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The Rise of Endymion

by Dan Simmons

(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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© John D Owen 20 June 1998