The Hyperion Cantos is a tetralogy of novels by Dan Simmons. The Cantos is considered by many to be one of the finer contemporary science fiction novels, although much of its content is a more general, less "hard science fiction" story. Simmons uses a lot of poetry ŕ la Tolkien to add depth to scenes and characters which were otherwise cardboard and plastic, respectively. The effect is taken so far as to have a modern living replica of John Keats (author of an extended poem, "Hyperion") playing a major part in The Fall of Hyperion.
Hyperion the Planet
Hyperion is the name of a planet featured heavily in all four books. It is described as having one-fifth less gravity than earth standard.
Hyperion also has a number of peculiar indigenous flora and fauna, notably 'Tesla Trees' which are essentially large electrified trees. It is upon one of these trees that Father Paul Duré crucifies himself in Hyperion.
Hyperion is a labyrinthine planet, which in Simmons' world means that it is home to ancient labyrinths of unknown purpose.
It is also home to the Bikura, as well as the location of the Time Tombs, and the supposed origination of the Shrike, "a giant, four-armed killing machine whose metal carapace is covered with spikes, blades, razor-wire, and thorns." (Bill Sheehan, Nova Express) (http://home.austin.rr.com/lperson/hyperion.html)
Hyperion is named after the Keats poem and set chiefly on a planet of the same name. The book is structured as a frame story (like Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). Hyperion won the Hugo Award in 1990.
The story weaves the interlocking tales of a diverse group of travelers sent on a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs (inexplicable structures that defy human understanding) on Hyperion. The travelers have been sent by the Shrike Church to make a request of the Shrike (see characters section below). As they journey across the planet, they tell their tales.
- The Shrike is the monster and anti-hero of the novel. It is known for impaling people on a massive tree made of metal, whose branches are massive thorns.
- He is the object of a cult, the Church of the Final Atonement, and guards the Tombs of Time. The church sends prime-number pilgrims to the Time Tombs; all but one are killed and the remaining pilgrim gets his request granted. The Shrike is capable of manipulating time. This, along with his martial art skills backed up with four arms and a spiked armoured body, makes him an unbeatable opponent. The Shrike is capable of single-handedly slaughtering entire battle corps. Time manipulation making firearms both unnecessary and worthless, the Shrike fights only hand-to-hand.
- It seems that the Shrike has been built by the machine god in a distant future in the purpose of creating as much suffering as possible. This would lure the Human god, which is all compassion, and allow the Machine god to destroy it. For this purpose, the Shrike impales his victims on the Shrike Tree, a torture device which keeps its victims alive artificially.
- In the following Endymion series of books, the Shrike appears as a somewhat benevolent character. The reason for this twist is unknown.
- The Consul. The former consul of Hyperion.
- Lenar Hoyt is a Roman Catholic priest in the far future, where most people are no longer Christian (the largest religion at the time is Zen-Gnosticism). The church is struggling and barely alive.
- Fedmahn Kassad is a colonel in the Hegemony of Man's FORCE military, of Palestinian descent. Kassad was determined to meet and destroy both the Shrike, and its keeper, Moneta on Hyperion. He eventually challenges the Shrike to personal combat, nearly succeeds, and in his death inspires Moneta's people (humanity, milllenia in the future). The outcome of this inspiration is not described by the author. It is later revealed that Kassad himself was part of the animating spirit of the Shrike, a fact made possible by the passage of the Time Tombs backwards in time.
- Brawne Lamia is a private detective.
- Het Masteen is the most mysterious of all seven pilgrims. He is originally the Templar and captain of the Treeship Yggdrasill that brings the pilgrims to Hyperion.
- Treeships are piloted by Templars . They are Muir trees, and are propelled by ergs, a sort of spider-like 'force-field alien', through space. The ergs also generate the containment fields (similiar to force fields in many other science-fiction stores) around the tree that keep its atmosphere intact. There are very few treeships in the galaxy.
- Martin Silenus is a foul-mouthed poet. Born on Earth before its destruction, he is incredibly old. Like Keats, he is working on an unfinished epic poem.
- Sol Weintraub is a Jewish scholar. His daughter was afflicted with an illness dubbed "Merlin Sickness" that caused her to age backwards; she gets younger as time progresses.
The Fall of Hyperion
This book concludes the story begun in Hyperion. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion were originally submitted as one manuscript, but editorial concerns at the time about the story's size resulted in its split into two novel-length manuscripts.
- All characters from Hyperion are also in this book.
- The Keats Cybrid is a cybrid recreation of the poet John Keats. His body is biological identic to the original poet, but has implanted memories retrieved from Keats' poetry and biography. His mind is connected with some Artificial Intelligence. He has some mysterious connection to the Seven Pilgrims.
- Ummon is an artificial intelligence of some stature who has taken on the persona of a buddhist monk. He acts as a mentor, in a fashion, to Keats.
The story commences approximately 2 1/2 centuries after the end of the previous work. Few main characters from the first two books are present in the latter two, and those that are present are present as secondary characters (such as Martin Sileneus). The book Endymion features a main character of Raul Endymion, who is an ex-soldier who became a guide for hunters. When a grossly unfair trial yields his (first) death sentence, he is rescued by Martin Sileneus and asked to perform a series of rather extraordinarily difficult tasks. The main task is to rescue and protect Aenea (whose name may derive from Aeneas), a messiah coming from the distant past via time travel and the daughter of Brawne Lamia (a character from the two previous works). Raul Endymion saves her and escapes, but is pursued by the warped and changed Church's troops. The Catholic church has, in the storyline of the novel, been taken over by various power-hungry people using Lenar Hoyt (a character from the first two books) as a figurehead. The Church has become a dominant force in the human universe in this novel, and wants to protect itself from Aenea. They view Aenea (correctly) as a potential threat to their power. The group of M. Aenea, M. Endymion, and A. Bettik (an android) evades the Church's forces on several worlds, ending the story on Earth.
- Aenea is Brawne Lamia's daughter, sent forward in time. She is a messianic figure.
- Raul Endymion is an ex-soldier who accompanies Aenea.
- A. Bettik is an android who accompanies Raul and Aenea.
- Frederico DeSoya is a captain of the church navy who is commanded to capture Aenea.
Several of the characters from the first two books appear in this one despite the fact that it occurs about 250 years later. However, with the exception of the Shrike and Lenar Hoyt, they are minor characters.
- Hoyt is the perpetual pope of the reinvigorated Roman Catholic church. After returning with the Hyperion cruciform parasite, he regenerates every time he dies.
- The Shrike appears to be a more benevolent figure in this book and the next.
The Rise of Endymion
This is the final novel in the series, and generally considered to be the second-best (with the first, Hyperion, being the best of the bunch). The story mainly follows Raul and Aenea. It wraps up many loose ends while leaving enough unanswered to give the reader something to ponder.
- The major characters are the same as those in Endymion.