Fiction, Sci-Fi

The Rise of Endymion

The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

See reviews of books one, two, and three. This review contains SPOILERS.

The time of reckoning has arrived. As a final genocidal Crusade threatens to enslave humanity forever, a new messiah has come of age. She is Aenea and she has undergone a strange apprenticeship to those known as the Others. Now her protector, Raul Endymion, one-time shepherd and convicted murderer, must help her deliver her startling message to her growing army of disciples.

But first they must embark on a final spectacular mission to discover the underlying meaning of the universe itself. They have been followed on their journey by the mysterious Shrike–monster, angel, killing machine–who is about to reveal the long-held secret of its origin and purpose. And on the planet of Hyperion, where the story first began, the final revelation will be delivered–an apocalyptic message that unlocks the secrets of existence and the fate of humankind in the galaxy.

The generally accepted thought is that each book in this series gets progressively less good than the one before. After having read all four, I’m not sure that’s true. I would say more that the first two books in the series are completely different than the last two. Especially if you think about book one in comparison to book four, you would really never have guessed what the ending to this whole series would be.

One of the things I loved about this book was the same as what I loved in all the others: the world-building. Yet again, we travel to even more fantastical planets, whose origins have just a hint of present-day Earth cultures in them.

I also liked that, in this novel, we get to basically see all of the original Hyperion pilgrims again.

Raul Endymion is hapless and bumbling. He even admits this in one rant inside the Schrodinger Cat Box. He’s always following, never seems to understand what’s going on, and is the last person to realize anything. This makes him somewhat of an annoying character. But it also makes him human. He displays insecurities far more than any other character. Which makes him a great contrast for the android, A. Bettik and Aenea herself, the child messiah that rarely seems like a whole person.

The philosophical explanations and endeavors weigh a little heavy. Most of the ideas postulated are so abstract, that it’s hard to get a hold of them. At the end of the novel, we see these explanations put into practice, but before that, it’s as if we’re grasping at cloud vapors.

I’ve thought about the title of the book a lot over the past few weeks, but I still don’t see it. The Rise of Endymion? The Rise of (Raul) Endymion? Raul doesn’t do a lot of rising or becoming a hero. He seems adept at surviving, I’ll give him that. But perhaps, the title is an allusion to the history that is never written, Raul’s story after the end of the series.

Is it worth reading the entire Hyperion series? I would say so. Unless you’re okay with never knowing the answer to certain mysteries like The Shrike, the labyrinthine worlds, and the Technocore.

Have you read the series? What did you think? Why do you think this particular book is called The Rise of Endymion.

 

Dystopian, Fiction, Sci-Fi

Series Spotlight: Xenogenesis

Xenogenesis Series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Image) by Octavia E. Butler

CONTAINS SPOILERS

(From Lilith’s Brood, which contains all three novels)

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

I took a class on sci-fi literature last fall and we read Adulthood Rites. I always meant to go back and read the other two stories in the collection, which I finally did this holiday.

Each of the stories are interesting and complex in themselves. But what is even more remarkable is how the three stories TOGETHER add up to something much bigger.

To put it simply: Humans destroy the Earth in a war. An alien race, the Oankali saves some of the humans. Their price for saving them is a “trade”. The Oankali survive by merging genetically with new species, always seeking to improve and perfect. The traditional Oankali family structure consists of a male, female, and an ooloi (a gender-neutral being). Oankali are not capable of reproducing except through the aid on an ooloi. The new family structure includes the same three Oankali, plus a male and female human.

This series is many things. It is the story of the human survivor, Lilith Iyapo, and her journey in this strange, new world. It is the story of the Oankali, in a microcosm. It is the story of a species, of us all. When read together the three books essentially represent birth, growth, and adulthood. At the beginning of the series there are no human-Oankali children. By the end of the series, not only are there human-Oankali children, but the “construct” ooloi have essentially ended the feud between the two races: the Oankali and the humans who fear their own destruction through racial dilution.

The series is very complex and worth dissecting in its entirety, if you can manage it. There are so many endless questions, so many conflicts, that it seems impossible to truly grasp the extent of the series. I have never read anything by Butler before, but she is truly a master.

Fiction, Reviews, Sci-Fi

Endymion

Endymion by Dan Simmons

(Endymion is the third book in a series by Dan Simmons)

It is 274 years after the Fall and the universe is in chaos. Raul Endymion, one time shepherd and convicted murderer, is chosen as a pawn in a cosmic game whose outcome will determine the fate of humanity. Selected as a bodyguard to the next messiah, Endymion will cross time, space, and the very fabric of reality as her protector, lover, and finally disciple. At the same time, the enigmatic Shrike – part monster, part killing machine, part avenging angel – has also followed the girl into the 32nd century. Yet it is Endymion who has been chosen to rescue Aenea, against all odds. How will her message change the universe – if she is willing to speak it…and if humankind is prepared to hear it?

While I still find Hyperion to be outstanding and the best novel in the series, I equally liked The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion.

