Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hyperion Cantos Review

I was quite busy for a while and unfortunately hadn't had time to write. Or the time to read much, for that matter. I seem to be getting more time to read in now, though. Currently, I'm reading Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. It was time for a lighter read since I just finished the four books in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion).

Overall, I liked the series, although I would not consider it one of my favorites by the time I was finished with it. It was definitely an enjoyable series, but it had a few continuity issues that were mildly annoying to me, and were even more annoying to others (like my fiance, who couldn't even bring himself to finish the series because of the continuity issues). The other problem both my fiance and I had with the series was how fantastic things just happened with no explanation whatsoever as to how or why. The last two books seem to me as though perhaps they would have been better as a part of a separate series since Simmons had to change parts of the previous two books in order to make them work and they used mostly different characters anyway. They also failed to answer a lot of the questions I had after reading the first two books, and a lot of the mysteries that were repeatedly mentioned in The Rise of Endymion were never solved.

The first book in the series, Hyperion, starts with 7 individuals who have been sent on a pilgrimage to the planet Hyperion. To pass the time, the pilgrims decide to each tell their story about why they were chosen for this pilgrimage, so the book is basically made up of a few short stories with their journey told in between each tale. I am not generally a fan of short stories, but I found each of these stories to be interesting, although some were more than others. I found I appreciated some of the ones I did not enjoy as much initially far more when I read the sequel and found out more about how the stories related to each other and the world Simmons created.

My favorite story was the tale of the scholar Sol Weintraub about his daughter Rachel, followed by Brawne Lamia's telling of her involvement in a murder case as a private investigator. I also loved the stories about Martin Silenus writing his Cantos and the priest Lenar Hoyt's search for Father Paul Dure, who had been exiled to Hyperion. Colonel Kassad's story focuses on his military experience and encounters with a mysterious woman named Moneta. The Consul's tale tells of his grandparents fated meeting on the island of Maui-Covenant. Each story is, of course, much more interesting and involved than that, but I don't want to spoil the most interesting parts for people who have not read the book!

Hyperion set the stage for The Fall of Hyperion, which delves more into how the various stories told in Hyperion tie together and what the actual society is like. It introduces a new character who has the ability to dream about what is happening to the Hyperion pilgrims. Their stories on Hyperion are completed in this book. I don't want to say too much about the plot and spoil the book because I found the way all the stories tied together a lot of fun to discover. I did enjoy this book more than Hyperion for that reason.

Endymion takes place 247 years after The Fall of Hyperion ends and has a new set of main characters. The narrator, Raul, is found by Martin Silenus and sent on a mission to rescue Brawne Lamia's daughter Aenea from the clutches of the Catholic Church (which is now a major force in the universe due to their control of a symbiote allowing people to resurrect when they die). This book focuses on the travels of Raul, Aenea, and the android A. Bettik as Father Captain de Soya of the Catholic Church tries to capture them and fulfill the mission given him by the pope. This book tells you about what the future in this universe is like, but it does not really involve further world building. There are some really humorous lines in it and I found both the beginning and end of the book a lot of fun, but around the middle it seemed to go a bit slowly.

The Rise of Endymion could be infuriating, but it was also my favorite book in the series. This book had a lot of continuity problems and it said that a lot of what happened in The Fall of Hyperion did not happen the way the book said it did. It also mentioned a lot of things that just kind of happened without any explanation as to why or how. A lot of mysteries went unsolved. I found the lack of closure about who the Others were very annoying since they were mentioned many, many times throughout the book. Also, I had predicted the largest parts of the ending to the novel about 3 or 4 hundred pages before it was done (and I'm really not at all good at figuring out how books will end).

If you can look past all that, the story of Aenea and Raul told in The Rise of Endymion is beautiful. There were moments toward the end that I kept thinking about and was still thinking about two days later. I even went back and read some of them again the next day.

Characterization is one of my favorite parts of reading, so I'd like to say something about the characterization. The characters are certainly interesting, but we never get to see inside enough of the characters in the first two Hyperion books for me to feel too attached to them. They have their good points, and they have their flaws, but I think there are just too many of them in a short span to really get attached to any of them too much. The exception to this is Sol. I loved his story and I loved his character, and it always seemed to me like all the other characters liked him best and looked out for him the most. I guess he was just a likable guy.

Since the Endymion books focus more on a smaller cast of characters, I felt like you got to know them a bit better, but other than Raul and Father de Soya they seemed a bit flat to me although I liked them well enough. Raul was a bit on the slow side but he had some great humorous lines as the narrator and he was loyal to Aenea and very courageous and unselfish. Actually, the Ship was a great character - I found it more amusing than most of the other characters when I was reading Endymion.

So that's basically what I thought of the Hyperion Cantos. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the books, but overall I think they're worth reading.

Would I read them again? Yes, but probably not immediately.

I would rate them as follows (on a scale from 1 - 10):
Hyperion - 7.5
The Fall of Hyperion - 8
Endymion - 7
The Rise of Endymion - 8.5

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