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).
The Fall of Hyperion was one of the six award winners I had read before starting my Glorious Locus Quest (along with 3 other Simmons books, an Asimov and a May).
Occasionally another reviewer sums up your opinion so perfectly; there seems little point in repeating the sentiment.
I felt the same way as Kemper about Fall:
But Fall of Hyperion is so Shrike-damned good that I must, out of overwhelming respect, at least try to express my admiration and awe at this accomplishment.“Mr. Kemper had read Simmons before and knew he likes to put a lot of big ideas in his books. But this time, apparently Simmons broke into his house and managed to directly implant much of the book directly into Mr. Kemper’s brain via some kind of crude funnel device.”
“His wife said she found him having convulsions and leaking brain matter out his nose and ears.”
“He had told several people that Hyperion was just so good that he had to know how it ended, even if it killed him.”
It’s a bit of cliché to describe a complex plot in terms of a circus ‘plate-spinning’ act but it’s the most appropriate metaphor that’s coming to my sleep-deprived mind this morning. It’s the familiar slack-jawed feeling of hypnotic wonder at an artist who knows exactly how long he’s got left on each plate before it starts to wobble, exactly how to stabilise that wobble, and exactly how much impetus to impart to allow him to work his way around all the plates before returning again. It’s the skill of a juggler with all the balls in the air, but with more calm-control and less frantic energy.
To stretch the analogy even further, Simmons seems to work with plates of different sizes, colours, materials and shape – on sticks of different heights and widths. He takes a difficult job, integrating an intergalactic multidimensional time-travelling space-opera narrative, and makes it even more difficult by populating his universe with intelligent, diverse and contrary characters.
Some of his ideas articulate my deepest held ideals about far-future hi-tech becoming indistinguishable (to us, now) from magic – much as modern tech would be incomprehensible to early man. I already mentioned the awesomeness incarnate that is the Shrike, the Poet and the Cruciform in my review of the first book, but here I’m particularly referring to the Keats cybrids, the treeships and the TechnoCore.
It’s a book I would dearly love to re-read, but it looks like I’m going to have to re-buy first because I leant the whole Cantos to a friend who’s since moved house and taken it to the other side of the country... (I'm looking at you, Mark)
Fall of Hyperion won the Locus Sci-Fi award in 1991. I’m flabbergasted that the Hugo that year went to The Vor Game! I’ve since read The Vor Game , and I also 5-starred that, but good as that was, this is better. What’s even more peculiar, is that the Nebula that year went to Tehanu – a mid-series fantasy novel? Clearly I'll need to read it to understand that decision! Ah well, at least my trusty Locus Sci-Fi award recognised and rewarded Sir Simmons' creative genius.