Friday, December 11, 2009

Hyperion

Hyperion is among the best scifi novels I've read to date, not that I've read a lot of books in that genre.

Two weeks ago, I scrounged National Bookstore at Robinson's Place Manila for cheap books. I didn't know a thing about Dan Simmons, but I liked the cover—white with black lines arranged radially—and I got a discount: Php 213. I had no hesitations buying it.

The plot is rather complex. A huge war, an Armageddon of sorts, is about to errupt: mankind versus the Ousters. The only hope of deliverance is the pilgrimage of seven people to the planet Hyperion, home of the Time Bombs and the deadly, god-like creature called the Shrike.

The Old Earth has been destroyed, and humans now live in different planets, all under a reigning empire called the Hegemony.  The Hegemony wants to incorporate all planets into the WorldWeb at all cost. Hyperion is of particular importance because it's the only planet that confounds the predictive technologies of the Hegemony's TechnoCore. The Ousters, geneticaly-altered humans living outside the reins of the Hegemony, want to invade Hyperion, and this war serves as the backdrop of the stories of the pilgrims to the Shrike.

When you think of it, Hyperion, the first of the Hyperion Cantos trilogy, is a compilation of the the stories of each pilgrim. On the way to the Tombs, they take turns to reveal the underlying reasons for their joining the Pilgrimage, something that could potentially kill them. The stories are:
  • The Man Who Cried God (Lenard Hoyt, the priest)
  • The War Loves (Fedmahn Kassad, the soldier)
  • Hyperion Cantos (Martin Silenus, the poet)
  • The River Lethe's Taste is Bitter (Sol Weintraub, the scholar)
  • The Long Goodbye (Brawne Lamia, the detective)
  • Remembering Siri (The Consul)

The stories are unique in themselves, giving each character depth and piecing together the puzzle. Together, however, these accounts constitute a beautiful whole.

My favorite is that of Martin Silenus who wants to come back to Hyperion to finish his writing. It's one of the funniest. At one point, he gets amnesia, and all he remembers are ten cuss words. It's also very insightful. He says, ". . . As I dredged bottom scum from the slop canals, under the red gaze of the Vega Primo or crawled on hands and knees through stalactites and stalagmites of redbreather bacteria in the station's labyrinthine lungpipes, I became a poet. All I lacked were the words."

To budding writer, the character Silenus says, "Belief in one's identity as a poet or writer prior to the acid test of publication is as naive and harmless as the youthful belief in one's immorality. . . and the inevitable disillusionment is just as painful."

It took me a while to get used to the terminologies, but I appreciated Dan Simmons' creative use of language—the descriptions are rich, the flow of thought is fluid, and the subplots are unique.

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