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March Books 10) Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

Latest in my run of reading Hugo-winning novels that I haven't written up elsewhere. Here, a group of seven pilgrims - priest, soldier, poet, scholar, captain, investigator, diplomat - are called to undertake an interstellar pilgrimage to the shrine of a mysterious violent deity known as the Shrike. Six of them tell their stories in the framing narrative of their journey, which ends in media res as they approach their destination. It is a format which has been used by others (notably Chaucer, who is referenced on several occasions), but Simmons does it very well: each of his pilgrims has a distinctive voice, even as they are also archetypes, and he has successfully imported into sf a lot of tropes more often associated with horror (particularly the nature of the Shrike). It is an intense read, and I found the 500 pages fairly flew by.

There is one passage that particularly affects me: "The Scholar's Tale", which is actually more a parent's tale, where one of Simmons' protagonists has to deal with the physical and psychological regression of his daughter from the age of 27 to babyhood. This is uncomfortably close to my own family situation.

The other novels shortlisted for the Hugo in 1990 were Poul Anderson's The Boat of a Million  Years, George Alec Effinger's A Fire in the Sun, Sheri S. Tepper's Grass and Orson Scott Card's Prentice Alvin. I have read the last two of these, and Hyperion is better than either (though I enjoyed both books). I thought I had read the Anderson as well but the synopses I find online don't ring any bells.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2010 09:32 am (UTC)
Just don't read the sequels.
Or anything else by Simmons, tbh.
(no subject) - gummitch - Mar. 7th, 2010 09:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 7th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
Agree on The Fall of Hyperion, and I take seriously the advice I have received not to proceed any further.
Mar. 7th, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
Actually I quite enjoyed Ilium, but was then disappointed with Olympos.
Mar. 7th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
I've heard it mentioned that he retcons a lot in Olympos. He does do it liberally in the sequels to the two Hyperion books.
Mar. 7th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
The Hyperion sequel is not disappointing in quite the same way, though there are similarities.
The first Hyperion book left a lot of things as mysteries and was complete in itself - in the second Hyperion book it was decided that these mysteries were questions that needed to be answered, and that the answers would be boring, unconvincing, or otherwise bad.
Ilium/Olympus was more conventionally first half/second half of the same story, but again the setup promised more than the resolution.
The good bits of Hyperion were much better than the good bits of Ilium, I thought, and it looked like Simmons' direction as a writer was bringing him further away from interesting places.
Plus there was that whole time traveller story.
Mar. 7th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
Carrion Comfort, by the same author, is extremely good, but also very, very hard going.

I'm also of the opinion that it's worth reading Fall of Hyperion - it's not as good as the first book, but the answers to the riddles of the first aren't hugely disappointing either.
Mar. 7th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
I actually thought Treason was pretty good.
Mar. 8th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
The Terror is really good, IMO. Though agreed on the Hyperion sequels.
Mar. 7th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
I loved the entire series actually :) Hyperion is undoubtedly the best, but the others have their charm too.
Mar. 8th, 2010 09:44 am (UTC)
Mar. 7th, 2010 12:15 pm (UTC)
In medias res -- res is plural here
Mar. 7th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
I tried The Fall of Hyperion, but a short distance in realized that I really didn't care much what happened to any of the characters, and the major exploration of the universe had already been finished.
Mar. 8th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
I was very impressed by Hyperion, and will admit that I read all four of the books in the series in about a week around the time that the fourth book came out. I was so involved and carried away with his writing universe that I didn't want to stop. Therefore, I'm not really one who warns everyone away from the later books. I suppose I would be if I reread all the series, more slowly this time.

I was amused in recent years to tell someone who was raving about Hyperion that it's a good series, and he gave me a confused look and asked what I was talking about, because he'd somehow completely missed the fact that three other books in the series had been written!

I've read A Fire in the Sun and it wasn't bad. (I like Effinger's trilogy.)

I haven't read the others, alas. I'm not a big Card fan, always have had a problem when I've attempted to read Tepper (despite having been a feminist myself), and know that I haven't read that Anderson, though I remember the title.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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