Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

The Fall of Hyperion
In Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons fulfills the promise of a stunning conclusion to the Hyperion Cantos. This would be great if 'twere true, but I'm afraid that the sequel to Hyperion is a bet of a let down. In mitigation, Hyperion was so good that only sheer genius and the writing strategy of a grand master could have better it & sadly, Fall didn't quite make it.

Simmons gets away from the travelers' tale motif he used so well in Hyperion, and tries to keep track of multiple characters and storylines through the POV of a cybrid reconstruction of the cybrid reconstruction Brawne Lamia meets and loves in Hyperion, who now goes by the name of Joseph Severn. He is able, through his predecessors's computer shunt link with Lamia, to eavesdrop on the thoughts of the surviving pilgrims.

There were several things that I feel kept this novel from working for me:

First, I'm not fond of multiple POVs in a story. They make it difficult for a reader to follow the action, and they often compromise the integrity of characters' identities. In Hyperion, there was a reasonable justification for using them, but in Fall, it just confusing things.

Second, Simmons overused the resurrection thing. He keeps setting up pseudo cliffhangers where the characters are apparently killed, then when we come back to their POV we find that they are actually still alive. The only character in this novel who should have had any reason to be resurrected was Father Hoyt/Dure, who is infested with the symbiotic cruciform. The only character that he doesn't resurrect from apparent death is Sol Weintraub.

Third, the whole thing ends up being solved with a major deus ex machina ploy.

Colonel Kassad's mysterious Moneta turns out to be Sol Weintraub's daughter Rachel, who has doubled back from som fantastic future time to save the day. If she had the power to stop the Shrike all along, why didn't she? It would have made for a short sequel, eh?

There's a lot of verbiage devoted to the death by consumption of Joseph Severn on primitive historic Earth that ultimately turns out to have nothing substantive to do with solving the problem of the Shrike and the impending war. There's also a bunch of metaphysical mumbo jumbo about the Shrike being one aspect in the Trinity of a machine god that ends up being a false lead, too.

There are some unsolved miracles and other loose ends and war between the humans and the Ousters is narrowly averted when everything bad turns out to have been the result of the plotting of one faction of the AIs.

There were some good moments, such as the time when the Consul (whose soul has been racked with torment for years over his double betrayal of both the humans and the ousters) learns that his double agent antics were not only known to both sides, but counted on by his controllers.

There were some things I was counting on learning more about in this novel, such as the treeships and the pilgrimages sponsored by the Church of the Shrike, that Simmons never does reveal. Indeed, he seems to be laughing up his sleeve at the readers in the end when his surviving characters skip off into the sunset singing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (from a movie in which Dorothy wakes up to find it was all just a dream).

Overall, if one has read Hyperion, then you must read this to find out what happens to everyone, but it just doesn't live up to the previews, you know? I doubt I'll read Endymion.

No comments: