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The Fall of Hyperion – Dan Simmons

“The core offered unity in unwitting subservience,” she said softly. “Safety in stagnation. Where are the revolutions in human thought and culture and action since the Hegira?”

“My God,” whispered Meina Gladstone…”I’m doing all of this on the strength of a dream.”

“Sometimes,” said General Morpugo, taking her hand, “dreams are all that separate us from the machines.”

When Hyperion leaves off, the Shrike Pilgrims are on their final approach to the Time Tombs. The Fall of Hyperion, however, begins light years away with the artist Joseph Severn being summoned to the presence of Meina Gladstone, the CEO of Mankind, ostensibly in order to draw official portraits; his real purpose is to advise the CEO about the pilgrims’ progress because he sees them in his dreams. The Time Tombs are opening, the Shrike is set loose, and the Ousters are approaching Hyperion, but the greatest threat to mankind an as-of-yet unforeseen catastrophe is descending on the hegemony. There are some irregularities caused by the Time Tombs, but, the entire story largely plays out over the course of a week.

At face value, The Fall of Hyperion has a more straightforward structure than its predecessor, but that is doing Simmons a disservice. Hyperion has a series of narrators, each telling their own story, while FoH has primarily one, Joseph Severn. (It is arguable that Severn, a genetic copy of the poet John Keats, is the narrator of the first novel, too, but that point is never addressed.) Severn tells his story in the first person, while the other sections of the story are in a cinematic third person that sprawls across the galaxy as the characters race to prevent total annihilation.

The Fall of Hyperion is not quite as tight as Hyperion, but is an immensely satisfactory conclusion to the this pair of novels (though I can’t vouch for how it fits with the pair of Endymion novels set in the same universe). That said, where the first was an absolute revelation of storytelling and world-building, FoH rushes ahead as one catastrophe after another tears threatens to destroy everything and all the characters are forced to fight for their lives. FoH continues to explore many of the issues that are raised in H, including human reliance on technology, the refusal to adapt to the environment, and sacrificing for greater good. There were times that it felt somewhat moralistic about all human failures, but this emerged more strongly because of its nature as a catastrophe story and did not necessarily detract.

I said in my post about Hyperion that I didn’t believe that the sequel was necessary to appreciate it, and that sentiment remains true. However, I do believe that the sequel lives up to the promises of the original, building on the issues and adding to them rather than falling flat. For anyone who appreciated the first, I unreservedly recommend the second; for anyone who hasn’t yet read the first, it is necessary before reading the second.

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Next up I am halfway through Italo Calvino’s novella Marcovaldo, a collection of short stories, each a fable of sorts following the title character’s ill-fated ambitions in a northern Italian city. After that I am torn on what to read. I had an impulse today to give War and Peace another shot or possibly to pick up Anna Karenina, but this time last year I got bogged down in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to read Don Quixote and may decide keep on with novellas or short novels by reading Camus’ The Plague instead.