The Rise Of Endymion by Dan Simmons (1997) 709 p.

The first book I read this year was Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, which in turn led to The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion, together comprising what I believe is one of the most well-written and compulsively readable science fiction adventures of our age. I really grew to love these books and the fascinating universe they contain, so it was a bit of a bummer that the last book fell apart.

The first three books consisted largely of high adventure, intergalactic politics, epic warfare and apolcayptic social collapse, and very slightly of things like religion and metaphysics and philosophy. The Rise of Endymion, unfortunately, flips that formula around. It continues the tale of Aenea, the child of Brawne Lamia destined to become a new messiah, chronicling her rise to greatness from the point of view of her bodyguard and lover Raul Endymion. It is, essentially, a gospel, and most of the book reads like one. It’s not that it’s a poorly-written or overly preachy or even a shallow gospel, but it is boring, and I had no desire to read it. I realised two-thirds of the way through that I wasn’t enjoying reading it, and was counting the pages until it was over, which is not something I ever thought I’d be doing in the Hyperion series.

It has its moments. Raul’s journey down the world-spanning River Tethys is great (yet over almost as soon as it begins), and the climax is gripping. But the rest of the book is tedious and extremely bloated. In particular, a 200+ page visit to a Tibetan-themed planet almost groans under the weight of all the superfluous geographic worldbuilding and endless background characters it must endure. (You can tell this book was written the same year Seven Years In Tibet and Kundun were released, when the Western obsession with Tibetan exoticism was at its zenith.) Likewise, there are wearying descriptions of the baroque splendour of the Vatican and its rituals. The entire book is, essentially, Simmons sinking into a whirpool of miscellanous religious iconography. He doesn’t do so without purpose or objective merit, and I can see how this book would appeal to some, but personally I found it an unenjoyable ride.

Overall, The Rise of Endymion is an unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise excellent science fiction series. Which is a shame, but honestly, three hits out of four isn’t bad in this arena.