LitStaff Pick: Our Favorite Speculative Fiction

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion
Dan Simmons

My favorite-novels-ever list is formidable and well-considered- -but in terms of sheer ingenuity and brain-warping cleverness I had to choose Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos as my favorite premise fiction of all time.

Hyperion and its sequel The Fall of Hyperion are, plot-wise, one long story. The style of the narrative and some of the viewpoint characters change but essentially these books could (and maybe should) be bound into one big edition to tell the whole sprawling story. I would shell out the better part of a fortune to own something like that.

But enough about the packaging: you’re here for the premise. And it’s a doozy.
In Earth’s future, humanity has claimed the stars and settled on hundreds of planets throughout the galaxy and beyond – all connected by “Hawking drive”-equipped spaceships and a little understood wormhole technology that allows for instantaneous travel through portals to any planet with an access arch – the farcaster system. On one planet, Hyperion, legends have long told of the murderous Shrike, a strange, violent creature that guards the enigmatic Time Tombs and whom devout pilgrims visit to ask for favors — the Shrike reportedly kills all but one pilgrim and grants that person his or her desire. A group of strangers is assembled and sent on one final pilgrimage to try to somehow stop an imminent interstellar war between the Hegemony (the main ruling body of humans) and the Ousters (genetically altered post-humans who rebelled and live in the outskirts of space). Along the way, each of these strangers tells the others a tale of his or her past: each a Canterburian epic of the grandest kind.

The story itself is complicated and ingenious – but it is the technologies and concepts contained within that truly make the Hyperion Cantos stand out among novels. Simmons envisions the biology and terrain of alien planets and the future of technology with such vivid reality that you actually believe there could be electricity-riddled Tesla trees which activate in storms and turn into deadly flame forests; or painfully realistic military training simulations that recreate battles of Earth’s ancient past; or unfathomable ancient tombs that actually seem to be moving backward through time; or organic, living treeships that ferry people through the stars.

You become wholly enraptured by Simmons’ effortless blending of history, literature, biology, and poetry, and you grin madly as he peels back the layers of his own complex onion of a story. It’s the sort of novel that makes you realize all the good ideas haven’t been used up yet – they are just stored in certain minds waiting for the perfect story to unleash them.

-Kira Apple

1 thought on “LitStaff Pick: Our Favorite Speculative Fiction

  1. Elisha I went through the same thing when I first read Dune – very difficult to get into, but soooo worth it!

Comments are closed.