by Dan Simmons
I can honestly say it took me seven years to read this book. Not because it's extremely long--though at 482 pages it's not short either--or because it wasn't interesting--once I started reading I could hardly put it down. The problem was I originally bought the book, but before I could get around to reading it I moved and the book was in a box that was misplaced for four of those seven years. After the box was found I just didn't get around to reading it, in part because my reading tastes had changed away from sci-fi and in part because I worried this would be one of those dull "hard" science-fiction novels that spend more time on discussion of astrophysics than characters or story. I could not have been more wrong.
Nothing much actually happens in the actual story of "Hyperion." Seven different people from around the galaxy--known as the Hegemony of Man--are brought together by the mysterious Church of the Shrike for a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on the backwater world of Hyperion. Other than what appears to be a murder of one pilgrim, there's not much else involved other than travel arrangements.
The far more interesting part of the book are the stories within the stories. "Hyperion" is a sci-fi update of the classic "Canterbury Tales" where each of the six remaining pilgrims tells their story to the others of why they're on the pilgrimage. The Catholic priest Hoyt needs to get there before he dies from something that happened last time he was on the planet, the warrior Kassad needs to go there because of an encounter with a mysterious woman, the poet Silenius because the strange planet is the muse for his greatest work, the "Wandering Jew" Sol Weintaub to save his baby daughter, the detective Brawne to complete a case she took up, and the Consul, well, I won't spoil that surprise.
The mystery of what everyone wants and what exactly is going on with the Time Tombs and the mysterious creature known as The Shrike makes it hard to put the book down even though not a lot is happening. There are hints of a destuctive war to come, but that's saved for the sequel. I was disappointed after seven years to find out I need to buy the sequel to find out what happens to the pilgrims; I know it won't take seven years to read that.
My only real complaints are first some of the descriptions are a bit purple, especially the erotic encounter between Kassad and the mystery woman. Also, I wasn't happy with the order of the tales. Especially Weintraub's being in the middle of the book. It's such a great emotional tearjerker story that it should have been placed second-to-last in front of the Consul's nearly as emotional tearjerker story. Putting the hardboiled detective story of Brawne between the two takes away some of the flow. Still, maybe that was to keep with the form of "Canterbury Tales"; I wouldn't know because I've never read it.
In any case, even if you're not an avid sci-fi reader this is still a great book. You'll probably be a little confused about what a "farcaster" or a "Hawking drive" or a "fatline" is or how a "time-debt" works, but so was I and I've read a bit of sci-fi. Beyond that, the stories and characters are so classic to appeal to every reader.That is all.