First Published: 1990 by Doubleday
My copy: bought on Kindle
Memorable quote: “We thought we were special, opening our perceptions, honing our empathy, spilling that cauldron of shared pain on to the dance floor language and then trying to make a minuet out of all that chaotic hurt. It doesn’t matter a damn bit. We’re no avatars, no sons of God or man. We’re only us, scribbling our conceits alone, reading alone, and dying alone.”
Hyperion was one of my top books of early 2012 but it took me a while to get round to this, the sequel, as I worried it wouldn’t be as good. Certainly Fall reads as much more ‘straight’ sci-fi and lacks the Canterbury Tales influenced narrative structure of its predecessor (which read as a series of interlinked Space pilgrim’s tales). So, more conventional perhaps, but Fall… remains a damn good read and one which still maintains Simmons’ brand of surprisingly literary sci-fi: the novel quotes extensively from the poetry of W.B Yeats and even features a cybrid reconstruction of the poet Keats as a major character. That really shouldn’t work but somehow it does.
What the more conventional narrative structure does is to free up Simmons to really concentrate on action: the brewing war between the Hegemony and the Ousters, and the fate of the Pilgrims who arrived at the tomb of the mysterious and deadly Shrike at the end of the last book. There were a lot of unanswered questions in Hyperion but the sequel does tie up many loose ends. Some resolutions were guessable but there were a few bombshells too. I’ve always felt that Simmons seems to take a ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to his writing and (impressively expansive) research, and though he could do with a more ruthless editor in a few places he still packs a punch just for the sheer density of his ideas. The book includes musings on religion, artificial intelligence, over-reliance on technology, interstellar travel, literature, pain, poetic inspiration and many other weighty themes but it still manages to work as a good action adventure too.