One of the really awesome things that Endymion does is basically takes the reader on a modified tour of the worlds that made up the WorldWeb. In the first two books, we get glimpses of planets like Hyperion, God’s Grove, Maui Covenant, Barnard’s World, Old Earth, Lusus, Tau Ceti Center, and Renaissance Vector. Endymion takes us further. World-building is absolutely one of Dan Simmons’s strengths. And if he really puts that card down hard. And I loved it. I loved that he chose to go further with the WorldWeb, taking us to visit planets 274 years after the fall.

I find that all of Simmons novels don’t really grip you until 30-50 pages in. Endymion was no different. But once I was hooked, I was hooked.

I can’t say too much about the novel since it’s the third in the series, but one of the things it does is give us a new perspective on the Shrike phenomenon. For once, we see the monster as something that is, in fact, vulnerable and can be harmed, if not beaten. After the build-up of the terror of the creature for the past two books, it was interesting to see it in a new light. I can’t say if I liked it or not, though that probably has to do with my hatred of its challenger. What, you disliked something more than the Shrike? Unfortunately, yes. Simmons came up with yet another “monster”.

 

Dystopian, Fiction, Sci-Fi

1984

Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

I’m not sure which novel was responsible for setting me on the path of a deep and abiding love for dystopia and post-apocalyptic futures. I know that it wasn’t Nineteen Eighty-Fourbecause I remember the first time I sat down to read this book thinking, “I’m going to love this book. This is everything I want in a novel.” And it was.

Please excuse me: I have no idea why it is sometimes written '1984' and other times 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'

Nineteen Eighty-Fouris one of those novels that, in its very simplicity, takes hold of your mind like nothing else. They say it is a story of one man’s struggle to remain an individual in the face of Big Brother. I say it is a novel for humanity that remains as relevant as it was when it was published in 1949. The year 1984 has come and gone, but the threat of a Big Brother-like society is still very real. Many studies have notes how an increasingly technological society loses some of its individuality even as it becomes hyper-public: when one knows everything about a person at the click of a mouse, what is left to learn? Even elsewhere, we see the fingerprints of Big Brother: invasive governments, biased media, governments who want to strip the rights of the people as a way to keep them under their thumb. We see this around the world, but we even see it in the American government. Big Brother is not simply a fictional manifestation of 1949 or even 1984, but one of those transcendent figures whose has entered into the vernacular.

My main complaint about Nineteen Eighty-Four is that I wish it were longer. There is so much to this society that I wish Orwell had provided us more pages to roll around in. I’ve read this novel a handful of times, and each time I wish there were more. In some ways though, I imagine that as the beauty of the novel: A short parable which finds its extra pages of material in the fodder of global society.

 

Author Spotlight, Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Author Spotlight: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

In my opinion, these guys have a lock on the thriller genre. And for good reason. In a genre that counts among its authors, Dan Brown, Jack DuBrul, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Greg Bear, Iris Johansen, James Rollins, Raymond Khoury, David Lynn Goleman, William Gibson, and a bunch more, these guys really only have competition from Michael Cricton, who’s probably the undisputed God of this genre. Let’s talk about the fact that this is a convoluted and ambiguous subset of fiction. I think that most of the books one could term “thriller” also have their fingers in a separate genre. According to Amazon, my interests are apparently in “action & adventure fiction”, “science-fiction adventure”, “mystery & thriller”, “suspense thrillers” (really, Amazon?) and “techno thrillers”. Makes sense, yeah? Good, moving on.

I suppose you could say I’m a Preston and Child Completist. To-date, I’ve read (including solo efforts):

-Relic

-Reliquary

-The Cabinet of Curiosities

-Still Life with Crows

-Brimstone

-Dance of Death

-The Wheel of Darkness

-The Book of the Dead

-Cemetery Dance

-Fever Dream

-Thunderhead

-Tyrannosaur Canyon

-Blasphemy

-Riptide

-Mount Dragon

-The Ice Limit

-Impact

-The Monster of Florence (non-fiction)

-The Codex

-Death Match

-Utopia

-Deep Storm

-Terminal Freeze

-I’m currently in the midst of reading Cold Vengeance.

About the only thing I haven’t read yet is Douglas Preston’s non-fiction and the “Gideon” books.

So what is it about these guys? These are thriller novels, not literary fiction. With the exception of the Pendergast series, the characters aren’t deep. But the writing is tight and quick, propelling you to an insane conclusion, one that you can’t reason out from page one. There isn’t any lag-time in these novels. You don’t even have a chance to get bored. Much as you don’t have a chance to stop reading the book. Sure, if you’re hardcore against these novels, I suppose you won’t enjoy them. They do require suspension of belief. But it’s not really a hard-sell. But I’m not convincing people who hate these types of novels to give them a shot. I’m explaining why these guys are at the top of their game and why their novels are absolutely top-notch. I started with Relic. That would be my suggestion to anyone looking to break into the series. The Pendergast set is what made them famous and for good reason. I read the series in order though, in the midst of waiting for the new releases (I’d estimate I started these books in the winter of 2006), I read their other stuff. The Preston solo efforts are a bit stronger than the Child projects, but they are all nonetheless quite good. Out of all of these, I probably liked The Codex the least.

