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Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion (original 1989; edition 1990)

by Dan Simmons

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,418167472 (4.21)245
Authors:Dan Simmons
Info:Spectra (1990), Mass Market Paperback, 481 pages
Collections:Your library, novels
Tags:read in 2013, 1989, my neckbeard is longer than yours

Work details

Hyperion by Dan Simmons (1989)

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    corporate_clone: It is difficult not to compare Dune and Hyperion, even though both series have major differences in terms of tone, style and philosophy. Those are two long, epic, elaborate and very ambitious sci-fi masterpieces where religion plays a key role. I would highly recommend the fans of one to check out the other.… (more)
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English (157)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  All (167)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
Is Hyperion a novel? These are the kind of questions I irritated my Modern Novel class with. There are two potential objections you can make, I think. The first is that it's actually a series of short stories. The second is that the story doesn't actually end: Hyperion is really only the first half of a novel that ends in The Fall of Hyperion. (These are, I guess, mutually exclusive objections.)

Yet, I would argue, Hyperion stands on its own. Fall is a vastly different book with a different focus; it picks up what was begun here, but the focus on character and genre that motivates Hyperion is gone. And Hyperion comes to a perfectly satisfying conclusion in its own way. But I'm getting ahead of myself there.

Like so many of the stories I like, Hyperion is a story about stories. Its format is self-consciously literary from the moment someone in the book actually points out that you're reading The Canterbury Tales in space (p. 25). This is brought to the forefront in chapter 3, the Poet's Tale: "Hyperion Cantos." Martin Silenus asks, "Haven’t you ever harbored the secret thought that somewhere Huck and Jim are—at this instant—poling their raft down some river just beyond our reach, so much more real are they than the shoe clerk who fitted us just a forgotten day ago?" (180-81). I suspect this is an Adam Bede reference; in that novel, the narrator complains that people identify too much with fictional characters: "It is more needful that I should have a fibre of sympathy connecting me with that vulgar citizen who weighs out my sugar in a vilely assorted cravat and waistcoat, than with the handsomest rascal in red scarf and green feathers—more needful that my heart should swell with loving admiration at some trait of gentle goodness in the faulty people who sit at the same hearth with me, or in the clergyman of my own parish [...], than at the deeds of heroes whom I shall never know except by hearsay." You'll note that for George Eliot, having more sympathy for fictional characters than for real salesmen is a negative, whereas Silenus seems to revel in it. But then, Silenus is an ass.

I doubt he would have been into Hyperion, but I think there's a sense in which Henry James agreed more with Dan Simmons than George Eliot when he wrote "The Art of the Novel." According to James, "It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a 'make believe' [...] shall be in some degree apologetic—shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to compete with life. This, of course, any sensible wide-awake story declines to do, for it quickly perceives that the tolerance granted to it on such a condition is only an attempt to stifle it, disguised in the form of generosity. [...] The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life." Now, Hyperion does make that confession that James says fiction should not, but I think it does so in order to compete with life. James wanted literature to compete with history by pretending to be history: "if it [fiction] will not give itself away, [...] it must speak with assurance, with the tone of the historian." But for Simmons, literature wins by unabashedly being literature.

This Hyperion does. It has a profound sense of history, yet at the same time, it is conscious of its fiction. Hyperion is okay with competing with reality-- and possibly even beating reality-- because Simmons, like James, knows that we need stories to make sense of the universe: "history viewed from the inside is always a dark, digestive mess, far different from the easily recognizable cow viewed from afar by historians" (Hyperion 190). Without stories, we won't know we're in a cow, we'll only perceive a dark, digestive mess. But, on the other hand, perhaps the cow is lie, for Silenus says that words "are also pitfalls of deceit and misperception. Words bend our thinking to infinite paths of self-delusion, and the fact that we spend most of our mental lives in brain mansions built of words means that we lack the objectivity necessary to see the terrible distortion of reality which language brings" (191). This is what's happened to all the characters in Hyperion: they are all locked in the prisons of the stories they have told about themselves.

But that's the reason Hyperion spans seven different genres: because each genre supplies a different truth about the world, building up our composite picture. When the Hyperion pilgrims tell each other their tales, they are set free because they are able to see all the other possible stories. They have gone from having a cow to having seven possible explanations for the dark, digestive mass that is life.

And this is why Hyperion actually is a novel. It may be made up of seven different stories, and it may continue into a second book, but it does have a conclusion and a resolution: having told their own stories, and having heard those of the others, the Hyperion pilgrims achieve a measure of self-acceptance, and walk off into the unknown, singing "We're Off to See the Wizard." Reading it, I got the shivers. A group of broken people has achieved peace at last.

