is the author of the four classic novels Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion
which together are sometimes referred to as the Hyperion Cantos
. Simmons himself explains why it took four boks to essentially contain two stories when he said "this so-called epic actually consists of two long and mutually dependent tales, the two Hyperion stories combined and the two Endymion stories combined, broken into four books because of the realities of publishing."
All of the books were nominated for various big-name speculative fiction awards, with most of the books winning at least one.
Below I will review each of the four works which make up Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos
The first book of the series won the Hugo and Locus awards for the year it came out, despite being just the first half of a gigantic novel. Hyperion
sets the tone for the entire series by introducing all the main characters through various background stories each given in its own chapter. They are, in order, The Priest (Lenar Hoyt), The Soldier (Fedmahn Kasad), The Poet (Martin Silenus), The Scholar (Sol Weintraub), The Detective (Brawne Lamia) and The Consul. They are known as Pilgrims, because they have traveled to Hyperion in order to encounter the only known supernatural being in this technologically advanced universe, The Shrike.
Dan Simmons uses these stories to paint a picture of a vibrant, intriguing universe. The Hegemony of Man is the name of a 200-plus confederation of worlds that have been colonized by humanity, connected by farcasters, portals which allow instantaneous travel between planets, facilitated by the TechnoCore, an artificial intelligence. Through a similar technology, called the fatline, there is also instantaneous communication between planets. Even in this gigantic collection of planets, Hyperion, is (in)famous because it is the location of The Time Tombs and the Shrike. The Time Tombs are bizarre artefacts that appear to be moving backwards in time. The Shrike is a terrifying creature that can appear anywhere at any time to inflict an excruciating death; he is known as the Lord of Pain.
is an astonishing accomplishment. He has created fascinating, well-rounded characters and dropped them into a rich, realistic universe set in the far future. Additionally, he uses the formal structure of the book to show off his ability to write in different styles and genres.The stories of the seven travelers include a love story, a horror story, a noir
detective thriller and a fantastical tale of a father's love for his daughter. This is just one measure of complexity of this fine novel.
: Dan Simmons
: 481 pages.
: February 1, 1990.
OVERALL GRADE: A-.
The Fall of Hyperion
The second book of the series is The Fall of Hyperion,
which begins immediately after the first book Hyperion
concludes. In my opinion, this book is even better than the first book, which is an instant classic. Instead of repeating the stylized format of Hyperion,
the sequel uses a more familiar direct structure to present a tale of interstellar war intertwined with the stories of what happens to the seven pilgrims introduced in the first book.
The book introduces, and is centered around, the character of Meina Gladstone, the Abraham Lincoln-like leader of global humanity, who in the 29th century number 130 billion on over 200 planets. Gladstone is like Lincoln, Golda Meir and Winston Churchill all rolled up in one. As CEO of the Senate, Goldstone is the leader of the Hegemony of Man, who are being attacked by a huge force of ships which are presumed to come from a faction of humanity which has embraced biological manipulation known as the Ousters. Gladstone is a very compelling character, and we get to see what it would be like to be the leader of a great civilization under the extreme duress of war.
However, The Fall of Hyperion
contains a lot more tricks up its sleeve. We get more information on the cruciform that was introduced during Father Lenar Hoyt's story in the original Hyperion
. It appears to be a device which is indestructible, and when attached to a human being, makes that person immortal, because as long as there is some biological matter attached to the cruciform, it can regenerate the original host in approximately 3 days. The implications on religion, especially Catholicism are profound, and The Fall of Hyperion
delves into those, while still unfolding the fates of the original Pilgrims (at least those who survived the first book). Not all the Pilgrims survive the second book, and the sacrifices and choices that Meina Gladstone has to make in order to "save" humanity will take your breath away.
: The Fall of Hyperion
: Dan Simmons
: 528 pages.
: November 1, 1995.
OVERALL GRADE: A/A-.
