Wednesday, November 09, 2005

37. Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion book pictureThere is a decent english science fiction section at La Bibliotheque Nationale here and I chose Hyperion simply because it had a cool cover and I felt pretty sure it was popular. I'm trying to catch up on my sci-fi.

It's about 7 people who come together on a remote planet called Hyperion that is just about to be the site of an interstellar battle between the dominant human Hegemony and an outcast society called the Ousters. For various reasons not made clear at the beginning, Hyperion and some ancient tombs on it are extremely important to the fate of the galaxy. Because of the war, and because of a mysterious and viciously deadly monster called the Shrike who has somehow been released from the tombs, everyone is fleeing Hyperion, except for the 7 pilgrims.

I know it all sounds kind of complicated and at first it is, but what's really great about this book is the structure and the way it unfolds the backstory. Each of the 7 pilgrims has a reason connected with the tombs and the Shrike for coming to Hyperion. And they decide that they should tell each other their story as they make their journey to the tombs. The book, then, becomes a collection of stories, each framed on top of the journey. Each story reveals a little bit more about the galaxy and man's development in space. It also reveals more and more about the nature of the Shrike and the tombs and the war. Into this mix is a rich future history that explores man's relation with computers (the AI's play an important role) and the destructive nature of colonialism.

The writing is solid and entertaining and the setting and science fiction concepts are rich and imaginative (there are a people who float around space in giant space trees). My only real complaint is that by the time you get to the last pilgrim's story, you realize there just can't be enough pages left to complete the larger story. And it doesn't end. I picked this book up because it didn't appear to be necessary to read the sequels. But I see that was just because the copy I got was printed before the sequels came out. It's definitely a part of a series, something I'm trying to avoid. But I'm hooked and I'll at least give the next book a read to see how the pilgrims' progress turns out.

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