Hyperion by Dan Simmons Book Review

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)

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Dan Simmons has always been revered for his mastery of building immersive worlds, and Hyperion is his best science fiction work yet. Winner of the 1989 Hugo Awards, it’s the debut book in Simmons’s highly successful Hyperion Cantos series. As with most sci-fi classics, the novel is set in a far-future world that gets more and more interesting with every turn of the page.

Hyperion calls to mind Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century Canterbury Tales, in that the novel follows several characters through various timelines at the same time. If you ask any sci-fi reader worth their salt, they’ll tell you that a great work of science fiction should pose more questions than it answers.

The core purpose of any good sci-fi isn’t to paint an accurate picture of the future or tell us what it’ll look like; it should make us think about our role in the world, wow us with possibilities, and speak to our vision of the future. This is exactly where Simmons brings his A-game. In Hyperion, he asks more questions than he delivers answers.

Hyperion describes a world where a group of AIs called technocore calls the shorts. They have overwhelmed their human creators and seceded from them, but they still work from time to time with human beings. That’s not to say that technocores don’t have the ability to wipe the human race from the face of the planet with a simple snap of a figurative finger.

Even more fascinating, the AIs have the ability to create the ultimate intelligence that could actually tell the future. In fact, had it not been for the Hyperion, they could predict any event or outcome of the whole universe in a jiffy with perfect accuracy. What’s Hyperion?

Hyperion is an outer planet nestled on the outskirts of Hegemony, a galactic state. It’s a mysterious and dangerous planet where strange events take place. Most of the things that happen in Hyperion cannot be understood by anyone, including even the most powerful AIs or the human race with the best available technology and intelligence.

Shrike, an intimidating and fearsome demonic entity, is Hyperion’s most valued mystery and it seems to be connected to time itself and most deaths occurring on the strange planet. Also called the Lord of Pain, Shrike is a myth to some, a god-like entity to others, and yet some think it’s a menacing monster from the future. Amid all of the confusion, one thing’s for sure: no one knows if Shrike really exists or what’s true about it.

Hyperion follows a crew of seven chosen people who are sent to Hyperion to confront and possibly learn about the Shrike. The author recounts the experiences of each member of the crew with the murderous strange thing.

The sci-fi bit of the novel is pretty straightforward and standard human civilization’s path to galactic defeat by space-faring extraterrestrial life-form. You’ll find the whole shebang … super-intelligent machines that are too clever for humans, spaceships, farcaster teleportals, and time-traveling, amongst others. There’s also the vague outside threat that comes in the form of Hyperion and Shrike.

Aside from the conventional science fiction elements, which are of course impressive, what really takes the cake are the mythological themes infused into the story. You’d not be mistaken for thinking the sci-fi elements just offer an ideal background for the mythological aspect of the novel. 

Hyperion is written in an unapologetic flow, which often throws the reader into the deep end of the pool when it comes to the futuristic society of the Hegemony. They are several places that aren’t described, many terms that aren’t defined, and many situations that are left in suspense.

While this may occasionally make the novel a little difficult to follow, it lends some legitimacy to the story, making it sound plausible and realistic. Think about it: if you were to narrate your visit to the museum, you wouldn’t bother to explain what a bus is because you wouldn’t expect the reader to be someone from a distant past. Dan Simmons allows you to use your imagination and contextual hints to fill the gaps, creating one of the best reads available today.

In conclusion, Simmons’s Hyperion is an enjoyable and fun challenge worthy of your time. It can be hard to wrap your head around some of the hard science concepts, but that’s what makes the novel so exciting and enjoyable. The mysteries and writing styles used by Simmons are sure to keep you hooked to the very end.

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