Gates of Pearl, broken.
M. Keat's head on a platter,
& Salome laughs.
This is the second volume of the "Hyperion Cantos", & it goes in surprising directions. Not hints at surprising directions; it fully goes there. I liked the first one enough to go ahead & read The Fall of Hyperion immediately afterward, & I'm starting the third volume Endymion right away as well...but that has as much to do with getting it from the library as it does with anything else. The Fall of Hyperion is not as good as Hyperion-- the lack of a intertextual framework like Chaucer really dooms it-- but I liked it. Fall takes the obsession with Keats & just goes whole hog with it, checks to see how deep the rabbit hole really goes. I mean it-- one of the essential questions of the book is "is robot John Keats the second coming of Jesus?" I mean, it gets pretty explicitly Christian up in this joint. Well, alright, someone obsessed with orthodoxy might not consider a triune god of Intellect, Empathy & the Void to be the same as the Father, the Son & the Holy Ghost, but it is clearly meant to be. I don't have a problem with explorations of Christianity & particularly Catholicism in my science fiction-- Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun & Book of the Long Sun are perfect examples of how you can tell a lovely sci-fi saga about Christianity, as is C.S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy." Well, the first two books of it, anyway; I still say That Hideous Strength is rubbish. Anyhow, seeing the ghosts of The Wizard of Oz brought up again was heartwarming, & this time the Ousters only made me think of the Clans from BattleTech. Weird, huh?
The more I think about it, the more I wish that Hyperion & The Fall of Hyperion were one epic novel, perhaps split into two volumes, but one total work. As it is, Fall is a sequel, but I'm talking about carrying the Canterbury Tales layout over, incorporating some of the revelations from Fall in using some other pilgrim's tale. The revelations are good-- some you can see coming from a mile away, like the fate of Rachel, but others-- particularly the purpose of the cruciform parasite & the plan for the labyrinths-- are really well played. There are a few twists that work toward the greater purpose of the book, as well-- going from "oh, that seems like a deus ex machina, there, just doing that without warning," to "oh, I see, it was meant to be implausible, & the surprise reveal makes more sense, while being less obvious-- elegant!" & then of course, some of the desus ex machina is...well, Deus Ex Machina, if you take my meaning. The Shrike...well, I almost wish Dan Simmons would just never explain the Shrike. Leave it as the one weird anomaly in the series, totally without some future-tech explanation. I'm just musing, because there is something missing from Fall of Hyperion, but I can't quite say what. There is a certain pretense when you adopt metatext techniques-- it is unavoidable & I kind of adore it-- but I can't say Fall doesn't have it. I mean, it is based on the life of Keats & had an artificial intelligence spouting koans, you know? I say pretense, but you know what I mean-- there is a contrived sincerity that comes with getting all literary, & you have to be able to pull it off without blinking or the whole house of cards comes crashing down. Simmons does that, don't get me wrong. Maybe it is just the tone shifts that accompany the change in narrators-- Fall of Hyperion is even in tone, & I miss the storytelling gimmicks of the first volume.