Dan Simmons writes incredibly literate science fiction. I mean this in the best possible sense. The first two books of his which I read were Ilium and Olympos, a retelling of sorts of Homer’s Iliad and other classic texts. Only here Simmons twists the story into something else, something far different which still honors the source material as well as tells a compelling science fiction story. Now I have turned to Hyperion, the science fiction classic which put Simmons on the map. Hyperion is, interestingly enough, a science fiction telling of The Canterbury Tales. There is a group of “pilgrims” going on a pilgramage (of course) to the Shrike Church on the planet Hyperion. During the pilgrimage they tell each other stories about who they are and why they are going to Hyperion. Taken together this build a rich tapestry of Hyperion, our future, the Universe, and what is happening in the novel.
Hyperion is fantastically well written. Each one of the pilgrims’ tales are quite interesting and tell a good story by themselves. But in between the tales there is the story of the pilgrimage and we start to see how things fit together. Simmons is building to something big and it’s going to be a whopper of a tale. The conclusion here will be in The Fall of Hyperion, but Hyperion was a real pleasure and a joy to read.
Besides all the Canterbury Tales connections, there is a heavy dose of John Keats. Unfortunately I am not terribly familiar with Keats, but the heavier one is into classic literature the more illumination one will have. The bottom line is that this is a Great science fiction novel. Capital G.