It took me a while to find that one series every fan has, the one we all point to as our series. For a lot of people, it’s Harry Potter, or it’s Hunger Games. Some people have more than one series. I never had one until now. Now, I’m just like you.
Short stuff and standalones have always come easier to me, so enjoying a series seemed like kind of an aberration. I like a sense of oneness, and read for that well-crafted ending that comes after just the right amount of anticipation.
Then the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons came into my life. (Those books that have been around for twenty some years, but only took me twenty some to find). I think it was the frame format that got me hooked on book one, initially, the homage it paid to The Canterbury Tales. Each chapter was a story belonging to a traveler. And the travelers? All connected to the planet Hyperion. They’re on their own pilgrimage, confronting the Shrike. It’s hard to say whether the Shrike is a character, an idea, a force of nature, or something else. That’s what makes meeting the ‘angel of final retribution’ so attractive. Some say the monster and religious icon isn’t real at all. It is simply unquantifiable.
The first book ends this way, just as the pilgrims get behind the curtain of time which hides the Shrike. “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz…”
It turns out that I didn’t mind at all that neither events, nor the futures of characters, were concluded in the first installment. The sequel took the shreds of cyberpunk and politics offered in the first book, and wove the tapestry. Then came characters like Ummon. Oh, Ummon, how could I ever hope to explain you? Although the second book does not have quite the craft, is not nearly as tight, it treats us to a payoff so satisfying that it conjured Childhood’s End. Brawne Lamia, John Keats, Sol, the Consul—I feel like I know them. So, I guess what I’m really trying to say is that the Cantos did what any good story was meant to. I have never read so fast in my life.
But here’s the rub. I can’t go on. I feel like I have to take some advice from another Goodreads reviewer. They warned not to read beyond The Fall of Hyperion, and I’ll be dammed if I’m going to. Just like I’ll be damned if I get too excited for the would-be television series about said books. If what follows is just not the same, or too many special things have changed, I don’t think I could take it. And if that doesn’t speak to how highly I think of the first two books of the series, maybe this will.
Reading the Cantos got me so excited about storytelling that it made me want to sit down and work. And I did. And I think it was Hyperion’s love for literary allusions that helped me write what I ended up with. Perhaps later, when I’m ready, I will finish the series. But for now, I can say my own story is finished. Ironic that two novels wanted me to put aside my novel-writing, and hammer out a short story. Whatever the case, I’m looking to shop that story soon, so look for Lugo while you can in a slushpile near you!
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