The Fall of Hyperion
by Dan Simmons

A Review by Scott finished Sept. 5, 2009

This review will contain spoilers!

In many sentences:

The two aspects I enjoyed the most in Hyperion are completely absent in the second book. First of all, instead of a series of short stories that, when combined, reveal a great mystery and deliver interesting, well developed characters, we get a story that alternates from being told in first person perspective of Severn to third person omniscience. While this is a clever idea (having the same character who tells his story while awake dreams the tales of others while sleeping), in practice it is jarring and far less engaging than the structure of the previous book. I often found myself pulled out of the tale because the changes were so abrupt. It felt similar to switching between two entirely different books every chapter. This become even more clear during a stretch where Severn is dreaming for such a long period of time that you realize having the entire book told from a single vantage point would have made for a more pleasurable reading experience.

As I write this, however, I can't help but consider the part where Severn/Keats is dying, and how effective it was because it was told from his perspective. Perhaps it was for this very reason that Simmons chose to write the book the way he did? I also wondered, while reading this, if it was his attempt to make the second novel have a structure as interesting and unique as the first book? Either way, unlike Hyperion, the structure of Fall is not its greatest strength.

The other aspect of Hyperion that impressed me was Simmons ability to reveal the nature of the universe he envisioned not by explaining each facet of the world in detail, but by allowing our understanding to develop and evolve naturally based on context alone. In Fall, however, there is no subtlety to the new (or even many of the old) inventions. Instead, Simmons explicitly defines them. I wonder, considering how vague the original was, if Simmons encountered an editor who kept saying "this isn't very clear, how about we add a little detail here".

The same could be said for how all the events of the first were summarized periodically in the sequel. I understand that they want it to be approachable for those who missed the first one but should the author really be forced to speak to the lowest common denominator in a book like this? If you somehow started to read this before the first, and you found yourself confused, but enjoying it, wouldn't you go get the first book? Furthermore, I don't even think it would be that hard to figure out what's going on considering how little you really learn in the first novel to begin with.

To bring some specificity to my complaints, let's look at the section where the 2nd Keats persona has entered the metasphere and is talking to the AI Ummon. Ummon speaks in the form of poems (koans) that are not very clear. However, instead of leaving these poems as vague hints to the truths that Ummon wanted to reveal, we get an explicit summary of what they mean by the Keats persona. While it was convenient to have the explanations readily available (especially considering they were critical to the story as a whole), it was also frustrating. If Simmons wanted us to understand what Ummon was saying as clearly as possible, why wrap it up in confusing poetry that is then explained by Keats? Why not just have Ummon tell us clearly? And if Simmons wanted it to be wrapped in poetry, why not write it in such a way that it is vague, and requires thought, without being so obtuse as requiring translation? Ultimately, it seems like a lazy solution to what may have been a shining moment of the book.

While it may not have the unique structure or reader respect of the original, Fall is still an enjoyable book to read, mainly due to the well-developed characters and fascinating story. In terms of characters, I was still most moved by Sol and Rachel. This may, of course, be due to the fact that I now have a baby to care for, but I think this was likely intended by Simmons considering even the other characters in the book seemed most concerned with her. What surprised me, however, was how much more I enjoyed reading about what happened to Kassad after been the least impressed with his story in the first book. And, as always with me and books, I loved how Brawne risked her life to rescue Martin from the tree of thorns, and how Kassad was willing to fight Shrike barehanded (and defeat him).

More than anything else, though, the actual events of the book, and how they were brought together in the end was what made Fall a fun book to read. The twist (that it was the Core invading the Web) was surprising in spite of knowing that the Core was the true enemy, and the idea that the Core was going to use the cruciforms to enslave humanity for the sake of their processing power made me gasp audibly. Of course discovering that Moneta was future Rachel all along was great as well. Even if none of the events in this book affected me emotionally as much as Father Dure's tale in the first (and it was great to see him back), it was at least satisfying to get closure to all the loose ends I cared to remember.

Fall of Hyperion is recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first book. It may not be as subtle or nuanced as the first, but it is still enjoyable. There is a third book in the series that I look forward to reading eventually, but since there is no cliffhanger ending this time, I won't be jumping right into it.

Favorite Quote

"Odd how many suffering members of humankind have faced eternity obsessed with their bowels, their bedsores, or the meagerness of their diets."

Dan Simmons in The Fall of Hyperion

Originally Published March 1, 1990

Paperback edition:

517 pages - Dec. 1, 1995

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