Book Review: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

The Fall of Hyperion may as well be titled Hyperion: Part Two, as it picks up right where the first book in Dan Simmons’s Hyperion Cantos abruptly ends. Yet The Fall of Hyperion doesn’t merely pick up the story, it runs with it into wild, exciting directions before delivering a deeply satisfying conclusion that actually resolves mysteries while creating a few new ones to propel the narrative into the final two books of the series.

To discuss a sequel is, by nature, to delve into spoilers, so while I’ll try to be as circumspect as possible in this review, I may give away plot points you’d rather discover for yourselves. For starters, The Fall of Hyperion is written in several different styles, much as Hyperion tackled each pilgrim’s narrative distinctly–Paul Dure’s story in epistolary form, Brawne Lamia’s as a hard-boiled detective noir, Martin Silenus’s in the first person, and so on–The Fall of Hypeiron‘s main narrative character is a second cybrid (biological humans with an AI consciousness created by the TechnoCore) reconstruction of the poet John Keats–last seen before he was killed and implanted into Brawne Lamia’s neural shunt as Lamia’s lover and the father of her unborn child–who goes by the name of Keats’s real-life friend, the artist Joseph Severn. Here, the second John Keats cybrid works as an artist drawing pictures of important scenes in history.

The Fall of Hyperion begins with Keats/Severn attending a party on the planet Tau Ceti Center, headquarters of the Hegemony of Man’s government, as the war with the Ousters begins in earnest. Keats/Severn becomes very close to Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone, sitting in at high-level meetings and offering his advice in addition to illustrating the historic proceedings for posterity. Simmons writes the Keats/Severn sections in a first-person perspective, shifting to third-person present when Keats/Severn dreams about the pilgrims on Hyperion.

In a weird twist, some residual echo of the first John Keats cybrid, now in Brawne Lamia’s head, allows the second to know what is happening on Hyperion, and through these two narratives we learn the fate of Templar Het Masteen, presumed killed by the Shrike as the pilgrims crossed the Sea of Grass on their way to the Valley of the Time Tombs; whether Father Lenar Hoyt was able to find relief from the cruciform parasites attached to his body; whether the Consul will find help for the pilgrims or betray them; whether Martin Silenus will find his muse; whether Brane Lamia is able to discover why Hyperion is so important to the Shrike Church, the Hegemony, the Ousters, and the TechnoCore; whether Fedmahn Kassad is successful in defeating the Shrike in armed combat; and the fate of Sol Weintraub’s daughter Rachel, cursed by the Shrike to age backwards. Further, you’ll finally learn just what the Shrike actually is and why it is on Hyperion. 

There’s a lot at stake, and though Simmons weaves a sprawling tale that covers many worlds and the spaces in between, The Fall of Hyperion never loses focus and remains a tight, well-constructed reading experience despite its scope and breadth. My hat is off to Dan Simmons–he’s basically crafted a sci-fi future as varied, imaginative, and philosophically heavy as Frank Herbert’s, but leaner and more focused. 

There is so much to get into: The true fate of Old Earth, the true purpose of the Time Tombs and the Shrike, the war between the three factions of AIs in the TechnoCore, and the difficult choices CEO Gladstone must make to save humanity. Though written in 1990, Simmons anticipated the culture-deadening effects of high technology, instant access to information and virtual worlds, and the constant buzz of electronic activity. It’s as if he knew the Internet was coming and what it would do to human beings, leading to a period of comfortable stagnation where we’d have material excess with little of lasting value to show for it. 

But humanity’s detrimental overreliance on technology is but one aspect of The Fall of Hyperion. Simmons asks questions about God and His nature, about history and leadership, about friendship and loyalty, all the while showing that goodness, truth, beauty, heroism, bravery, and forgiveness can and do play big parts in serious and mature science-fiction. There is on gray, sludgy ambiguity or moral relativism to be found. Nor are their politics gracelessly shoehorned into the narrative. There are only timeless truths and questions that human beings have been asking since we were capable of conscious thought. 

And yet, the very fact that Simmons writes about truth, beauty, heroism, and these other universal themes is in and of itself a political act, at least when read in the second decade of the increasingly stupid twenty-first century. One wonders whether, if Simmons were a new writer today, he’d get his Hyperion Cantos published at all, given their lack of the current hallmarks of approved science-fiction, including but not limited to: the primacy of race- and sex-based identify politics; transgenderism; homoeroticism; nihilism; thinly-veiled allegories for contemporary American politics; and criticism of organized religion, usually Christianity, and usually the Catholic Church. 

I’m glad Dan Simmons wrote this book when he did, and I am eager to read the second half of his Hyperion Cantos, beginning with Endymion and ending with The Rise of Endymion

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that The Fall of Hyperion has another stellar cover by Gary Ruddell. Give me fully painted covers over generic minimalist graphic design any day.

I highly recommend The Fall of Hyperion–and obviously Hyperion when you have to read first if you want this book to make sense. I hope Simmons managed to stick the landing of the entire series as well as he stuck the landing of The Fall of Hyperion


Support independent science-fiction in the spirit of Hyperion: asking the big questions and tackling big themes and having fun doing it.

6 comments

  1. Great review!

    You’ve got me wanting to re-read Hyperion and Fall. I just downloaded em again and noticed: the cool cover on the first e book’s been replaced by a more boring generic cover!

    It’s something I’ve noticed on a lot of ebooks, the fun old covers being replaced by boring ones! Why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked the review Bob! Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

      The original paperback covers by Gary Ruddell are spectacular. I made sure I ordered these versions. The new covers are snooze city.

      Like

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