Some books make you think and force you to challenge long held concepts. Some books affect you emotionally and can force you to weep during social situations where it may be inappropriate (reading on the bus, for example). Only a true classic can achieve both of those objectives and Simmons’ Hyperion certainly qualifies. This is a book that has won many awards and been hailed as a classic for over two decades and I am now realizing how influential it is when I watch shows like the Expanse. However, I had not read it in over 15 years and I love it more now than I did when I first read it.
The idea of a diverse group huddled together telling stories to keep away the darkness is something mankind has done for time immemorial, and Hyperion makes no attempt to disguise its similarity to the most famous version of those stories, the Canterbury Tales. When I first read this book, I was drawn to Kassad and Brawne Lamia’s tales. I was young and the romance and violence in both stories spoke to me.
Now, as a father, I read Sol Weintraub’s story of trying to save his daughter’s life from the Merlin Sickness and felt his pain intimately (full confession, it was this story that got me crying on the bus). Hearing Sol’s story made me think of Job, and all of the anguish God put that man through. Sol’s talks with God and the debate over whether or not a moral philosophy can be derived from an immoral request was fascinating to me. Practicing Jew that I am, I also have struggled with the order from God to Abraham that he take his only son Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him. And Simmons handles that theological debate beautifully.
I had forgotten, or perhaps never realized, how religion and religious discussions, were integral to this story. From Sol and his moral debates to Father Hoyt and Father Dure and their discussion of de Chardin’s evolution towards the Godhead, to the Templars and their worship of Nature, finally to the artifiical intelligences and their desire to create their own Ultimate Intelligence, God in many forms is present throughout the book.
If you are a fan of speculative fiction or religious discussion and have not read this book, or have not read it in some time, like me, I would strongly encourage you to pick this up. Hyperion receives my highest recommendation