Friday, June 23, 2006

Talking Books. Deal With It.

Not books that talk. If you want that, I'm sure Dr. Fate's library has some, assuming it's still around. I would have said ask Dr. Strange for some, but his place was looted by teenagers, after the Sorcerer Supreme was defeated with a joy buzzer and pie to the face. Granted, pie can be quite distracting, but still. . .

The last three weeks or so, I've found myself spending a few hours Wednesday and Friday mornings at my university's library. Paltry though the selection is, I did stumble across a sci-fi book called Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. I've seen a review that describes it as heavily influenced by Chaucer, which would be helpful except I'm a biology major, not literature, so that doesn't nothing to me, beyond the fact the name is familiar. Maybe my dad knows.

What I know is Simmons has a serious interest in the poet Keats. There's a town named after him (and the story takes place in the 29th century), people keep referring to Keats as the greatest poet of all, and the AIs which keep everything running smoothly for the Hegemony (I'd say it's like the Old Republic, pre-Senator Palpatine days) even created a "cybrid" that's meant to be John Keats, creating a personality based on all his writings and descriptions of him. So what's the point of the book?

On a planet called Hyperion (the name of an unfinished poem of Keats'), there's a place called the Time Tombs, which is apparently moving backwards in time. I haven't yet been able to quite wrap my head around what that means, other than as the protagonists go through the book, the Tombs are actually getting younger, closer to the date they were created. Or something. Anyway, there's a creature associated with the Tombs, called the Shrike. It's large, metal, covered in spikes and blades and appears to have temporal abilities. It even has a Church that worships it, and they've requested a pilgrimage be sent to the tombs. Seven people with no obvious connection are chosen, meet up above the planet and descend to the surface to begin the trek. Oh yeah, and a sect of the human race, known as the Ousters is preparing to invade, because apparently they want to know what's up with the Tombs as badly as the Hegemony and the Church and the AIs.

Here's the thing. This book is 482 pages, and it basically covers the four days from when the people are summoned, to when they reach the edge of the mountains where the Tombs are present. That makes up maybe fifty pages. The rest of the book is the characters describing what connection they might have to the Shrike. That's good and bad. We get a story that culminates with a person being electrocuted for seven years, human/cybrid loving, Merlin's disease, a soldier searching for. . . something. I won't say what, but as you might expect finding it isn't nearly as fun as he'd hoped. On the down side, you get a bloviating poet, a guy who doesn't tell his story, and an allegory about conservation versus devlopment.

Unfortunately, the whole book just feels like the prelude to the next one, or possibly the next three, which is a little disappointing. Maybe Simmons just wished to get exposition out of the way.

The one thing I found most interesting was that the poet has this point in his story where he goes to his publishing company and tells them he's through producing these crappy serial novels for them, even though they sell fairly well. he wants to get back to his true poetry, which had been yawned at, when not outright trashed by the critics the previous time. This story feels a lot like some of the other sci-fi stories I've read, so i wonder if Simmons put this in as commentary. At this point, I don't believe the library has the others, but if I get a chance to continue the series, I'll let you know if it pans out. I'd say that right now there's no danger of it displacing Asimov's Foundation series as my favorite sci-fi arc of all time.

Tomorrow, a eulogy for a series.


Unknown said...

Decompression - It's just not for comics anymore...

(Yeah, I know. This book was written first. But the decompression "joke" was the best I could come up with...)

Anonymous said...

I remember getting to the end of Hyperion a decade ago and being really, really, REALLY annoyed. Never read the rest.

Foundation and Empire rocks my socks off.

CalvinPitt said...

fortress: It works for me.

dan: Well then, forget about those later reviews. Thanks for the heads up.