Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review of "Endymion" by Dan Simmons



The original Hyperion duology was a great success for Dan Simmons.  It won him numerous awards and accolades, not to mention rave reviews and huge sales figures.  The setting so fertile, Simmons indulged further, producing additional books typically called the Endymion duology.  No less imaginative and visual, the pair, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, nevertheless take Simmons’ universe in a new direction: where Hyperion focused on mythological quests for power from a base of Keats' poetry, Endymion is honed to spirituality from a personal view.  The following review is for the first half of the duology.

Endymion opens by introducing the man who becomes the main protagonist of the story.  The eponymous Raul Endymion hangs in space inside a Schroedinger’s Box roughly 300 years after the events of Hyperion.  Convicted of a capital crime, he awaits the random moment when two contact points will touch, fill the box with poison, and kill him.  With nothing else to do, he begins narrating the events that brought him to the Box.  Born and raised on the planet Hyperion, he lived a rather mundane life on the now famous but disconnected planet, serving in the army until discharge, and after, opening his own guide service for rich off-world hunters.  Finding himself in an unresolvable conflict with a group of bourgeois clients one day, the need for escape is great, and off Endymion goes across the galaxy, the real story just beginning.

Endymion’s story occupying one half of the narrative, the other half (in alternating chapter form) is the story of Father de Soya.  De Soya is a highly placed official in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which since the events of The Fall of Hyperion has become one of the most powerful entities in the galaxy under the immortal leadership of Pope Julius IV, previously known as Lenar Hoyt.  Seeking to protect its position, the Church sends de Soya on a mission to the time tombs of Hyperion to prevent the emergence of what they believe to be the anti-christ.  How De Soya and Endymion’s stories become intertwined is for the reader to discover.

A sci-fi Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the majority of Endymion consists of a fascinating river chase.  For reasons not explained until the second volume, Aenea (another new character) is able to control the defunct farcaster portals that once interconnected the galaxy.  The River Tethys, which flowed through Tau Ceti amongst other cities, is the scene of the action.  As it once passed through a variety of interesting worlds, so too do the band of travelers which forms, leading to one exotic adventure after another.  Though having built the universe in Hyperion, Simmons shows he has plenty of imagination left in the tank, these adventures anything but typical sci-fi or fantasy.  The ice people, the ocean world, and the jungles are leftover Hyperion vintage.

Style once again flawless and filled with vivid imagery and description, the potential faults of the novel are largely device and theme related.  A few of the new characters, particularly the Terminator-esque people the Church assembles to give chase, feel forced.  The “bad” guys pushed to the background at the end of The Fall of Hyperion, the choice for antagonist in Endymion had to be newly created, and what results is not always convincing.  (Though I have to admit the arch-angel ships the priests travel in is brilliant symbolism.)  As the materialism of the Catholic Church is the artery at which Simmons aims his literary knife, readers sensitive to criticism of the Vatican, et al., should be careful: he does not cut lightly.  

In the end, Endymion is more fabulous storytelling in the Hyperion universe from Simmons.  Stakes personal, the mode switches from space opera to planetary adventure, the River Tethys leading the group and those who chase on a series of highly creative scenes and happenings that culminate in a showdown leading into the next book.  Thus, readers be warned that Endymion, like Hyperion, is just the first half of a story, The Rise of Endymion concluding the events of this novel.  Those who enjoyed Hyperion will definitely want to check out these two books, just be wary that the scope has altered.  And yes, the Shrike returns… 

2 comments:

  1. I loved Endymion as well....though not as much as Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.

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  2. I agree. The mythical undperpinning of Hyperion is not as divisive as the religious ideas under discussion in Endymion. But both are so chock full of imagination they're difficult to put down.

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