Spectra, 1995, 563 pages
It is 274 years after the Fall and the universe is in chaos. Raul Endymion, one time shepherd and convicted murderer, is chosen as a pawn in a cosmic game whose outcome will determine the fate of humanity. Selected as a bodyguard to the next messiah, Endymion will cross time, space, and the very fabric of reality as her protector, lover, and finally disciple. At the same time, the enigmatic Shrike - part monster, part killing machine, part avenging angel - has also followed the girl into the 32nd century. Yet it is Endymion who has been chosen to rescue Aenea, against all odds. How will her message change the universe - if she is willing to speak it...and if humankind is prepared to hear it?
Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion were the first two books in Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos. They are a self-contained duology that left only a few loose ends.
Endymion begins a second duology, almost three centuries after the end of The Fall of Hyperion. It picks up all those loose ends, revolving around the child of Brawne Lamia and Johnny Keats, who thanks to the Time Tombs, has returned to the universe of Hyperion from many centuries in the future.
The Roman Catholic Church has gone from being a dying cult in the first two books to ruling the stars as the successor to the Hegemony. Now, to be "born again" is to have the alien cruciform parasite implanted in your chest: somehow, the Catholic Church has acquired the secret of integrating the parasite in such a way that human beings remain themselves while hosting it. By means of secret and "holy" resurrection rituals, the Church is now able to give believers literal eternal life. Of course there's a secret behind the Pax's rise, which is revealed at the end of this book.
Endymion has two main characters. The first is Raul Endymion, a former hunter and guide on the planet Hyperion, which has become a tourist spot since the Shrike hasn't been seen in centuries. Endymion is condemned to death (final death since he has refused to be "born again") after he assaults a couple of rich assholes who nearly got him killed on a hunting trip. He escapes with the help of Martin Silenus, who wrote the now-banned "Hyperion Cantos," who sends him, with a blue-skinned android named A. Bettik to save the daughter of his old friends.
The other main character is Father-Captain Federico de Soya, a Catholic priest and captain of a Pax starship who has been assigned to apprehend and bring back to the Vatican the "abomination" Aenea. He's a fairly stock character: the "One Good Man" who slowly realizes that the forces he serve are not what they appear to be, but despite wrestling with his conscience, he can't abandon his faith or his duty.
Raul Endymion also wasn't all that interesting. He's a bit of a rebel farmboy, but by the end of the book, I still couldn't tell you much about his personality.
Really, the strength of Simmons's writing is his worldbuilding; most of his characters are ideas made into character sketches more than people. Aenea is your basic Chosen One (and is obviously going to get with Raul, after, you know, she reaches puberty.) Some of de Soya's Swiss Guard "space marines" have a bit of personality. The chief antagonist, Radamanth Nemes, is pretty awesome, but she only appears in the last part. Her climactic battle with the Shrike is worth waiting for, though.
Worth reading, especially if you liked the first two books, but very much a sequel and thus lacking a little bit of the sparkle of Hyperion. Also, like Hyperion, this is very much part one of a two-book duology.
Have you read Endymion?
Have you read Hyperion?
Do you like space operas?
Verdict: If a climactic battle between a starship of the Roman Catholic Pax, the machine intelligences of the TechnoCore, an unstoppable alien killing machine called the Shrike, and a nanotech super-soldier named Radamanth Nemes sounds awesome, Simmons has the writing chops to carry it off. I just wish he'd dumped the silly central conceit of a Chosen One who's going to save the universe with the power of love. I can't describe this any better than saying it's a space opera for space opera fans. Dan Simmons spawns epic tales about Big Ideas, and populates them with puppets. Fun times, but it fails to be quite as epic as Hyperion mostly because Simmons has already been there and done that.
Also by Dan Simmons: My review of Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.
My complete list of book reviews.