Tonawanda News

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September 3, 2013

BOOK NOOK: 'Hyperion' a 'Canterbury Tales' set in the future

Tonawanda News — “Hyperion,” published in 1989, is the beginning of author Dan Simmons’ massive opus “The Hyperion Cantos,” detailing a future world eight centuries from now where mankind is on the brink of an intergalactic war.

For all of those who cringe at words like “future” and “intergalactic,” and those who are ready to walk away at the first mention of science fiction — hold on a minute. There’s plenty for the literary types to enjoy in this Hugo Award-winning novel as well. 

Take for example, “Hyperion’s” plot structure. Heavily influenced by “The Canterbury Tales,” “Hyperion” revolves around seven characters each telling their specific story, with each tale providing a missing link to the grand, overarching plot. From the military commander Colonel Fedmahn Kassad, to the priest Het Masteen, to the scholar Sol Weintraub, and more, each character tells a story from their past, and how it relates to the overall mission the group is on.

Simmons is splendid at creating a different voice for each character as they share their story. Some are journalistic in their approach to story telling, while others much more poetic. Some take their storytelling seriously, while others find it a farce. Impressively, Simmons is able to write seven almost entirely different short stories in this way, and to top it off, ties them together tightly with the larger storyline.

The seven tell their stories to pass the time as they head to see the “Time Tombs,” where legend has is that a single wish can be granted to whomever asks for it. However, the Time Tombs are known to be guarded by a god-like being known as the “Shrike,” who, as the legend goes, kills all who approach the Time Tombs other than those who he deems worthy.

Dan Simmons uses this idea, and the story-in-a-story concept, to create a universe with a wealth of history, conflict, drama and joy, heavily detailed to the point of sucking the reader into the imaginary universe. Think of “Hyperion” along the lines of Star Wars in this respect, without all the obsessive fans. 

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