Endymion begins with one of the great lines in science fiction: "You are reading this for the wrong reason." These words are written by Raul Endymion, in the 31st century, nearly 300 years after the events depicted in Hyperion
and The Fall of Hyperion
. Raul was born on Hyperion, and is a 27-year-old outdoorsman who finds himself sentenced to death after killing an odious businessman. After being rescued from this fate, Raul is sent on an impossible quest by the last surviving Pilgrim from the first book.
is a road trip movie writ large, combined with a chase thriller and a religious fable. We discover that after the resolution of the war in The Fall of Hyperion
the Church has become the most powerful political force in the human Universe, as they use the cruciform as a bribe to gain complete fealty to The Pope and the Church Hierarchy by the vast majority of humanity. However, the Church is being challenged by She Who Teaches, also known as Aenea. Raul's impossible quest involved rescuing Aenea from the Time Tombs and The Shrike and keeping her safe from the Church forces who wish to do her harm. Aenea is the 13-year-old daughter of one of the original Pilgrims, who have (mostly) been dead for multiple centuries at this point.
The Church forces are led by Father Captain de Soya, who is a pretty interesting character. Through his eyes, we get to see the inner workings of the Church, from the point of view of a true believer who is willing to die (and be resurrected) repeatedly in order to fulfill the mission his superiors have assigned him.
Another interesting aspect of Endymion
is the re-appearance of The Shrike, and the new ambiguity we are presented about its motives and actions. We begin to see it as more than just a killing machine, since it seems to have some kind of odd attraction (and protective attitude) to(wards) Aenea. Aenea is another example of one of those all-knowing children we have seen before (Alia in Frank Herbert's Dune,
anyone?) whose messianic destiny has been pre-ordained (somehow she will become The One Who Teaches).
The story is primarily told from the perspective of Raul, and although Aenea seems to know what will happen in the future, the future can be changed by current events, and so she often acts in ways that frustrate Raul (and by extension the reader). That being said, Endymion
is an excellent follow-on to the first two books in the series, and nicely sets up the action for the series' conclusion in The Rise of Endymion
Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 576 pages.
Date: November 1, 1996.
OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+.
The Rise of Endymion
The Rise of Endymion is the final book in Simmons' classic Hyperion Cantos. Although this entry is the weakest book of the four, it is still a compelling read and really just suffers in direct comparison to the other superlative works in the collection.
The Rise of Endymion is the most philosophical (and somewhat didactic) of the books. It focuses more o the story of Aenea and the conflict between her as the new messiah and the intransigent Catholic Church which has been headed by Pope Urban (formerly Father Lenar Hoyt) for multiple centuries. It's not to say that the other books lack Deep Thoughts, but it is in The Rise of Endymion
that Simmons really makes his ideology clear. He is clearly opposed to organized religion but also promotes some form of Zen-Buddhism.
The strengths of The Rise of Endymion
greatly outweigh the weaknesses I have mentioned here. These strengths include the description of the space battles, the characterization of Raul and the heart-rending ending. Some people have a real problem with the character of Aenea. I question their obsession with her because I re-read the Hyperion Cantos
in 2010 after leaving the books on the shelf for at least a decade (although I did acknowledge they were some of my all-time favorite SF reads) and the main things that had stayed with me was The Shrike, the cruciform and the perfidious depiction of the Church--I had completely forgotten about the characters of Raul and Aenea.
One review I found
while researching my reviews said about Aenea:
Aenea has become the most annoying character in the series. She denies being a messiah, but she speaks in koans. She can glimpse the future, but refuses to tell anyone anything about it. She doesn't say anything about why. She is ultimately secretive and holds back a lot of what she knows. There are parts of the book where characters ask her questions where her answers could save them, make their lives easier, etc., and she point-blank refuses to reveal anything, or begs to put off answering until "the right time." All this clichéd and cryptic messianic behavior is just far too ridiculous for me. Frank Herbert was far superior at handling characters who could see the future. Dan Simmons' "the One Who Teaches" is sadly reduced to a mystic know-it-all.
This is a pretty harsh assessment in an overall mixed review ("a work that will engross and absorb at times, and at others irritate and frustrate"). I am more positively inclined towards the book, and the series overall. Many people think the first book is the best, I actually think the second is slightly better, but I would recommend that any science fiction fan who is interested in reading the best the genre has to offer to take the time to complete the entire Hyperion Cantos
Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 720 pages.
Date: July 1, 1998.
OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+.