Book review: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

February 28, 2014

Pages: 528
Rating: 3/5

The Fall of Hyperion is a direct continuation of the novel Hyperion which I had last year. I wish I had followed advice I found on the Internet about reading the books back to back. Although I remember the characters I have forgotten almost all the details of their stories.

Hyperion consisted of tales told by pilgrims about why they had chosen to go on a pilgrimage to visit the Shrike – a mysterious time-traveling monster on the planet Hyperion.

Fall of Hyperion 1st edition cover
The Shrike is pictured in the cover above

The Fall of Hyperion doesn’t follow the same structure. Instead, it alternates between two narrative streams. The first is a first-person narrative by Severn, a ‘cybrid’, who is an AI inhabiting a human body. Severn is invited to the center of government ostensibly to make sketches of the leader of the Hegemony, CEO Gladstone. The other narrative are Severn’s “dreams” – a third-person real-time telling of the actions of the pilgrims back on Hyperion.

I deeply enjoyed reading about futuristic technology like farcaster portals, Hawking drives, AIs so advanced that they have seceded from human control and lead their own existence.

Seeing how this novel is deeply concerned with time it is only fitting that Simmons plays with the way his characters experience time. Initially each chapter alternates between simple-past tense and the rare simple-present tense (think ‘Kassad stands before the Shrike’ instead of ‘Kassad stood before the Shrike’). However, towards the end of the book there is an acceleration and the story switches between many points of view within the span of a single chapter. I think that this merits further study.

Spoiler alert

What stopped this book from being truly excellent is that by the end of it the story still isn’t clear. Who exactly is the Shrike and who sent it? I suspect that only Dan Simmons knows for sure.

In the distant future it seems that two opposing ultimate intelligences have evolved – one from humans and the other from machine AIs. One of them (I am not clear which) flees back to the past and the Shrike is sent to draw it out of hiding by making humans suffer. Clearly if it is drawn to human suffering it is the human intelligence. However, we learn that the Shrike has a human controller who has been given the means to keep it in check until the time is right. Why would humans ever let the Shrike run wild and destroy their own ancestors?

Spoilers end

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are reasonably good science fiction books. They lead me to lead another book of Simmon’s called Summer of Night which is a horror novel. Sadly, it was nowhere as good as the Hyperion Cantos.

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