Hyperion lets us step outside of our stories and histories, remove ourselves from our prisons, by showing them to us in a new context: it lets us reevaluate faith by imagining we live in a world where faith can literally be proved, or lets us imagine what it means to be a parent sacrificing a child by imagining a world where God literally contacts someone to get him to do this, or lets us contemplate how we build God by showing us computers literally trying to build God, or lets us explore the relationship between sex and violence by giving us a being that is literally sex and violence.

At the same time, these people hear the disparate stories, and step outside their own prisons. No matter what happens in Fall, they've escaped their prisons and so have we, through the art of the novel.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Mar 31, 2017 |
Dan Simmons Hyperion is a classic in speculative fiction. His use of the Cantebury Tales framework of pilgrams traveling to the world of Hyperion, home of the Time Tombs and the dreaded Shrike, is engaging and thought provoking. Each of the seven pilgrams have a tale, and each builds upon each other, creating a universe both believable and fantastic.

The world building is subtle, it's part of the plot and of each pilgram's story. The theme's protrayed are no less than religion, love, parenthood, poetry, humanity and the future of mankind all seamlessly intermeshed.

This book won the Hugo award as best novel in the late 80s. It holds up very well, and in fact, rereading it 25 years later gives me an even greater appreciation as to what Dan Simmons has accomplished.

( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Hyperion is a series of stories roughly based around the structure of the Canterbury Tales. In the frame narrative, there are seven characters who have been enlisted to embark on a pilgrimage to the backwater planet Hyperion and its mysterious Time Tombs. These pilgrims don't know one another, and in order to reveal to one another (and the reader) why they were chosen, they each tell their story of how they are connected to the planet. These stories are wildly different, both in content and in style--one is an exploration story reminiscent of Heart of Darkness, another is a cyberpunk mystery, another is the story of searching for true love on the battlefield. And while these stories could hardly be more different from one another, they are all connected in that they give the reader a glimpse into the truly strange things that have happened on Hyperion. I found it to be really fun to try to connect the dots and figure out what is really going on. The novel ended on a little bit of a sour note though--the last of the stories was certainly the weakest, and there was no ending, as the author clearly expects us to read the next book to find out what happens to our pilgrims. Despite this, Hyperion was definitely an entertaining read. ( )
  Phrim | Mar 22, 2017 |
Interesting narrative structure that was unexpectedly compelling. I definitely wanted more resolution, but I think that's an indication that the novel succeeds at building relatable characters/engaging plot. Wonder when I'll get around to the follow-up works. ( )
  sinceyouasked | Mar 17, 2017 |
I thought that in lieu... of another review.... I would list here a couple of my favorite parts, while reading it so they are still fresh. Don't read this until you are done with book, then it would be interesting to know if others loved the same parts/descriptions I did. (1) The Priest's Tale: the Tesla tree storm!!! (2) The Soldier's Tale: Fedmahn Kassad's battle for survival on the medical ship HS Merrick especially "A meter from him, a football-sized spider with wildly waving legs was trying to force itself into a crack... (3) The Scholar's Tale: the Time Tombs, time tides, Rachel working inside the Sphinx.. "...a mass of heavy blocks honeycombed with narrow corridors, some of which tightened to impossibility... none of which led anywhere but back on themselves... a maze of senseless corridors through sweating stone." ( )
  drichird | Jan 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
Interesting narrative structure that was unexpectedly compelling. I definitely wanted more resolution, but I think that's an indication that the novel succeeds at building relatable characters/engaging plot. Wonder when I'll get around to the follow-up works

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dan Simmonsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ahokas, JuhaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bevine, VictorNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruddell, GaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is for Ted
First words
The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-Sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below. (Prologue)
The Consul awoke with a peculiar headache, dry throat, and sense of having forgotten a thousand dreams which only periods in cryogenic fugue could bring.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Several translations of the Hyperion series were published as multiple volumes There are no equivalent English volumes. Do not combine these with any works other than the equivalent partial volume in another language.

The ISBNs here are not always correctly matched up to the books. Use both the title and ISBN to figure out what the actual work is. Also note that the title sometimes contains the volume number in the entire Hyperion series (with or without multiple parts).
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Pilgrims share secrets
while flying to strange planet.
First book in series.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553283685, Mass Market Paperback)

On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope--and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

A stunning tour de force, this Hugo Award-winning novel is the first volume in a remarkable new science fiction epic by the author of The Hollow Man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

On the night before Armageddon, seven people set out on a pilgrimage to Hyperion's Valley of the Time Tombs, where the creature Shrike awaits them.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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