Saturday, January 21, 2006

4. The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion pictureStop reading now. Put down your book this moment. It's a terrible habit and can only get worse, leading to not just any reading but reading genre books like Sci Fi and you all know where that leads, sitting in a movie theatre before the movie starts, overweight, popcorn and sno-caps in lap, open sci-fi paperback in hand.

It took me a while to get through the follow-up to Hyperion. The two are really a single book that probably got cut in half for practical purposes. I enjoyed the first one, but didn't love it. I read the second mainly to find out what happens. I kind of slogged through the first three-quarters of this one, feeling that I've read (and played in) too much alternate reality in too short a time and it was all getting kind of mixed up in my head. But the last quarter of this book pulled everything together and really rocked. I was lacking confidence and feeling doubtful of the excessive appearance of twentieth-century religious concepts and Keats the poet. But what you learn in the ending solidifies everything, gives a reason for all the disparate elements and makes a very cool story and concept.

What's really amazing about this book is that ultimately, one of its stronger themes is the relationship between man and machine. It is realized in a way far more profound than (and coming 10 years before) the Matrix series. I'm realizing that this theme of humans and machines as two different but fundamentally connected meta-species is much more extant in today's sci-fi than I had thought. I'm sure it's old hat to hardcore fans. But I think there are some fundamental and powerful philosophies being explored about our relatioships to the machines that (currently) serve us. The Hyperion books deserve to be a significant contributor to those ideas.

If you've got the time and want to get into a really amazingly constructed future and an even more complex and cool plotline about the future of humanity, I strongly recommend that you read Hyperion and the Fall of Hyperion. Unfortunately, as I lamented in the opening paragraph, there is a follow-up series, called Endymion, to the Hyperion books and though you don't need to read them to get a complete and satisfying conclusion from the the first two, once you do finish the Fall of Hyperion, you, like me, will probably want to keep going. Aargh! Stop reading!


Crumbolst said...

Woah. The realtionship between man and machine as well as "twentieth-century religious concepts and Keats the poet"? I'm interested but a bit intimidated.

Interestingly, I was showing some numbskull an image on a website recently and he said, "That's not real!" I know what he meant- he meant that the image is different from the first instance that it represents- but I decided to challenge him. Not knowing quite where I was going I asked, "Well, it it's not real, what is it?"

Afterward I got to thinking about the prevailing notion that if something is produced by a machine, or if some effort requires the assistance of one, the outcome is considered "not real." Is that really so?

Anyway, does the book go down that road?

OlmanFeelyus said...

Without giving too much away, I'd say that the world of Hyperion has already gone down that road. The reality of "reality" compared to the reality of the communication and idea net that exists because of technology is an underlying theme but not dealt with specifically. You hear snippets of hipster philosophers talking about it, or media pundits (same thing). Part of the critique of Hyperion is that society stops evolving because of it's reliance on these things. This is a world where you, if you're wealthy, have your living room on one planet and your bedroom on another. For many people, most of the inputs of their existence are in a created reality. If they were "unplugged" they might just go mad or kill themselves.

Mustapha Mond said...

Are cookies really homemade if all you've got to do is through little dough blobs into the oven?

Darth Vader. He's more machine now than man -- twisted and evil.

What if Darth Vader wanted to make homemade cookies?

The above is my proposed outline for the next Phillip K. Dick book.

dsgran said...

Ah! I'm glad you liked it! I agree with your assessment about Hyperion - it takes a while, but the last quarter of the book makes it well worth it.

Its funny- the first time I went to Italy, I had just finished Hyperion, and I couldn't help remembering the scene that took place at the Spanish Steps when I saw them for the first time. Funny that I see this great famous landmark and I think of a Sci-fi novel. Anyway, I met the guy who runs the Keats House (which is at the base of the steps- and for those of you who aren't following this train of thought, Keats wrote the poem "hyperion" for which the book takes its name). We went out to dinner and somehow we got talking about sci-fi, and i recommended Hyperion to him, he thought it was awsome that there was a sci-fi book that had to do with Keats- he was living in the keats house!

Oh, and there were other little things that made me think that Simmons had gone to italy before writing hyperion- one of the things that really struck me is that in the Vatican, there is a painting that made me immediatly think of the shrike's thorn tree.

Anyway, I highly recommend the follow up books. They're not quite as good, overall, but its fun to stay in the world a little while longer, and its interesting to find out what happens to some of the characters.

A very interesting end as well...