s POV, and the depiction of writing, poetry, art, and what it means to become a writer was so profound. Out of all the Tales in Hyperion, this was the one that made me highlight so many passages. Simmons successfully put many thought-provoking and resonating passages without making them a hindrance to the pacing. The revelations about The Shrike revealed in this tale were so mind-blowing to me, and I can’t wait to find out whether it’s all true or not. The Poet’s Tale is my second favorite tale in the book.

“Words bend our thinking to infinite paths of self-delusion, and the fact that we spend most of our mental lives in brain mansions built of words means that we lack the objectivity necessary to see the terrible distortion of reality which language brings.”

The Scholar’s Tale
This is it. The Scholar’s Tale is my favorite tale in the entire novel. It’s probably the most different compared to the other stories, but by putting the extraordinary circumstances in ordinary lives, Simmons effectively made The Scholar’s Tale, the fourth story, the most heartbreaking and powerful tale to read. I read this long chapter in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down. Family and parenthood are the key themes of this tale, and once again, the gradual sadness caused by the unstoppable passage of time was incredibly well-written. It is a poignant tale, one that will make you sit and think, and it’s so worth your time to read.

“Sarai had treasured every stage of Rachel’s childhood, enjoying the day-to-day normalcy of things; a normalcy which she quietly accepted as the best of life. She had always felt that the essence of human experience lay not primarily in the peak experiences, the wedding days and triumphs which stood out in the memory like dates circled in red on old calendars, but, rather, in the unself-conscious flow of little things – the weekend afternoon with each member of the family engaged in his or her own pursuit, their crossings and connections casual, dialogues imminently forgettable, but the sum of such hours creating a synergy which was important and eternal.”

The Detective’s Tale
Unfortunately, after the greatness of The Poet’s Tale and The Scholar’s Tale, this tale just felt so tame in comparison. The fifth Tale is a murder mystery story, and it’s my second least favorite in Hyperion. It’s one of the longest chapters in the book, I couldn’t feel invested in the love story, and it’s disappointing that it doesn’t add many big revelations regarding The Shrike or Hyperion.

“Most murders,” I said, “are acts of sudden, mindless rage committed by someone the victim knows well. Family. A friend or lover. A majority of the premeditated ones are usually carried out by someone close to the victim.”

The Consul’s Tale
Even more unfortunate, the final Tale in the book is definitely my least favorite Tale in the entire book. I don’t have anything much to offer here. I didn’t find anything told in this Tale to be memorable, and similar to The Detective’s Tale, it didn’t add many revelations regarding The Shrike or Hyperion. I keep saying this as a criticism because, to me, the big pieces of revelations provided on The Shrike in the first four Tales are what made their respective ending so impactful and memorable.

“Anticlimax is, of course, the warp and way of things. Real life seldom structures a decent denouement.”

The quote above is pretty much what you can expect from the ending of Hyperion. I haven’t done my research on this, so I can’t confirm whether this is true or not, but the abrupt ending might mean that Hyperion and its sequel The Fall of Hyperion was one big book divided into two novels due to its length. If I were to rate Hyperion based on the first four Tales I read, I’d rate it with a 5/5 stars rating. It’s a shame that the final two tales just didn’t click with me, and I have to lower my rating. That being said, even though I didn’t like the last two Tales, Dan Simmons has shown his versatility as a writer so damn well with all the Tales told in Hyperion. I am very much looking forward to reading The Fall of Hyperionnext month. I need to find out how this grand setup will be concluded.


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