Spectra, 1997, 709 pages
In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention. On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening. And the secrets they contain mean that nothing - nothing anywhere in the universe - will ever be the same.
I've been hard on space operas lately. Especially Big Fat Space Operas.
But I've enjoyed Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos. It has not blown me away as it evidently does a lot of SF fans. But Simmons is a talented writer and he is particularly talented at weaving a multi-volume epic with a planned and definite conclusion. The Rise of Endymion is full of resolutions to little plot seeds that were planted all the way back in Hyperion, the first book in this four-book series. Although I'll admit I didn't do a particularly close reading of the books, nor did I read most of them consecutively (except for the last two), I didn't spot any inconsistencies at all, nor any plot holes or threads left dangling.
For a series that spans both space and time and encompasses two different epochs in humanity's future history, it's a pretty impressive work. But while it's certainly deeper than most space operas, it doesn't really transcend the genre. It's about galactic conspiracies, interstellar wars, vast alien intelligences, with a dose of mysticism and philosophy added.
Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion were very much part of a single story, but self-contained in themselves. Endymion and The Rise of Endymion are likewise a two-book set; you really want to read Endymion first. And you almost certainly want to read the first two books first, though the latter two are somewhat self-contained, taking place hundreds of years after the first duology. But most of the original pilgrims from Hyperion manage to make a return appearance.
The Rise of Endymion reveals the truth behind the unholy alliance between the Pax, a Roman Catholic papal empire, and the TechnoCore, machine super-intelligences descended from the earliest man-made AIs. The Pax is a very evil empire, but Simmons provides a salve for Catholics in the form of Federico de Soya, a Pax starship captain and priest, who goes rogue after he can no longer stomach the genocide being committed in the Pax's new Crusade against the Ousters, a genetically-engineered "fork" of humanity. Eventually he realizes just how deeply the Church had been corrupted by accepting the cruciform parasite, which grants literal resurrection to those who are "born again" by accepting it, but completely perverts the very concept of Christian salvation.
A lot of religions appear in the final duology, but most obvious is the Christ-figure Aenea, the daughter of Brawne Lamia (one of the original Hyperion pilgrims) and the cybrid Johnny Keats. Aenea pretty much goes through all the stages of Jesus' journey, including a religion forming around her after her death even though she said that wasn't what she was trying to accomplish.
I didn't particularly like the Christ allegory. Messiah figures don't do it for me. Nor was I enthralled by her romance with Raul Endymion, a sort of average guy who's been dragged into being a hero figure for these two books. I will admit that it was the war between the Pax, the TechnoCore, and the Ousters, and the politics and conspiracies involved therein, that interested me more. Likewise the confrontations with the Nemes clones and the Shrike; while having somewhat of a predictable quality, they were suspenseful.
The rest I could take or leave. "Love as the unifying force of the universe" also doesn't do it for me.
Many props to Dan Simmons for delivering a well-executed finale that really finishes things.
Have you read the Hyperion Cantos?
Verdict: The Hyperion Cantos is a good science fiction epic, and The Rise of Endymion brings it to a conclusion on an appropriately vast scale. You will either prefer the first two books or the second two books, as they are two different stories that are part of a whole. As with the first duology, I thought the second book was better than the first.
Also by Dan Simmons: My reviews of Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, and Endymion.
My complete list of book reviews.