I’m a visual person. With me, things have to be neat, aesthetically pleasing, and in some sort of discernible order (even if that order is nothing but visually appealing chaos), otherwise I get cranky. I like charts and graphics and brightly colored pictures. This probably has something to do with the fact that I have synesthesia, specifically grapheme → color synesthesia. For me, everything has a color, and in turn, colors provoke emotions. My brain also automatically attempts to visualize intangible ideas and concepts and place them in locations in space. If I can’t visualize them, it’s very frustrating (the best example of this would be the way I visualize the year as months in a rotating oval). This is also why I have trouble with complicated math. Like many people with synesthesia, I didn’t realize this wasn’t something everybody’s brains did until I was around 25, because most people don’t just go around saying, hey don’t you just love the number 5 because it’s so red?? Or, hey, don’t Tuesdays just suck, they’re so barfy yellow. I can only imagine the incomprehending stares I would have gotten.
The point of this seemingly pointless anecdote of mine is that for about half of this book, I felt completely lost and up in the air because I couldn’t find a way to visualize the structure of the story, which made it hard to derive any satisfaction from it, since my brain was so preoccupied with trying to figure this intangible thing into something more concrete, and it just wasn’t happening. But then at about the 60% mark, something just sort of clicked, and my brain goes, it’s a spiral! And the arms are swirling down to the ground and converging as they go, and at the bottom is the denouement, the end of the story. The arms of the spiral, of course, are the pilgrims and their stories, with the addition of a new POV in the cybrid (a cloned human with the consciousness of an A.I., who also simultaneously exists in the physical world and the datasphere), and the stories of the Ousters and the AI’s, which we touched on in the first book in various pilgrims’ stories. They start out separate, and the swirl of the story pulls them together little by little. It looks confusing as it’s happening, but it all works out in the end.
I’m telling you this because I think the book might be just as disorienting for you as it was for me–though probably not in quite the same way–and I want to reassure you that everything’s going to be okay. I promise that it all makes sense, and all the various threads that don’t seem to have any connection to one another at all–the constant literary allusions, the various characters, the musings on artificial intelligences and religion, the Shrike and its Tree of Pain, the time travel, Colonel Kassad’s half-real sex goddess Moneta, and most of all, Keats and Hyperion, in all their forms–come together in the end. It gave me that feeling that all book addicts are always chasing, that elusive elation that comes only once every hundred books or so (if we’re lucky), where it seems like the universe has converged on us just to give us this wonderful story.
The Fall of Hyperion picks up directly where Hyperion left off, with our pilgrims finally approaching the Time Tombs and ready for an imminent meeting with the Shrike. Only, it doesn’t quite pick up there, because we’re all of a sudden seeing the pilgrims through the eyes of another character, who is having dreams (and waking dreams) concerning everything that is happening to the pilgrims, who are light years away from him. Why he would be having these dreams would be a spoiler, but his identity isn’t. SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN”T READ HYPERION: The other characters know him as Joseph Severn, but he’s really another genetic double of John Keats, a resurrected artificially intelligent poet/human. He’s a sort of brother cybrid to Johnny, the cybrid of Keats we met in the last book, who is now hitching a ride in Lamia’s skull back on Hyperion. And since John Keat’s famous unfinished poem “Hyperion” is the namesake of this series, you bet it’s important. The narrative shuffles back and forth from Keat’s waking life to his dreams of the pilgrims, and little by little we get all the pieces to the puzzle END SPOILERS. The result, at least for me, was satisfying on a narrative level, but also on that extra level that really gives you the reader-buzz, the level your subconscious lives on, that just keeps giving the longer you think about it.
I’m really, really glad I read this series, and I’m super excited to read the second duology that with this one makes up the Hyperion Cantos later this year.