Hyper

1 May

Dan Simmons’s Hyperion is by far one of the best sci-fi novels that I’ve ever read, up there together with Dune and – sorry to say this, Ender fans – better than the two Ender novels I’ve read so far.

Now, before I launch into why this novel is so good, I’ll make a caveat on taste and quality. ‘They’ say that there is no accounting for taste, but I believe there is as far as craftsmanship goes. There is a difference behind enjoying a novel and taking a look at the way it was constructed to tell a story that is realistic (if necessary), credible (always necessary), mind-bending (by posing some interesting/important questions) and immersive (because fun must be factored in, too).

Now, back to Hyperion.

The first surprise I’ve had was to discover that it is actually a frame story, where each of 7 characters embarking on a mad pilgrimage tell their stories, hoping that it will shed some light on why they were chosen to meet the greatest horror discovered so far in the known Universe.

The second surprise was the first story. The third surprise was the second story. The fourth surprise was the third story … and so on.

Each of the stories is so different, yet so extraordinary and unexpected that each could have easily been a novel by themselves (or a movie – and I’m not the first one to say this). All six of them (yes, six, not seven, but I’ll let you read the book to learn why) are, of course, connected to the mysterious figure of the Shrike, the alien (in the worst possible sense of the word) entity that some revere as a god, while others seek to destroy as if eliminating a pest (well, a pretty horrible one).

However, the strongest point of the six stories is not just how different they are in content. It’s the style, too, their voice, their personality changes tremendously based on the characters. The posse that Simmons has created provides one of the most heterogeneous assemblies of high-contrast, well defined and individualized characters. Creating such a group is a challenge from the outset, but Simmons turns the fact that they are always together, with a constant danger of ‘not being who they should’, into an asset for the book, as contrast between them furthers their individuality.

There is a lot to say about meaning and deeper ideas in the book, but … where should I start? From politics and hunger for power to humble personal discovery, from the relativity of philosophy, literature and history to God, from science to issues of ecology and eco-terrorism, the novel touches all of them raising interesting questions for those who are looking for more than just a good action-packed story.

I’ll close here, with a warning. Make sure you have The Fall of Hyperion (second novel of the Hyperion Cantos) handy by the time you finish this. Trust me if you don’t enjoy going cold turkey.

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2 Responses to “Hyper”

  1. bdaniel7 May 2, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    And make sure you have Endymion and The Rise Of Endymion (third and fourth books of the saga) equally close 😉

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