If I hadn’t already read (and been blown away by) the first two books in this series earlier this year, I would have been very impressed with this book. But as it is, even though it is very good and exciting and has great characters and poignant themes and hints at even more to come, it pales when compared to the complexity and madcap storytelling of Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. Those two books were chock full of stories and characters and layers of meaning, and there were about five to six plots going on at once that all tied together into one big plot, and the whole thing comes together in this beautiful symphony of words. Here, there are two main story threads, and they go together like a normal book, and there is only one plot, which is still pretty great and complex and makes you think, but still . . . in comparison. It’s just . . . not what I’ve been trained to expect from Simmons.
Also, you can’t read this book without reading its sequel. You just can’t. The story is not done when this book is done, even though it has an ending. But it’s ending is just an ending to what was going on in this book, and not the end of the overarching story of this duology, and of the four books as a whole.
Endymion actually picks up 300 years after The Fall of Hyperion, so I guess technically you don’t have to read the first two books in the series* if you’re curious, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. Due to time travel fuckery, the twelve year old daughter of Brawne Lamia (a pilgrim from the first two books) has arrived in the present day, and a galactic conflict has broken out over her presence. Due to mysterious REASONS, she is important. As in, the fate of the galaxy rests on her shoulders. This is why two men follow her fate. The first is Raul Endymion, who gets a first person POV in his sections. Raul is contracted to protect Aenea (as she calls herself) and help her to achieve her goals. They are accompanied by A. Bettik, a 600 year old android, and occasionally, the terrifying Shrike, who has left the planet Hyperion for the first time in living memory. The second man is Father Captain Federico de Soya. He is a priest for the Catholic church, which is now a galaxy wide empire. The church gained its power back in the 300 years since the first two books, largely due to the cruciform parasite which provides literal eternal life to its bearers. Father de Soya has been charged with tracking down Aenea at any cost and turning her over to the church.
*Although, maybe it would work? This book is so much simpler than those it might hook your interest. The only problem is, you’d be totally spoiled for the first two books. Anyway, it’s not ideal.
The dual POVs really worked here. Simmons juggled them nicely so as to maximize the tension in the story. I also thought he did a great job with de Soya, who could have been a disastrous villainous character. Instead, he’s a complex but ultimately sympathetic guy who is simply caught up in events beyond his control. His story is also responsibly for some bone-chilling body horror. What he sacrifices in the name of his belief is staggering. There were parts where I felt Simmons went on too much about certain events, lingered too long in POVs, and it felt like filler. As mentioned above, the previous books were so chock full of STUFF that filler wasn’t necessary. Here, it felt like with only two characters to worry about, Simmons overcompensated.
Regardless, this is top notch science fiction, people. It just doesn’t quite meet the standards set by its own predecessors. Can’t wait to read the last book later this year. (I think I’m going to save it for Thanksgiving so I can have days of uninterrupted reading.)