Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review of "The Rise of Endymion" by Dan Simmons

After busting through the door with a whole new Hyperion story in Endymion, Simmons returns with The Rise of Endymion to close it.  Answering all of the questions and satisfying all the plot build up of the first half, Rise concludes the story in grand fashion, living up to the expectation created.  It does, however, leave a little wanting thematically. But to the review!

The Rise of Endymion opens where Endymion left off.  Aenea, Endymion, and the others are in the American West recovering from the attack by the church and learning architecture from a cybrid of Frank Lloyd Wright.  They are quickly separated, however, and Endymion goes on a perilous mission of which he knows not the end.  Simmons upping the ante imaginatively, the dangerous and exotic events of Endymion’s life prepare him in every way for the life he finds at the end, including how he ends up in the Schroedinger’s Box.

And things continue to escalate with the Church.  Pope Julius IV dies, is resurrected, and rechristened (ha!) Urban XVI in an attempt to indicate a new direction for the church.  With involvement from various other institutions and mega-corporations, war is mounted by the Pax.  Square in their crosshairs are the Ousters and other fringe groups not in line with Church policy.  The exiled de Soya likewise returns and plays his role in the story, but it is best left for the reader to discover the surprising manner in which his and the other characters' interests are resolved, for better and worse.

Endymion more exotic in the telling, The Rise of Endymion shifts away from adventure mode and settles things down: Aenea matures, more layers of the Church are peeled back, and religious and personal growth take center stage as the focus.  From animism to spiritualism, the oft-involved Catholicism to Tibetan Buddhism, Simmons fills the story with the motifs of the world’s religions, past, present, and beyond.  The ending, while seeming to cause a clash in the ideals at play, nevertheless transcends reader expectation, the Shrike even on hand to witness the final unravelling.  But there is more to say about the ending.

If Endymion borrowed from Huckleberry Finn for its plot movement, then The Rise of Endymion can certainly be seen to steal a page or two from Alfred Bester’s Tiger! Tiger!, aka, The Stars My Destination.  Without spoiling matters, suffice to say an ordinary guy is put through hell to achieve his goals.  Though Gully Foyle’s motive is revenge and Endymion’s is love for Aenea, each are tried and tested in a variety of creative ways that are a credit to each author's imagination.  The strongest aspect of the comparison, besides the bombastic style, is the manner in which each character uses the knowledge they’ve gained at the conclusion of their story.  For both Bester and Simmons it is an individually motivated idea that reflects back and universally suffuses the whole, making the finale transcendent.  But while everything wraps up nicely from an idea perspective, something still seems to be lacking the deeper one looks into the conclusion...  Perhaps it's too pat given the volatility of the subject matter?

In the end, The Rise of Endymion is a good conclusion to a good story that will not disappoint readers who enjoyed the first half.  Simmons’ storytelling skills still evocatively on display, the temples of T’ien Shan, the sci-fi version of Jonah on the eerie gas planet, and the peeks inside Ouster life will have the imagination drooling.  If it wasn’t obvious in the first book, religion is pressed ever harder in the concluding volume, all the world’s beliefs seemingly put into play.  Though falling short of the quality of the Hyperion duology due to the slightly melodramatic and forced feel of the climax, The Rise of Endymion is still great science fiction for the 21st century.  Readers of space opera simply can’t go wrong with Simmons. 

No comments:

Post a Comment