Wordy Wednesdays – The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

The Fall of Hyperion concludes the events begun in Hyperion, and it is an excellent novel.

We open on a new character, who is actually only kind of new. This time, instead of the pilgrims telling tales on their way to the Time Tombs, a cybrid modeled after John Keats is spying on them through his connection to the other cybrid of Keats that is now just a program in a closed shunt in Brawne Lamia’s head.

Science fiction!

You might be wondering what a cybrid is, so here: the TechnoCore is able to create human bodies occupied by artificial intelligences. The AI controlling the body is even able to leave the body and float freely in the datumplane, which is basically a hyper-internet. It’s where all the AIs that make up the TechnoCore actually live. The TechnoCore is a physical thing, but no one knows where it resides, except some of the AIs.

In fact, the person that wants detective Brawne Lamia to solve his own murder in Hyperion? That was the first Keats cybrid. It was murdered on the datumplane, which means it can only exist in the body it has now. It wanted to know who did this.

Anyway, this new cybrid calls itself Joseph Severn (a little joke there – it thinks of the other cybrid as Keats, and it calls itself Severn because Severn was the poet who was by the real Keats’ side when he died. That makes less sense than I want it to). And somehow, Severn is connected to the other cybrid Keats. Through it, Severn can see and hear events around the pilgrims, at first only around Lamia and only through dreams. Later, Severn is able to follow each pilgrim where ever they go, and can even follow them just by going into a light trance instead of sleeping.

I’ll just use this science-ball to see distant events in my dreams. Science!

This is odd at first. I wasn’t sure I wanted to accept it when I started reading it, but Simmons is a talented writer. From my good experience with Hyperion, I was willing to trust Simmons to pull it off. Not only did he immediately immerse me in the story and make me forget that this psychic-seer angle was odd, but he brings it to a solid explanation that makes sense in the setting.

Most of the pilgrims stay in the valley of the Time Tombs until near the end of the novel. But much larger events are taking place, and Severn is at the center of them. Meina Gladstone, the CEO of the Hegemony – the ruling government of the WorldWeb – is playing a dangerous game. The stakes – the freedom of humanity. Her opponents – the Ousters, interstellar barbarians, and the TechnoCore with all of its artificial intelligences, some of which predate the destruction of Old Earth.

After centuries of coexistence, humans on the WorldWeb trust the AIs. They’re a part of daily life, and they have done nothing but aid humans. They maintain the farcasters, which allows near-instantaneous travel between worlds. It’s like stepping through a door in your kitchen, and coming out a door on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri (just over four light years away!) a nanosecond later. And with their predictive algorithms, the TechnoCore can predict with ease many developments on a general scale. They have an advisory seat on the Hegemony, using their predictive knowledge to help guide humanity.

But Meina knows this isn’t good. The AIs have, for the last few centuries, gained increasing power over the day-to-day life of humans. She knows what the TechnoCore has in store for humanity – the slavery of a pet to its owner. And there’s only a slim chance to avoid this fate. The TechnoCore’s predictions cannot factor in one variable.

Hyperion. The Time Tombs.

And so we begin to see that the pilgrims’ quest for the Shrike has larger ramifications than just their own goals. But, with an Ouster invasion in the skies above Hyperion and the Tombs beginning to come into phase with normal time, the story is constantly on a knife’s edge.

(Video has little to do with this review. Just wanted to let you know that someone wrote a metal song about these books.)

Simmons does something that is incredibly hard to pull off. In the first book, he built up the Shrike as a mysterious killing machine, almost a force of nature. It only appeared when it wanted to, and fighting it was futile. It was more like a deadly force of nature than a creature. Simmons shows us what the Shrike is, and why it is moving backwards in time with the Tombs. We learn who created it and why, and we learn why it impales people on the Shrike Tree, a mysterious thing rarely seen.

Taking a mysterious villain and showing us everything about it usually ruins the villain. Typically, we learn that it is much weaker than originally stated, or it is retconned into being something that doesn’t make sense. Well, Simmons avoids both those pitfalls, and somehow makes it a little bit more terrifying. Not only that, but one of the pilgrims fights it, one on one, and it’s amazing.

Some sci-fi villains aren’t lucky enough to stay mysterious and threatening.

We also learn more about the Ousters, the humans who refused to live in the WorldWeb and just kind of sailed off into space. Excellent. Additionally, none of the plotlines feel stilted. Simmons isn’t just showing off this great universe he’s built; he artfully ties the pilgrims’ backstories into each section, so that the revelations are important to the characters we care about (oh, right, the characters are believable and he makes you care about them, which is difficult).

It’s hard to hate the bad guys. The TechnoCore has a very good reason for what they do. Meina Gladstone has a very good reason for what she does. The Ousters have a very good reason for their actions. But all of them have unfortunate consequences.

There’s time travel and epic battles, abductions and political wrangling, personal struggles and tragic deaths, bitter victories and snarling failures. Spaceships that are giant trees. The cruciform organisms play a big role. The Shrike impales one of the pilgrims on the Shrike Tree. It kills others. One of the pilgrims enters the datumplane and converses with one of the ancient AIs, which speaks often in koans that only make sense later.

To cap it all, there are even flying carpets.

Almost exactly this. Maybe even cooler.

And, of all the pilgrims, I think the epiphany that Sol Weintraub has is the greatest. I finished the book some odd weeks ago, and every now and then I’ll think back on this particular revelation and think Wow, what a great idea. Impressive.

There are two more novels in the Hyperion Cantos – Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. As soon as I can track them down, I will read them and probably gush about them here.

If you are a fan of science fiction novels, you are doing yourself a huge disservice if you do not read Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. I cannot recommend them enough.

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About seansynthetic

"...so I says the the guy, I says to him, 'No, YOU ain't allowed back into this Chuck-E-Cheese.'"

Posted on August 29, 2012, in Wordy Wednesdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting review! I’m trying to read some of the classics in the sci-fi genre this fall, so I will put these on my list. I was hooked when you said, “It’s hard to hate the bad guys,” because complex characters usually signal a rich, epic story in my opinion.

    • I really enjoyed both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion – I hope you do too! Let me know what you think once you’ve read them (or let me know when you put up a post on them on your own blog, so I don’t miss it or something).

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