The Fall of Hyperion

by Dan Simmons

Cover image

Series: Hyperion #2
Publisher: Bantam
Copyright: March 1990
Printing: March 1991
ISBN: 0-553-28820-2
Format: Mass market
Pages: 517

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Alas, the sequel to Hyperion, or more accurately the second half of the story, doesn't maintain quite the level of excellence of the first book. Thankfully, it's still a pretty good story.

Picking up directly after the end of Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion takes a step back and starts to tell the story from the perspective of the Hegemony government. This means that the Shrike pilgrims are left in confused limbo for a while as the other side of the story is built up, but does bring the subtleties of the Hegemony government and its relations with the TechnoCore into the picture. From there, characters are flung in all directions, skipping through time, space, and virtual planes into a climactic, if somewhat confusing, conclusion.

The beautiful and slowly constructed rising action from the first book was a hard act to follow, and The Fall of Hyperion feels occasionally frantic as it tries to get everyone in place to resolve as many of the dangling subplots as possible. The action occasionally gets choppy, and some of the Hyperion stories get short shrift. The soldier's story in particular I thought got a rather abrupt ending (although up until that point I liked it a great deal).

The implications of the detective's story turn out to be the most important in the broader stage and get most of the screen time in the end, which I found vaguely disappointing as it wasn't one of my favorites of the original stories. Simmons has an amusing take on AI discussions, though, and the conversations with Ummon speaking in Zen koans are some of my favorite parts of the book. Sol Weintraub's continued struggles with the ethics of faith also continue to be intriguing; the progression of sacrifice and man's relationship with God is presented here from a direction that I'd not encountered previously. And the climaxes, when they come, are suitably catastrophic on multiple levels.

Unfortunately, there are also some rough spots. Not able to maintain the Canterbury Tales motif and wanting to switch between characters and scenes with much more rapidity, Simmons pulls a trick early on to introduce an omniscient narrator who's also a character in the story. The mechanism behind this was never adequately explained for me and it felt rather artificial. I think a more traditional impersonal narrator would have been less distracting, and the story effects could have been handled other ways.

The Fall of Hyperion also suffers from being separated from Hyperion when the books aren't actually that separable. The events of Hyperion cannot be neatly summarized and weave their way into every corner of The Fall of Hyperion, but Simmons feels an obligation to try to help out the reader who doesn't remember the previous book. The result is awkward explanations breaking the flow of the narrative and sticking out like sore thumbs. Thankfully, Simmons rarely does this to the tune of more than a sentence or two at a time, but it still grated.

Despite wishing it had been smoothed out a bit more (and about 50 pages chopped out in a few slow spots), this is still a solid conclusion to one of my favorite science fiction stories. I'm impressed by Simmons's range; in the middle of a space opera story, he plays with deep religious concepts and ethical dilemmas and does justice to both. Hyperion is clearly the better book, but The Fall of Hyperion is a satisfying wrap-up.

Followed by Endymion.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-12-21

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21