Aug 13, 2017

Too Deep for A Single Read | Hyperion Cantos

In Hyperion the story follows seven travellers on a pilgrimage to the Valley of the Time Tombs and along the way each tell their story, about why they're on the Planet Hyperion and what they hope to gain at the end of the pilgrimage. What we get is six short stories which vary in genre ranging from horror to military to poetry to bildungsroman in reverse to detective mystery and finally a spy tale. Each story is well written and compelling, I didn't want to put the book down until the tale was complete.  This was well done and in doing it this way we were able to explore the amazing universe that the author, Dan Simmons, created. I love a story with detailed world building and Hyperion has it in spades.

An intelligent read     

On one of my videos, discussing Julian May's Rampart Worlds Series, I stated 'If you want to feel intelligent read science fiction.' While that is true with almost all science fiction stories, Hyperion really blows this statement out of the water.  While reading this story I felt that I was really out of my league in comparison to Simmons literary knowledge. Why? Not because the story was bad, it's an awesome tale, however Simmons, alluded to so many other works of literature, most of which I only had a passing familiarity with, that it caused me to feel inadequate to even begin discuss this book with anyone.

The good thing is that the story, or should I say stories, stands by themselves and are engaging and entertaining without you having to know anything about the poetry of Keats or the philosophy of Kierkegaard. Not only will you find the usual science fiction fair of space and ground combat, romance, hope and despair but you'll also find a big dose of philosophy and poetry encapsulated in this book, as well. The story and clues provided within are so deep you really need to read this book more than once.

What binds the authors together in an intellectual community is the great conversation in which they are engaged. In the works that come later in the sequence of years, we find authors listening to what their predecessors have had to say about this idea or that, this topic or that. They not only harken to the thought of their predecessors, they also respond to it by commenting on it in a variety of ways.

The Great Conversation     

You could say Hyperion continues the great conversation as it's structured like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and along with other literary references there are frequent allusions to the romantic poets, especially John Keats and his works. There are also references to Kierkegaard, possibly this work Fear and Trembling and the central theme seems to revolve around the destiny of humanity and how humanity is getting side tracked from that destination. The destination of humanity seems to follow Pierre Teilhard de Chardin idea of the Omega Point, or the evolution of conscience and apparently this is all explained in his book The Phenomenon of Man, something I was unaware of until I delved deeper into the Hyperion mythos. If you want to find out where Simmons is getting his ideas from this should be your starting point.

Christianity's themes are also a main component of the Hyperion Cantos story line itself. For example, the philosophy of the Old Earth Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in particular his Omega Point idea, provide the framework for such literary devices as the Ultimate Intelligence.

perfect science fiction     

Hyperion is what I would consider perfect science fiction, it's ideas packaged in a story, and these ideas provoke wonder and make us think deeply, which is exactly what science fiction has always been about. (For more on this see my article called Reading Science Fiction Is Essential For Our Modern Times.)

The only thing I didn't like was the way the story ended. The central mysteries are not concluded or tied up, instead the last paragraph shows all the pilgrims holding hands and walking off into the sunset, just prior to reaching their goal. However, the story of Hyperion is all about the journey and not the destination. The next book in the series The Fall of Hyperion continues the story of these pilgrims so if you want to see what happens at the Valley of the Time Tombs you'll need to read this one as well.

As for me, my mind is exhausted after completing Hyperion so the denouement to this story will have to wait for another time.


Book 1 of 4 in the Hyperion Cantos Series
by Dan Simmons
A stunning tour de force filled with transcendent awe and wonder, Hyperion is a masterwork of science fiction that resonates with excitement and invention, the first volume in a remarkable epic by the multiple-award-winning author of The Hollow Man.
On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, 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. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

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