Endymion: More fabulous storytelling in the Hyperion universe

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsEndymion by Dan Simmons fantasy book reviewsEndymion by Dan Simmons

The original HYPERION duology was a great success for Dan Simmons. It won him numerous awards and accolades, not to mention rave reviews and huge sales figures. The setting so fertile, Simmons indulged further, producing additional books typically called the ENDYMION duology. No less imaginative and visual, the pair, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, nevertheless take Simmons’ universe in a new direction: where Hyperion focused on mythological quests for power from a base of Keats’ poetry, Endymion is honed to spirituality from a personal view. The following review is for the first half of the duology.

Endymion opens by introducing the man who becomes the main protagonist of the story. The eponymous Raul Endymion hangs in space inside a Schroedinger’s Box roughly 300 years after the events of Hyperion. Convicted of a capital crime, he awaits the random moment when two contact points will touch, fill the box with poison, and kill him. With nothing else to do, he begins narrating the events that brought him to the Box. Born and raised on the planet Hyperion, he lived a rather mundane life on the now famous but disconnected planet, serving in the army until discharge and, after, opening his own guide service for rich off-world hunters. Finding himself in an unresolvable conflict with a group of bourgeois clients one day, his need for escape is great, so off Endymion goes across the galaxy, and real story begins.

Endymion’s story occupies one half of the narrative; the other half (in alternating chapter form) is the story of Father de Soya. De Soya is a highly placed official in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which since the events of The Fall of Hyperion has become one of the most powerful entities in the galaxy under the immortal leadership of Pope Julius IV, previously known as Lenar Hoyt. Seeking to protect its position, the Church sends de Soya on a mission to the time tombs of Hyperion to prevent the emergence of what they believe to be the anti-christ. How De Soya and Endymion’s stories become intertwined is for the reader to discover.

A sci-fi Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the majority of Endymion consists of a fascinating river chase. For reasons not explained until the second volume, Aenea (another new character) is able to control the defunct farcaster portals that once interconnected the galaxy. The River Tethys, which flowed through Tau Ceti amongst other cities, is the scene of the action. As it once passed through a variety of interesting worlds, so too do the band of travelers which forms, leading to one exotic adventure after another. After having built the universe in Hyperion, Simmons shows he has plenty of imagination left in the tank — these adventures are anything but typical sci-fi or fantasy. The ice people, the ocean world, and the jungles are leftover Hyperion vintage.

Simmons’ style is once again flawless and filled with vivid imagery and description. The potential faults of the novel are largely device- and theme-related. A few of the new characters, particularly the Terminator-esque people the Church assembles to give chase, feel forced. Because the “bad” guys were pushed to the background at the end of The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion’s antagonist had to be newly created, and what results is not always convincing. (Though I have to admit the arch-angel ships the priests travel in is brilliant symbolism.) As the materialism of the Catholic Church is the artery at which Simmons aims his literary knife, readers sensitive to criticism of the Vatican, et al., should be careful: he does not cut lightly.

In the end, Endymion is more fabulous storytelling in the Hyperion universe. Stakes are personal, the mode switches from space opera to planetary adventure, and the River Tethys leads the group and those who chase on a series of highly creative scenes and happenings that culminate in a showdown leading into the next book. Thus, readers be warned that Endymion, like Hyperion, is just the first half of a story; The Rise of Endymion concludes the events of this novel. Those who enjoyed Hyperion will definitely want to check out these two books, just be ware that the scope has altered. And yes, the Shrike returns…


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JESSE HUDSON, one of our guest reviewers, reads in most fields. He lives in Poland where he works for a big corporation by day and escapes into reading by night. He posts a blog which acts as a healthy vent for not only his bibliophilia, but also his love of culture and travel: Speculiction.

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4 comments

  1. Nice Review. I enjoyed this novel but I did think it was the weakest of the four. Really the first half was slow and not engaging but the second half really took off and was every bit as good as the other three books.

  2. I enjoyed all of the books in the Hyperion and Endymion series but readers need to know these books are very technical and deep. Definitely not a light summer read.

    I am Catholic and I did find Simmons portrayal of the church a bit unsettling. However, I’m used to it and it usually stems from ignorance. No big deal.

    • Technical? I do not recall one ounce of real science; Greg Egan and Larry Niven write technical sci-fi. Deep? Is that what you call battles between AI space ships and terminator women? The Catholic church taking on mutant humans? Olaf Stapledon, Stanislaw Lem and others write deep sci-fi. The four books of Hyperion universe are space opera through and through – the perfect summer read.

      Regarding Simmons’ representation of Catholicism, if you are a believer in the rote, ritual, and materialism of the religion, then yes, Simmons does not tread lightly. However, if you are in the religion for the more spiritual, theological aspects, then I would beg to disagree. I do not want to spoil Endymion for would be readers, but certainly Simmons takes a more universal approach to the religion come the conclusion of the series.

      • Kevin /

        Endymion is certainly lighter than the Hyperion books. I would have liked better explanations of concepts like the datasphere, Technacore, the Core, stunts, the cruciforms, the tree ships, etc.

        I was disappointed with his portrayal of the Catholic Church as a vicious totalitarian regime that sends out assassins and trys to kidnap people.

        That said, I thoroughly enjoyed all four books. They are extremely creative and thought-provoking.

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