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the pathetic caverns - books by author - Dan Simmons

eclectic reviews and opinions

Simmons, Dan

The Rise of Endymion

A few years back, Dan Simmons wrote a huge novel, which I will refer to as Hyperion Cantos. Publishers thought it was too big to be a single book, so it was split — with slight awkwardness — into two volumes, entitled Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.

The acclaim from SF readers was almost universal — the first volume won the prestigious Hugo award — and it was certainly one of the best (or two of the best, depending on how you count it) science fiction novels I've ever read — probably one of the best ever written.

Hyperion Cantos was stunning on several levels. Simmons' characters were vividly drawn, often morally complex. His plots were intricate, but the action was often intense, even cinematic, even — I remember thinking at times, "wow, this would make a great movie if it could somehow be done right." (For what it's worth, I sincerely hope that never happens — there's no way that I can imagine a studio actually doing justice to the novel). The background against which his characters played out their action was rich, of staggering scope, detailed in political, social, and religious aspects. Simmons also showed a startling ability to hop genres within the scope of a single narrative — the traditional "science fiction" sort of mood was contrasted with moments of stark horror — and for the nitpickers, even the most supernatural-seeming of the horrors eventually wind up getting some fairly credible pseudo-science explanation.

Last year, Simmons released Endymion, a sequel to his meganovel. I found it enjoyable, but its linear chase-oriented plot was disappointing after the complexity of Hyperion Cantos, and the book ended rather abruptly, leaving a great many questions unanswered.

It's clear with the publication of The Rise of Endymion that the two volumes of are another single narrative that was never meant to be split. In fact, near the end of this second volume, the mostly first-person narrator, Raul Endymion, refers to when he began the narrative, and clearly he means a thousand pages ago, not merely five hundred-odd. And, as one might expect, the narrative makes considerably more sense, and it's considerably more satisfying, now that it's complete.

I still don't think it's quite in the same league as Hyperion Cantos. Endymion, by his own admission, is a little thick in the head at times. He's not exactly my favorite tour guide. The ending was too pat — and too clearly foreshadowed. But on the positive side, I'm certainly bad tempered enough to dig what may be the most vicious rendition of the Catholic church — or some perversion thereof — ever penned. And the central thesis of the religion invented within the novel is intriguing.

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