The Rise of Endymion
(Headline, £6.99, 756 pages, paperback. Published 1998.)
With The Rise of Endymion, Dan Simmons brings to a conclusion
The Hyperion Cantos, a four book epic that began in mindblowing
fashion with Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion,
dipped down with the slightly confused Endymion and now
surges to a new high with a very satisfying climax.
Following on directly from Endymion, the new volume is
again narrated largely by Raul Endymion (with a number of interjections
by other leading players in the massive space opera that unfolds).
Endymion recounts the adventures that befall him in his efforts
to protect Aenea, child of the cybrid John Keats from the earlier
Hyperion stories. Aenea grows to become a potent and dangerous
spiritual teacher, leading people away from the stultifying hand
of the Pax, the revamped Catholic Church. That institution controls
the cruciform, a parasite that enables the Pax to offer resurrection
and immortality to all its believers. As the Pax attempts both
to catch Aenea and to prevent the contagion of her teaching spreading,
it resorts to a final solution to sweep up non-believers that
is chilling in its planning and execution, with a hidden motive
that shows that even the Pax is being duped.
The characters of Endymion and Aenea are at the core of this work,
and are superb creations. Raul is courageous but rather naive
and easily manipulated, while Aenea is suitably wise and brave
in her allotted role as a messiah-figure (though her teaching
is more closely modelled on Buddhist principles than on Christian
belief structures). In some ways, it is Aenea's teaching
that forms the core of the story. Through Aenea, the author reveals
much of what really has been going on within the Hyperion Cantos.
Simmons manages the near impossibility of taking vast wodges of
exposition, and turning them into fascinating little lectures
by Aenea, bringing out insights into the religion, cybernetics
and artificial intelligences that are the mix at the heart of
the Hyperion stories. She's a magnificent but doomed character,
who still manages to achieve her goals by the end.
So, a very satisfactory conclusion to the Cantos -- or is it? Simmons
has certainly left room for more should he so wish, though he would
have to come up with something really incredible to justify extending
the series. Judging by The Rise of Endymion, Simmons could probably
pull it off if he really wanted. After all, the two Hyperion books seemed
to be pretty complete in themselves, and he has justified extending
them (although I wasn't too sure on that score until this volume). Another
pair relating Raul Endymion's further adventures would certainly get
my attention at the bookshop.
Review by John D Owen.
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