Hyperion is a Dan Simmons novel that was published in 1989. It was the first of four novels which are collectively known as the Hyperion Cantos. The novel also won a Hugo award. So, how well does it hold up?
The Hegemony of man has carefully created a vast society on multiple worlds. Bringing many colonies in through various methods. Their biggest competition are the Ousters. Another group of humans that they’ve been fighting skirmishes with for a long time. In the midst of their conflict, one final group of pilgrims are being permitted to travel to Hyperion, a strange world that’s known for unexplained temporal phenomena, for the Shrike pilgrimage. We open with the Consul being asked to join the pilgrims but being warned. There’s an Ouster spy somewhere in the group.
One notable thing about the story is that it’s stylistically similar to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Both stories focus on a small group of pilgrims telling their individual tales as they approach their destination. Both stories also refer to their pilgrims by title. That being said, there are major differences. The pilgrims in Hyperion are making their way through danger. There are considerably fewer of them. They have real names beyond their titles, although we never learn the Consul’s. Hyperion also has the characters telling their own stories about what connects them personally to the planet Hyperion. Which introduces the element of narrator reliability and serves to provide insight into what the various characters hope to accomplish. There’s also the important distinction that Hyperion gives you a mystery to solve. You know that one of these people is a spy and you’re paying attention to their stories for clues that will help you figure out which one it is. Although the mystery does ultimately end in an anti-climax. That’s not even bringing the setting or genre differences into account. The story also has a fixation on the poet John Keats. He becomes something of an ongoing motif.
The narrative itself is really interesting. Finding out how the characters got to this point serves a dual purpose. Both giving you character insight and helping to build this sci-fi world. The world building in this is absolutely phenomenal. As you progress in the story and hear the various characters talk about their histories, you gain insight into the various sci-fi technologies being employed, the way society works in this world, the conflicts among different factions and Hyperion’s mysteries. All of which is presented as a natural part of the pilgrims’ stories.
The characters in this are well fleshed out, mostly. The Templar is pretty under-developed. Partially because you don’t hear his story and partially because he consistently leaves the other six pilgrims on their own to do things that may come up in the sequels but don’t here. The ending is also a bit abrupt with how much our main six pilgrims forget their personality conflicts and come together.
Those issues aside, the six major characters are really interesting. We get a lot of insight into them from not only their stories but from how they tell their stories, with each one being told in the character’s unique voice. Their interactions and how they handle setbacks during their journey also serve to flesh them out as characters.
So, that’s Dan Simmons’ Hyperion. I won’t lie. It’s a fantastic book. The world building is phenomenal. The characters are largely well developed. The story excels at keeping you invested. Overall, it’s a compelling, well told story. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Honestly, I’m going to check out the sequels and read those. For New Years Eve, I’ll give you guys one final bonus review with Transformers. The 80s cartoon, not the rubbish Bay film loosely based on the 80s cartoon. So, I hope you all enjoy that. For today, have/ I hope you had a happy Hearth’s Warming, Hogswatch, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Christmas, or whatever other holiday.