Sunday, October 24, 2010

I found my book

I was asked during the beginning of school what is my favorite SF book. I replied at the time, "I don't know I haven't read enough of the cannon yet."

I can now safely answer, among all the wonderful SF I have read, many of which I respect and admire, Hyperion by Dan Simmons strikes at the chords of my literate soul.

It is a a novel that brings all my SF reading skills and literary understanding into one massive, festive hall. I sit on the edge of my bench, consuming red meat off the bone as a Dan Simmons plays the bard and weaves me a verbal epic.

In fact, I'll start my talk on Hyperion's own bard, Martin Silenus. He is one of the greatest characters I have ever read. His humor, attention to detail and witticism continued to make me laugh.

Here is the opening quote to his Cantos tale.

"In the beginning was the Word. Then came the fucking word processor. Then came the thought processor. Then came the death of literature. And so it goes."

It summarizes all I love about Hyperion, the first sentence speaks to the essence of literature. The second is a joke. The though processor is the science fiction speaking, then a prediction about humanity. Sum up the final sentence with a reference to Slaughter House 5. All magnificent.

There is humor in sending your son on a slow space trip to get the interest on his existence to accumulate enough to pay off family debts. Not to mention his slave years speaking only 9 profane words and still calling himself a poet. His gaudiness and ample swearing is a characteristic rarely seen in non-cyberpunk SF.

I won't go into each tale but I do love the idea of basically writing each story in one style of SF. As I said before, Hyperion really is a cantos, to all of SF and even literature in general. The Shakespeare, the mention of Gibson, the fact that ecologist John Muir sparked a zealous Tree-worshipping religion all are wonderful components that add to the setting and themes. (I also remember a stray Dune reference, "Once years ago in school, I saw a time-lapse holo showing the decomposition of a kangaroo mouse." (77). Totally a Muad'dib ref)

My favorite part is that the ending half of the book doesn't dwindle. Now I know that having the pilgrims enter the valley finally while singing "We're off to see the wizard" is not a technical ending, what I mean is that Simmons focuses all the stories to the very fabric of the SF setting he created.

I've seen many authors fail to get their world to resonate with the final revelations. Examples being that Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner, and Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson lost the magic of their setting and ended the book on revelations that didn't matter (i.e. pheromones in an African culture and humanity's language was actually a virus). Instead, Hyperion gets to the core of humanity, progress or stagnation.

I summarize this with the Consul's quote

"Suffice it to say that I believe the Ousters have done what Web humanity has not in the past millennia: evolve. While we live in our derivative cultures, pale reflections of Old Earth life, the Ousters have explored new dimensions of aesthetics and ethics and biosciences and art and all the things that must change and grow to reflect the human soul.
Barbarians, we call them, while all the while we timidly cling to our Web like Visigoths crouching inthe ruins of Rome's faded glory and proclaim ourselves civilized." page 468.

Civilization and evolution, that is what humanity is all about. That and the infinite mysteries of the universe, symbolized by the labyrinths that dot nine (if i remember correctly) world of Web Space. Oh yeah, and death. That may be the kingpin in this entire existence of ours. And we all know that the Shrike, the only real demon, will keep that problem a perpetual mystery.

Below are two interesting articles I've copied for my interest as well as your own.

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