Hyperion by Dan Simmons
This review might mention events in passing, but nothing will directly be spoiled.
Listening to this book felt like sitting around a campfire, hearing stories from friends and family… friends and family who hate each other and are very explicit about their sex lives.
All the archetypes were even there. The father who kept telling everyone to hush because his baby was sleeping even though she shouldn’t have been out that late in the first place, the surly uncle who refuses to participate but is still a bit of a control freak, the cousin who always looks just a bit too pale, the ‘firecracker’ sister going through her ‘everything offends me’ phase, the grandpa who just nods and smiles but it still revered as the head of the family, the brother who’s been working out and keeps subtly flexing to show off his muscles, and the drunk neighbor who just showed up when he saw a party in the next yard.
Yet for some reason, I still enjoyed this book for the most part. It’s saving grace is its setting. The world of Hyperion is absolutely fascinating, and I would read one hundred books of goofy characterization of it meant I could read more about this world. I’m smitten.
Hyperion opens upon the beginning of a pilgrimage of these seven characters to the world of Hyperion. They’re to travel there to locate the Shrike, a being with unknown origins and unsettling power, to win its favor and ask it for assistance. Each one of these seven have different motivations and desires and these are revealed throughout the story. And that’s basically what this book is: these characters’ stories. Rarely does the narrative find itself upon the actual pilgrimage but more often it’s neck-deep in one of these characters’ tales. So if you’re going into this book expecting a lot of plot momentum and action, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
This book is a study of the planet Hyperion. Each one of the stories told within this book tie the character telling it to the planet in some way even though it may not be fully evident at first. None of the stories seem outwardly related to each other and it honestly felt like I was reading a bunch of short stories set in the same universe instead of a novel. Sure there were small ties, but no story built upon the previous one. And this world, man. This world is bizarre. It’s fascinating. The Shrike creature that dwells there is foreboding and unsettling and intoxicating. I couldn’t get enough.
Each story increased my love for the planet, even if the individual story didn’t happen to tickle my fancy. Because there were definitely a few that I found ridiculous. Tedious, even. This book was an interesting experience for me – in it, I found some of the best writing I’ve ever read, and some of the worst. Oh my gosh, some of this writing was awful. More than a couple times, I’d finish listening to a scene or even just a line and I’d have some kind of outburst – I’ve laughed hysterically at the absurdity, I’ve yelled at the stupidity. It was a roller coaster. And still, I was fascinated and I couldn’t stop. I read through scenes of these characters telling each other very explicitly what they were doing with another person in their story – details that one normally wouldn’t tell to the closest of friends, let alone a group of people you’d just met. It’s like they had no filter.
Hi, nice to meet you. I don’t like you – you could steal my chance at seeing the Shrike. Here, listen to me tell you how my penis felt when I boned this one chick. Also here’s some intimate details about her body that she probably would be mortified if she knew I told you.
It was so weird. And it wasn’t limited to just one gender – both were guilty. I mean, I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been a good romantic element to the story, but there wasn’t. There was sex, and there was romance alluded, but not really any actual… romance. It made the ‘mood’ or whatever the hell it was feel very forced and awkward. So yeah, I’m going to try to block some of the more graphic scenes from my memory, thanks.
Obviously because of the above, I definitely developed favorite and least favorite stories while listening. Some characters were definitely more interesting and less infuriating than others, but I see why all of them were included. Except one. I’m still questioning that one. Stupidest story I’ve ever read. Not going to say who though, but bet you could guess after reading this. But the good stories were awesome and more than made up for the short-comings of the other ones. You’ll know the good ones when you read them. You’ll know them very quickly.
Anyways – overall Hyperion, the world not the book, has me head over heels. I’m going to read the second book just so I can experience the world more. Characters can come and go, but the planet, I love it.
Rating: 4/5 stars