Book cover of Hyperion.
Book 1 of the Hyperion Cantos


Hyperion, was not at all the book I expected. To give you an idea of how much I misjudged it, about a third of the way through I would have rated it two stars and almost put it down, about two-thirds of the way through I was solidly at three stars, and by the end I was up to four. It was not the all-time great I was promised, but it was very good.

It is told as the tale of six different pilgrims traveling to the planet Hyperion to visit the Shrike, a cruel, death-god-like figure. Hyperion is very much The Canterbury Tales in space. At first the stories seem unconnected, but as the pilgrims travel and tell their tales we realize they are all connected, and they reveal a hint at the wider universe that the book takes place in. The book ends “suddenly” but the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, picks up right where Hyperion leaves off.

A theme that runs through the book is “the old gods replaced by the new”, based on Keat’s Hyperion poem about the Greek Titans falling to the new Gods of Olympus. We see this with the Humans and the AI TechnoCore, the humans and the Ousters (a breakaway post-human faction), the Scholar and the Old Testament God, and Catholicism and the new religions.

The Priest’s Tale

I think this story is supposed to be carried by the mystery, but it didn’t hook me. Not as much a horror story as I assumed halfway through, it’s still a little too far into the genre for me.

The Soldier’s Tale

A story with action, mystery, and our first really good look at both the Ousters and the Shrike.

The Poet’s Tale

Starts off slow, but the payoff is good. Silenus, the poet, is a spoiled annoying character, but the way he comes to believe that he has set the Shrike loose with his writing is exciting.

The Scholar’s Tale

Emotional, heartbreaking. In the Scholar’s Tale we learn why Sol Weintraub brought a two-week old baby—one getting younger all the time—on the deadly pilgrimage.

The Detective’s Tale

This story gives us a great look at he TechnoCore: the artificial intelligences that seceded from humanity but are still tightly involved in our affairs. The story hints that the TechnoCore’s three factions—the stables, the volatiles, and the ultimates—are engineering the coming war over Hyperion. The end is a bit too 1980s cyberpunk (dodging code phages in the neon cyberweb!), but the characters and history are compelling.

The Consul’s Tale

The final tale starts off as a love story between a planet-bound woman and a space-faring man who, because of relativity, ages much slower. But at the very end the story twists and it becomes a tale of revolution. It explains why and how the Consul intentionally set the entire Hyperion crisis in motion.