Sticking the landing is difficult in stories. Hyperion built up so many mysteries and threw so much at the reader, it would take a monumental achievement to have a satisfying conclusion. Dan Simmons accomplished that ending so beautifully that even an East German judge would score it a 10 (kids, ask your parents to explain that, if necessary).
There are so many disparate stories in this book that are woven together: the pilgrims on their way to the Shrike to either have their one wish fulfilled or to writhe eternally on the Shrike’s Tree of Thorns; the impending encounter with the Ousters that may determine the fate of mankind; and another version of the John Keats cybrid from the first book that has a mental connection with the pilgrims and is trying to find out who and what he is by exploring both his physical reality and cyberspace.
These are all parts of the novel but what it is really about is the dynamic between one generation and the next. Simmons explores this from a number of perspectives. One is implied in the title. Hyperion was one of the Titans, the predecessors to the Olympian Gods and the subject of an epic poem by Keats. The battle between the Titans and the Gods nearly destroyed the world in ancient myths.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) vs. humanity is another way this theme is explored. AI is nearly omnipresent in this world, controlling pretty much all aspects of the lives of humanity, but is that positive? The reader discovers in the story that AI has basically been using humanity as much as human use AI in a twist that I have no doubt helped to influence the movie the Matrix.
God vs. his/her creations is another conflict and this one I may have loved the most. I mentioned in my last review of Hyperion that Sol Weintraub, whose daughter is afflicted with a Merlin disease to age backwards, has numerous discussions with God about the nature of their relationship. In this book, the idea is broached that Abraham, in being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, was testing God as much as God was testing Abraham. That Abraham was seeing if God was worthy of being followed. I love that idea, that there is a reciprocity to worship.
Simmons also explores whether the relationship between God and his/her creatures is analogous to that of a parent and a child and that the relationship can evolve over time. In biblical times, it was one of obedience, similar to a parent with a small child. As we grow as a species, that relationship could evolve to one of a parent whose child has grown. Yes, you are still the parent but now you are a source of wisdom and guidance, rather than one who sets rules which need to be obeyed. Books that make me think and question my beliefs are among my all time favorites.
The idea of God, or possibly Gods, is a central one in this book as it is revealed that, in the future, the AI have created their ultimate intelligence (UI) and it is warring with another UI that arose from humanity. This human based UI is composed of 3 parts, one of which is composed of empathy, and this part flees the conflict with the machine UI. Simmons strongly implies that it was this empathic component that took form as Jesus Christ in the past.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, if you have not read it, I implore you to do so