These guys are masters of plot. They can spin subplots and subtext like woven wool. To read one of these novels is to embark on a ride you didn’t know existed. With the passing of Michael Crichton (whose later works were certainly less brilliant and whose career included some unfortunate missteps) this pair is the worthy successor to such a dynasty. They rarely write anything that isn’t excellent (though I haven’t heard good things about the Gideon series, though apparently Hollywood is trying to turn it into a movie, so go figure) and whenever I get my hands on another of their novels, I always start it next. Case in point: I got Cold Vengeance for Christmas and I started it on the 26th, right after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring.

Book Blogger Thoughts:

Cold Venegance at A Walrus Darkly

Relic at Ryder Islington

Riptide at Cher Cabula’s Mindbox

Thunderhead at Jandy’s Reading Room

Impact at The Book Smugglers

Dystopian, Fiction, Reviews, Series Spotlight, Young Adult

Series Spotlight: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to discuss The Hunger Games. Everyone on Earth is discussing these books. When they’re not discussing Twilight. Not that I’m categorizing, just that the same crowd seems pretty down with both series. But then they like Harry Potter too, so maybe they have more good judgment than bad. (I sense that one day I may have to do a post about Twilight. It’s kind of de rigeuer for a blog about books. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them.)

But we’re talking about Katniss and Gale and Peeta. Let’s just start with the perfection of names- odd enough in their own right, unique amongst literary characters, inappropriate for dogs, and still pronounceable in English. Suzanne Collins, 1.

This is a pretty violent series for young adults. But I’m glad. If there’s anything children need, it’s toughening. Especially the group these books are aimed for. Not all parents may approve (the blood! the gore! the murder! the implied sex!), but then their children are always more grown-up than they want to admit. These books land solidly in the category of dystopian futures. That means the Hunger Games is sharing shelf space with 1984 and Brave New World. Not bad for a contemporary series of young adult novels. Suzanne Collins, 2.

As main characters go, Katniss Everdeen is pretty likeable. I’m not a huge fan of central characters myself. I always find myself drawn to the side characters who steal the show (*cough* Haymitch *cough*). But Katniss is very much aware of her own shortcomings as a human beings. At times, a little too aware. But not like she has much else to contemplate. Her life fairly sucks all around. I particularly enjoyed Katniss in the third book. Her demons, frailties, and guilt all contribute to making her tough as Tungsten. Suzanne Collins, 3.

I have high hopes for the upcoming films. It has to be better than the Twilight films. It has to. If it’s not, I’m going to stand back and let my writing major and film studies minor work it out in a cage fight.

Fiction, Reviews, Sci-Fi

Hyperion

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

From the publisher: On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike.  There are those who worship it.  There are those who fear it.  And there are those who have vowed to destroy it.  In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.  On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives.  Each carries a desperate hope–and a terrible secret.  And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

It’s been over two decades since Dan Simmons first published Hyperion. In perspective, the book was published a few weeks after I was born. But it is to my extreme misfortune that I never crossed paths with this book until a few months ago.

What’s not to like about science fiction that is heavily influences by and pays homage to the literature that came before it? The premise of the novel sets the seven pilgrims on a Chaucer-like pilgrimage to the Shrike and the Time Tombs. So maybe it’s not exactly the England of the Canterbury Tales. But you’ve got to appreciate an author who winks and smiles at his readers and assures them there’s a reason they struggled through Chaucer, however painful or not painful.

Hyperion is kind of like sci-fi for literature nerds. In addition to the Chaucer, we’ve got allusions to John Keats and his unfinished poem, “Hyperion, as well as digs at the sci-fi publishing industry and a tip-of-the-hat to William Gibson and the classic noir novels of Raymond Chandler. Simmons is a total literature nerd. And I can’t help, but love him for it. Who else would I want guiding me through this bleak and grotesque future of the post-Earth Hegemony?

Told in parts by the Pilgrims, we get a terrible and beautiful picture of the world called Hyperion. I knew I was in love with Hyperion when I stayed up two extra hours reading about the trials and tribulations of Father Dure amongst the Bikura and then spent another two hours after that trying to fall asleep. And I wasn’t even sorry about it in the morning.

The back-cover description from the publisher doesn’t do this book justice. Sure, it piqued my interest. But after reading Hyperion itself I can’t help, but feel that the enticement falls quite flat and feels lame in comparison to the novel itself. I’m told that the later books in this series (The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion,  and Endymion Rising) don’t pack the same extraordinary one-two punch of horror and beauty. I’m not deterred though; I’ll inspect these books for myself.

Simmons is a talented writer. The world of the Hegemony is well-constructed and life-like. We believe in the characters, their unique voices, and their tortured pasts. We believe in the pilgrimage, in the war, and in the Hegemony. And above all, we believe in the Shrike.