The Fall Of Hyperion by Dan Simmons (1990) 517p.
The first book I read this year was Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, an excellent science fiction space opera written as a homage to Canterbury’s Tales, with seven pilgrims sharing stories while travelling towards a fateful meeting with a mysterious killing machine called the Shrike, on the verge of an intergalatic war. It was one of the best science fiction novels I read in a long time, and the only flaw was its extremely frustrating non-ending.
Apparently The Fall Of Hyperion was originally meant to be meshed with Hyperion as one book, but they were split up for publishing purposes. I don’t see why, since they’re both only about 500 pages long and no self-respecting sci-fi fan will shirk at a book that’s 1000 pages long, but whatever. The Fall of Hyperion picks up directly where Hyperion left off, and it’s just as enjoyable as its predecessor.
Forced to abandon the Canterbury Tales motif, Simmons instead expands the scope of the story. Hyperion featured seven lonely pilgrims on a near-deserted world, their journey ominous and foreboding, with only their past-tense stories serving to show the reader the outside world. The Fall Of Hyperion shows much more; Simmons introduces a somewhat omniscient first-person narrator who is also a character, a technique which could have been annoying but is salvaged by the fact that he’s a very likeable character. He’s also closely entwined with the Hegemony government, and so we see the inner workings of the senate and the cabinet and the war ministry as they scramble to protect their interstellar empire from imminent doom. There are some truly epic scenes in this book, including the destruction of entire planets; after crafting a science fiction universe with such care in Hyperion, Simmons now wreaks havoc upon it, which makes for gripping reading. There are also a number of plot twists I didn’t see coming, which is always pleasant.
There are some occasional awkward moments; Simmons seems determined to shoehorn as many Keats poems into the novel as possible, which is fine when they come from the pilgrim who’s a professional poet, but no so much coming from a religious scholar. Some of the characters from Hyperion don’t get as much of a look-in this time around, and there’s also a fair amount of religious/metaphysical/philosophical meandering, which I could see putting some people off.
None of this, however, detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The Fall Of Hyperion is an excellent novel and a worthy sequel to Hyperion, most importantly because it gives the reader the conclusion that Hyperion so frustratingly lacked.