“So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed–see here it is–
I hold it towards you.” -John Keats, ‘This Living Hand’
“Hyperion” by Dan Simmons
I have heard many things about Dan Simmons’s Hyperion; my big introduction to it came not too long ago in the form of a coworker who was attempting to read it on the suggestion of a friend who said it was basically a life changing novel. He said he was having trouble getting into it, and, knowing I’d been wanting to read it anyway, I offered to pick it up and start reading it as well. This coworker is the sort of fellow who needs someone to push him on some things, and so we thought it would be perfect. Of course, then our schedules didn’t match and we didn’t see each other for a week; I started reading it, getting very involved and entranced by it, and forging ahead and leaving him in the wayside.
I finished it last night; I think Don’s going to be looking for it on audiotape.
I would have tried to keep a better pace, but I couldn’t help getting absorbed in this richly involved chronicle of seven pilgrims on a voyage to their doom. It’s a science fiction staple, and I can certainly see why, although I’m not quite sure I’m with Don’s friend in saying its entirely life-changing. Incredibly enjoyable and thoughtful and full of depth, yes, and a book I would gladly read again (I wanted to jump right into the next one, The Fall of Hyperion, but it could not be located at my local Borders), but not exactly life changing. There wasn’t enough of an ending, I feel, for that, which is why I wanted to jump into the sequel, to see if there’s more of what I wanted in the ending: more Shrike, more of the Time Tombs, more conclusion to the story of the pilgrimage. As it stands, I think the reviewer inside the book jacket from Rocky Mountain News nailed it in calling it “Canterbury Tales in a far-future universe.” The stories of the pilgrims were engaging and fascinating; the world Simmons created in the Web and the Hegemony and especially Hyperion are ones I’d love to explore some more. And while I was pleased with the fade-into-the-distance ending, it was still one of those moments that I could live with, but I would love so much more.
It’s definitely a book to warrant quite a few readings to get all the nuances. I’d love to spend more time one day dissecting all the references to John Keats and the planet Hyperion as a manifestation of his poem. I’m pathetically lacking in Keats, though, which should really be changed.
There’s no denying that Simmons is a great writer, too. I’m inspired by his ability to write in a collection of different styles that makes each of the stories recall not only a different voice, but also different genres with a sci-fi bent. And the worlds he created! His future is believable and exquisite, bursting with details that remove it far enough from the world as it is now, but with enough still running strong. I would have loved to have seen more of the Ousters, the “barbarian” human society that we don’t really see much of until the very last story: “I believe the Ousters have done what Web humanity has not in the past millennia: evolved. While we live in our derivative cultures, pale reflections of Old Earth life, the Ousters have explored new dimensions of aesthetics and ethics and bioscience and art and all the things that must change and grow to reflect the human soul.”
Now that’s what I call inspiring. To be better, to be more creative, to think outside the bounds of the pale reflections of our past and look ahead to what may be the next evolution of man.
BRB, off to read some Neitzche or Galapagos now…Heh.
Books read: 10 out of 100.
Double digits breached!!