Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Hyperion by Dan Simmons; 900-1000 pages.

Okay, so technically this is a review of two books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. I'm treating them as one book because I read them as one book and also because there is no point in reading the first book if you don't read the second. Unfortunately, you have to slog through 900+ pages before you finally reach any sort of resolution. My tolerable limit must be around 600 pages.

Simmons used the Canterbury Tales-Decameron method for the first book. The seven main characters are, in fact, on a pilgrimage together although not so much for religious convictions as for personal quests to find out information. They have a conveniently long voyage so that they can all tell their background story which led them to undertake the pilgrimage. Not only is this voyage long enough for each person to share their entire life story but it is so long that the book runs out of pages just as they're actually getting somewhere. Or perhaps Simmons meant to write it that way. Whatever.

The second book introduces an 8th major character who basically serves as a window into this universe through which the reader can see what is happening. Ironic, since he serves that same function within the narrative only between the pilgrims and a 9th major character. Basically, the plot finally develops and resolves, albeit rather circuitously over 500 more pages.

The second book is the real heart of the story whereas the pilgrim stories of the first book merely serve as a foundation on which to place the story. The purpose of the pilgrimage and the political intrigues surrounding it are only fully revealed in the second book. I often wondered if it was even necessary to read Hyperion first.

This book demonstrates one of the most successful techniques in science fiction. Unfortunately I have no idea what it's called. In media res? That's a slightly different technique which Simmons also used. One problem with science fiction is when technology or concepts are so obviously explained that it pulls the reader out of the story, breaking any connection they might have had with the universe of the narrative. Simmons avoids this almost to a fault; practically to the point where nothing is explained. However, the reader ends up learning how things work, almost without realizing it.

Overall, not a terrible book. Just rather long. I still haven't decided if it could be condensed, but if possible, it would definitely be beneficial.

1 comment:

  1. So this was better than the book you read previous to this where the author would consistently use dialogue between characters to explain how a certain technology functioned. That's good. I do have to say, though, that your likening this to Canterbury Tales (however accurate as far as format goes) might be enough to keep me from attempting to read this book (as if the length weren't deterrent enough). I hope their tales were a bit easier to slog through than Chaucer's...