I ♥ Dan Simmons.
While waiting for my copy of ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ I read ‘The Terror’. What a weird book. I don’t mean weird in a bad way it’s just that it’s hard to categorize something that starts out so realistically and subtly deteriorates into strange conjecture. The book I’ve read that is most like it is ‘Life of Pi.’
The first half of the book is well written historical fiction. Simmons peppers his work with references to literature and poetry I suppose he collected during his years of teaching. The general theme of first half of the book is of British arrogance along the lines of Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘Mayflower’ and Giles Milton’s ‘Big Chief Elizabeth’. But halfway through the story turns to science fiction/fantasy based on Inuit myth. It’s a cool twist.
I think it would be difficult to read ‘Hyperion’, like it and not want to read ‘The Fall of Hyperion too. There were two themes in the second book that made me think the kind of ideas that gnaw away at me. First was the ‘Core.’ While the book must have been written in the late 80’s for me ‘The Core’ symbolized a science fiction version of the internet as an evil collective unconscious. I have a problem with this. My views were shaped by the first astronauts who dreaded being in the black void of space. But that isn’t what they reported feeling. They felt the vacuum was welcoming and teeming with warmth. Buddhism teaches that joy, not evil — lies in the moments between dreading the future and regretting the past. There comes a time in the book where the Core disconnects from humans and the effects are madness and chaos. I wonder if that is what would happen if technology suddenly became impossible.
The other compelling theme was an anti-aging therapy called ‘Paulsen’s treatments’. Of course we are bombarded by what celebrities are doing in attempts to fool Mother Nature. In the book I like how Simmons unflatteringly described the characters who partook of such treatments.
There is a terrible monster in ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ called the ‘Shrike.’ It reminded me of the ‘Stobor’ in Heinlein’s ‘Tunnel in the Sky’. I guess science fiction books always need and have a terrible monster?
When I first picked up ‘Hyperion’, it felt too familiar – like Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’. In the ‘Sparrow’ Russell explores Jewish mysticism. I would say on first glance that with the two Hyperion books, Simmons is simply angry at the Old Testament God.