Subtle. That is the word that comes to mind after reading this book. Dan Simmons wrote a space opera that combines adventure, politics, science, psychology, religion, and mythos all in a neat little package. You don’t know you are hooked until halfway through the book!
“You have been chosen to return to Hyperion as a member of the Shrike Pilgrimage.”
Seven people received this message: the Consul (diplomat), the priest, the scholar, the soldier, the detective, the poet, and the Templar captain. Seven people have been sent to the world of Hyperion fully expecting to die, as only one ever comes back from a pilgrimage- only one if anyone comes back at all.
Far into the future in the vast reaches of space, humanity is at war with itself. The Hegemony is a twisted political system that seeks control of all worlds and destruction of sentient life forms that could rise up against them. The Ousters are humans of an advanced society that chose a different way of life when they split from old Earth. They live their entire lives in zero gravity and plan to destroy the Hegemony through any means necessary. The Techocon are the AIs that seceded from human control centuries before but have managed to control the entire Hegemony infrastructure though technology. Secretly they seek a way to severe the ties with humanity and destroy species itself.
Enter into this convoluted political arena the world of Hyperion: a backwater planet that is the thorn in everyone’s scheming. This world falls outside of AI predictability and human control. The Time Tombs are a secret that no amount of research can crack. Not only do they move backwards in time, but they also house a monster capable of unspeakable horrors: the Shrike.
Hyperion is a poet’s world devoid of poetry. Keats itself is a mixture of tawdry, false classicism and mindless, boomtown energy.
The Hegemony send our band of pilgrims to this dead world for one purpose- find a way to control the phenomena or destroy it. The Ousters send a spy amongst the pilgrims to stop the destruction so they themselves can harness the power as a weapon.
And our pilgrims? Well they have zero political affiliation and seek the pilgrimage for their own reasons…reasons they are willing to die for.
The priest is a man with little faith and a parasitic illness connected to the Shrike. The poet has the guilt of a world and an obsession with the story of the Shrike. The scholar seeks to undo the Shrike’s curse and an answer for a God’s request. The Soldier wishes to answer for past sins and destroy the monsters in the Tombs.The Templar has a mysterious con section with Hyperion and the pilgrims’ pasts. The detective seeks a lost love who died for his contact section to Hyperion and to stop extinctions. The Consul is the ace in the whole for a war he despises and wishes no government the horrors of the Tombs.
This was superbly written! Mr. Simmons doesn’t bog us down with background mumbo jumbo at the risk of the story, as with a lot of space opera. Instead, the reader is introduced to a complex world of deceit, politics, religion, scientific advances, personal tragedies, and hidden agendas with the story of each traveler as be/she tell it to the fellow pilgrims. Interspersed between the tales we are introduced to the present day results of past trials and the inevitable galactic war.
Sometimes there is a thin line separating orthodox zeal from apostasy.
This is a complex tale of very well-developed characters and an absolutely smashing world building. But it is also an incomplete tale. This is a book about the start of a long journey and how individuals can be used to begin war of worlds.