Poetry in Space — Hyperion

Book Keeper's Library Crew

You’re standing in the doorway of Abraheim’s room. As you walk in, you notice more piles of crumpled paper on the floor than usual. Most of them have some form of writing or drawings on them. All seem to have been hastily discarded.

The old man sits at his desk, scribbling away on a piece of parchment. You look around for signs of what the two of you might be talking about today, but see no sign of what you had discussed the last time you were here. You are about to question the subject of today when the old man finally looks up from his paper.

He looks a little more tired than usual, but the same youthful glint exists in his eyes. You assume that he is smiling at you from beneath the monstrous mustache.

“Ah, I know what you’re thinking. This is not what you were expecting! You were hoping for a talk on Ender’s Game? Well, I will be honest with you. That rabbit hole did not prove to go as far as I had hoped.”

The old man’s eyes dart towards the pile of crumpled papers on the floor.

“I apologize if I let you down, it’s not like me to abandon something midways through. But I think I have something just as good — if not better. Are you interested?”

“This is a book that I have mentioned before, long ago.”

Abraheim claps his hands together and says.

Hyperion.”

“Let me ask you this, my friend. What do you get when you cross the Canterbury Tales with the Wizard of Oz, and mix it all up with some spaceships, intergalactic warfare, alternate timelines, and one big, bad time-traveling boogeyman? The Hyperion Cantos.”

“I recently finished the second book, Fall of Hyperion while out on a trip many weeks ago, and I’ve been dying to share this epic sci-fi series with someone. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll give you the highlights in hopes that you will take me up on my opinion of these books.”

“So where does one begin in order to explain this science fiction story? I found that it can begin in quite an unusual place — 19th century English literature. Enter poet John Keats. Keats wrote a number of poems. Hyperion and Endymion are two of his more “epic” poems, and the inspiration for the titles of books one and three in the Cantos series.”

“Many allusions are made to Keats and his works throughout the first two books. Keats is even twicely incarnated as a cybrid in these stories. So apparently the author, Dan Simmons, has an interest in John Keats. But why these two poems? Is there something significant about them?”

“There are some reasons that seem apparent on the surface. The Keats poem Hyperion is about the fall of the Titans to the Olympians, the shift of power, the realization that one is no longer in control. This is a theme that runs throughout the books as well with the stories of the various pilgrims and characters we encounter. It could be that the name was chosen for this reason!”

The old man pauses to take a breath. The voice that sounded rather weary at the beginning of your conversation has now found a new tone, one of excitement.

“But I digress, why should you read this, you might ask. The first book, Hyperion, is a collection of stories that intertwine with each other. Sometimes the connections made between the stories are quite apparent, sometimes you don’t see how the stories are connected until the very end. What starts out as a similar format to the Canterbury Tales quickly becomes a Sci-Fi Wizard of Oz. Each character has their own unique story, and their own unique view of what happens in the universe. All stories are interwoven into a far more grand tale, a yellow brick road that leads them all in one direction — towards the Shrike.”

“The Shrike is a time-traveling inter-dimensional metallic entity whose true purpose and origin are unknown. Its actions, as cryptic and deadly as they are, make it out to be some type of god or demon. Either way, most of the characters are it it’s mercy. A cosmic boogeyman.”

“The Shrike is just a small example of the diverse array of conflicts and antagonists in the story that give it a unique and epic feel. Sometimes conflict appears as the Ousters, or the Time Tombs, or the Core — even the characters themselves sometimes appear as antagonists. And they are all important pieces of the puzzle that make up this story. The epic nature of the Cantos is intensified because each of their actions seem not only affect themselves, but the entire universe.”

“The first book is full of allusions to other works of Science Fiction and literature. Each story reads like the author, Dan Simmons, is a master of whatever style he is going for. Some chapters read like crime noir — others feel like a cyberpunk story. There are chapters that read like a war novel, with vivid descriptions of battles both large and small, while others read like a tale of political intrigue. This sometimes makes the story seem incoherent and hard to follow, since it is told character by character. But when the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, it grips you and doesn’t let you go.”

Abraheim stands and stretches, and gathers up his papers.

“I guess the true allure of this book, and the series as a whole, to me at least, is that there is just so much to it. It seems like every character, story, and book has something much deeper beneath the surface. Like there is a small detail that you can find in an allusion made by the author that might give you more understanding of whatever character or event that is the current focus. This stuff is right up my alley.”  

“There are three more of these books that we can discuss, so you should come back soon! In the meantime, pick up a copy of Hyperion. I don’t think you’ll regret it.”

The old man walks with you to the door.

“Until next time, my friend.”

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