Monday, June 11, 2012

Review of "The Fall of Hyperion" by Dan Simmons

Simmons having carefully woven each strand in Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion braids them together into a singular narrative that fantastically concludes the tale.  Whip-crackling energy throughout, the fate of the Hegemony, Ousters, and the Shrike are revealed.  All of the questions created—what will happen to Sol’s daughter?  Will Kassad get his revenge on the Shrike?  Will the Consul be able to open the time tombs?  And ultimately, what is the Shrike?—are answered in more than satisfying fashion.  Moreover, the mysterious disappearance of the tree-ship captain, Het Masteen, is not only explained, but fits perfectly within the framework of Hyperion to affect things as no reader could foresee.  With this and other details, Simmons shows the subtlety of his story’s design, and proves himself a master storyteller at work.

The narrative structure of Hyperion would be possible to duplicate in the sequel only if there were to be no resolve of the pilgrims’ stories.  All having converged at the time tombs, The Fall of Hyperion is where the rubber hits the road—a single road.  Told from two settings, one the galactic center at Tau Ceti and the other the tombs, the fate of the universe is finally decided.  Readers bounce back and forth between the two locations, learning the pilgrim’s fates on one hand and how the Hegemony is preparing for the imminent Ouster invasion on the other.  Action and plot non-stop, Simmons never takes his foot off the gas the length of the novel, driving the story all the way to a heart pounding climax that satisfies all of the build up of Hyperion

The players established and positions known, The Fall of Hyperion works within the parameters of Hyperion to conclude the story.  Save a second version of the android Keats (named Severn), Simmons avoids a major weak point of storytelling by springing nothing new—game changers or plot altering surprises—on readers.  There are no new overlords or super-weapons to step in and change the rules or extend the limits of possibility.  Everything fits perfectly within the playing space delimited in the first novel, and move by move, each piece works its way toward a showdown of colossal proportions—human, Ouster, AI, Shrike, and otherwise.

Hyperion such powerful storytelling, it’s unfortunate that The Fall of Hyperion must stand aside and be judged.  Like a meeting of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, everyone considers one better than the other, though both are mammoth.  Were it not for one’s brilliance, the other would be considered mightiest.  As such, the recent publication of the Hyperion omnibus editions is welcome.  The story able to be read from start to finish as Simmons envisioned it, readers do not feel such a sharp transition between the two halves, the need for comparison eliminated.  

Hyperion such a tour de force, most readers will find something amiss in The Fall of Hyperion, though they know not what.  The answer is: the end of the story.  With such a vast number of creative elements at play and interest generated in the characters and story, nobody wants the enjoyment to end.  However, it must, and Simmons finishes the tale in suitably epic fashion.  The good news is, the author also recognized the wealth of possibilities available and wrote a second duology in the Hyperion universe, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.  

In the end, The Fall of Hyperion is a grand finale built on the solid foundation of  Hyperion.  The only disappointment readers could feel would be that the story comes to an end.  Epic in nature and epic in feel, Simmons has set a very high bar for sci-fi.  Readers who enjoy Iain Banks or Peter Hamilton but have not read the Hyperion Cantos will find upon reading it that many ideas are in common, particularly the scope of their universes, love of interesting tech, and the possibilities of far future.  Despite having source material of its own, Hyperion is the inspiration of space opera in the 21st century and beyond.

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