Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.
On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.
While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).
1998 was a year without consensus. Every significant sci-fi and fantasy award (that I follow) went to a different novel.
The Hugo went to – Halderman, Forever Peace
The Nebula went to – McIntyre, The Moon and the Sun
The Arthur C Clarke went to – Russell, The Sparrow
The B.S.F.A. went to – Priest, The Extremes
The World Fantasy went to – Ford, The Physiognomy
The Mythopoeic went to – Byatt, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye
The Locus Fantasy went to – Powers, Earthquake Weather
The Locus Sci-Fi went to – Simmons, Rise of Endymion
It was one of those years where there just weren’t enough awards to go around, with three more superb novels (Hamilton, The Reality Dysfunction, Egan, Diaspora and Robinson, Antarctica) all finishing empty handed.
...(It was specifically 'Rise' which won the award, but I've posted this review as the Omnibus, as that's the version I own)
Rise of Endymion is, of course, the final instalment of Simmons brain-melting space-opera epic, The Hyperion Cantos. I’m going to nail my colours to the mast right from the get-go; I’m a Dan Simmons fan and I loved this book.
...(Split and published as four books, the Cantos was written as two and I tend to refer to them as two, simply Hyperion and Endymion)
I’m happy to admit this is a very different book from Hyperion; a much simpler book. Hyperion builds a rich, complex universe and tells a strange and difficult tale from the multiple perspectives of a diverse cast. It is, without a doubt, a stunning achievement.
I have the feeling that a lot of readers follow the story to Endymion expecting a similar experience and as a result end up sorely disappointed.
Having put so much time and energy into building his Hyperion Cantos universe, Endymion is about Simmons (and us) having some fun exploring it!
The first book is road-story / chase-story where our heroes bimble along and leap through many worlds via farcaster portals, negotiating episodic dangers and gradually building their relationship. The second book takes us a little deeper, exploring our heroes’ reconfigured relationship as the time-debt of space travel brings their ages close enough for romance to blossom, the spirituality/philosophy of the maturing messiah, and the eye-water potential of the beautiful, vivid settings.
Objectively, Hyperion is the ‘better’ book – but subjectively Endymion is (for me at least) a more pleasurable experience. It’s better escapism. It doesn’t make my brain hurt. It had that blend of high-tech sci-fi that I love, that feels magical. It was more uplifting. More emotive. Hyperion felt like an exhibit, Endymion like an embrace.
I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t care!
I feel like I’m back in the playground, holding hands with the piggy-nosed girl. I think she’s pretty and the rest of you can just go away and stop calling her names!