Hyperion (1989) by Dan Simmons



Hyperion is a wide ranging and elaborate sci-fi set a few hundred years after earth had been abandoned during it’s death throws. The story centres on a team of seven people (and a baby) who are traveling to Hyperion, a world in the outskirts of the Hegemony. On Hyperion there is a strange area called the ‘time tombs’. Our protagonists are on a pilgrimage to the time tombs to confront the Shrike, a fearsome daemon or monster that protects the tombs.

Hyperion deals with many topics, including war, love, discrimination and time travel. The time tombs are traveling backwards though time in some sort of localised bubble in space-time. Despite these strange effects the world has barely been studied and there isn’t much of a local populace. One of the character’s ‘origin stories’ actually deals with the (limited) colonisation of Hyperion by ‘Sad King Billy’, telling the tale of the rise and fall of the only real city ever built on Hyperion.

Over the course of the story, each of the characters tells a story about what brought them to Hyperion and why they are on the pilgrimage. These stories form the meat and bones of the novel and they are surprising in their varied plots and different ‘feels’ as each person tells their tale. Simmons is a master of subtle character depth and this novel was a pleasure to read (a little hard to review, that said…).

A few of the sci-fi terms Simmons uses are… co-opted… from existing works (it’s not quite plagiarism…) which I personally found strange, but only because I knew the words. One of the main ones is Ansible. An Ansible is a faster than light (or instantaneous, depending on who’s telling the story) communications device which allows people to stay in contact despite vast interstellar distances. Simmons also describes the galaxy in the story as being a Hegemony with a Hegemon. Both Ansible and Hegemon are frequently used in Orson Scott Card’s works and for a while I was confused. I wondered if they had been set in the same ‘universe’ or if it was just a strange coincidence. Strange Coincidence…

Hyperion is a stunning read and I recommend it for anyone who is a sci-fi fan, or someone who wants a good book to convert them into a sci-fi fan (that should be everyone). Simmons plays tricks with the reader that will leave you guessing right till the end. It must be said that this is not a stand alone novel, but rather part of a long series. The story started in Hyperion continues in Fall of Hyperion and I hope to read and review that in the near future.

Definitely worth your time.

5 Stars.