It’s really hard to write this review without including my knee jerk reaction to the ending. Leaving that aside, however, I actually enjoyed this book once I realized what was going on (i.e., the fact that it’s a series of stories within a story). Oddly, the least interesting part of the tale is the group of people moving closer and closer to their apparently eminent demise via impaling. (Also oddly, that last sentence isn’t a spoiler.) The parts of the book that held me enraptured were the pilgrims’ tales. It will vary which of the stories appeals to you, but I can tell you this, even the story that I hated the most (that’d be the poet’s tale) still moved along at a healthy clip and kept me turning the pages. The scholar’s tale, however, went so much farther that simply keeping the pages turning for me. It ripped my heart out and ran over it. It was powerfully written and did what every writer aims to achieve, it elicited one hell of an emotional response from me.
Goodread’s Blurb (from the paperback edition):
On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.
As you guys know, I’m quite the sucker for a story that moves, but every once and a while, it’s kind of nice to sit down with a book that meanders a bit. I’m not talking about meandering lost in the wilderness with no sense of plot. No. I’m talking about a story that meanders in such a way as when the threads start to come together in the tapestry, you’re momentarily blinded by the image that suddenly coalesces. The one thing I can say about this story, unreservedly, is that it is richly told. However, it’s not so rich that you can only consume small bits of it in one setting. There were times when I was fully expecting to just read for a little bit and then set it aside, but then two hours would have passed and I’d still be glued to the book. For a story that’s structurally based on The Canterbury Tales, it manages to be modern, futuristic, and fantastical. And yes, I would say that it remains modern even though it was originally published 22 years ago. The technology in the story stands the test of time, at least to my knowledge (which is pretty rudimentary when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons). Although it falls primarily under Sci Fi, the fantasy elements to the story are impossible to ignore and actually added yet another layer of vibrancy to the story that would have been otherwise lacking .
However, there is one piece that I’m somewhat skeptical of and that’s the seemingly pervasive influence of John Keats through the millennia. How many books last through a century? Shall we say maybe 300? We’re talking books that people can still reference and quote in current popular culture with no problems, the Shakespeares of the world. In a world that’s thousands of years in the future, I found the idea that an 19th century poet would be not just pervasive, but seemingly important to the very fabric of humanity’s existence to be a little hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Keats as much as the next girl, but we exist in a society that features people who are proud they don’t read. There are I Hate Books groups on Facebook and they have thousands of members (a little under 9000, just checked). It’s hard to believe that should humanity one day be forced into the stars that the names they would chose to take with them would be centered on a poets. Granted it’s certainly something I would hope for, but that doesn’t make it any more likely.
You’re probably asking yourself why I’m posting about a 22 year old story that isn’t pervasively popular. I starting listening to the Sword and Laser podcast after Veronica Belmont was on the Nerdist podcast and you guys, I freaking love it. It’s not often that we, as readers, are allowed a sense of community. Reading is inherently an individual activity and I’ve never been involved in a reading group before. That being said, it’s been nothing short of delightful for me to read the discussions of Hyperion on Goodreads (there’s a Sword and Laser group there) as I’ve read the book. They’re pretty good about spoiler warnings, so it’s possible to read discussions that are pertinent to where you are in the book in real time. You can even contribute to them. It’s refreshing to be able to interact with a bunch of other people who are reading the same thing as you without having the time commitment of a true book club wherein you have to go somewhere and bake something in advance. Sword and Laser also has a show on Geek and Sundry’s YouTube channel and I highly suggest it. They have a dragon.
Now, back to the book. It’s a subtlety woven tale of death, treachery, and fatefully converging lives. If you have a little bit of spare time, it’s certainly worth it. If you want to give up at the poet’s tale, try to get through the scholar’s tale. If you hate it at that point, then I can’t help you.
4 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 4 Buffys
Character Investibility: 3.5 Doctors
Pacing/Tension/Urgency: 4 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 5 Snyders
Language: 4.5 Feegles
Mystery: 4 Sherlocks
Book Link: Goodreads