A to Z Challenge: H is for Hyperion Cantos

HThe A to Z Challenge is a chance for me to re-visit books that left an impression in the past, and letter H brings a very special book.

I’ve already mentioned “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons in last year’s Myk’s Book Tag, and that it was a turning point in me getting more interested in science-fiction. I eyed the book in the library, one of the few that I hadn’t read by the time that kept sparking my interest. So I gave it a chance.

“Hyperion” is a story of seven pilgrims traveling toward a remote planet, towards the Tombs of Time: a Priest, a Templar, a Detective, a Poet, a Soldier, a Captain, and a Wiseman. One of them will have their wish granted, the others will die. They don’t know why they were chosen from among other candidates, so they decided to spend the travel sharing their stories. Each of the story reveals not only the past of the world they live in, but also uncovers their personal secrets that were the reason those people were brought together.

What charmed me in “Hyperion” was not only the superb storytelling, but also the ideas. This book is not about “something”, one thing that sets the theme, it’s about “everything”. Time travels, artificial intelligence, posthumans, religion, and… John Keats and his poetry. Simmons weaves those themes like no one else, making them into a coherent and fascinating vision of the humanity among the stars, far away from the destroyed Earth.

Beautiful hardcover edition of Hyperion. One of the two I own.
Beautiful hardcover edition of Hyperion.
One of the two I own.

Six tales of six pilgrims (one doesn’t get to tell their tale, but I won’t be spoiling it) don’t bring a conclusion, and the ending doesn’t bring satisfaction: it’s a mere setup for “The Fall of Hyperion”, the next part, that continues the plots from the first book, enhances them, and uncovers some of the secrets. Together, the two books are a feast for any science-fiction fan, portraying the humanity at its peak and at its fall. The scale of the story always leaves me stunned, as I imagine only a master storyteller could be able to successfully carry it out, while still making the books interesting to the reader.

Two more books in Hyperion Cantos series, “Endymion” and “The Rise of Endymion”, are set many centuries after the events from the previous books, and even though they continue the plots, their structure is more adventure-like, and—in a way—more simple. They still are worth reading, but they fall a bit short in comparison to their predecessors.

Nevertheless, the whole series is one of the most impressive science-fiction creations I ever came across, and even Frank Herbert’s Dune didn’t manage to leave me as stunned and fascinated as Hyperion Cantos. It’s no surprise then that I even though my local library had the whole series, I tracked down the first edition (back then it was out of print already and very hard to get), and then, when years later another publisher offered a hardcover edition, I got it too (the sentiment prevents me from giving away the first edition, so it’s still back at my home in Poland). And you know… I consider getting an English edition too, because I’ve never read it in the original language.

What about you? Which science-fiction would you consider a masterpiece and a Top 1 on your private reading list?

9 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: H is for Hyperion Cantos”

  1. Whoa! THERE’S a big question… I’ve loved the Miles Vorkosikgan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, partly because it encompasses so many other sub-genres and looks at the future through a wholly human lens – but despite the fact that the final two books are really rather silly – my favourite series is Kage Baker’s The Company novels, particularly ‘Mendoza Goes to Hollywood’ in which she manages to evoke the idea of nostalgia and longing for times past – and then switch into laugh-aloud farce. I recall being completely blown away by the book at the time… As for a standalone novel – C.J. Cherryh’s ‘Heavy Time’ was another huge experience, along with David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. And that’s trying HARD to ignore David Ramirez masterly ‘The Forever Watch’ and ‘Dark Eden’ by Chris Beckett. I’m rubbish at funnelling my reading experience down to a single anything, really… Sorry!

    1. Sorry for asking the question this way, Sarah! I can somewhat relate to your troubles, if Hyperion wasn’t the case of the first love, I’d probably have trouble answering it myself. 🙂

      1. It was rather a shock to the system to discover just how MUCH difficulty I had answering the question! But then, I’m not a great re-reader, as there is always another good book ‘out there’ to plunge into…

    1. The Endymions do feel a bit less engaging, a bit less complex than the first ones, so they’re worth reading only if you’re interested in what happened next.

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