Sunday, July 7, 2019

Review: Endymion by Dan Simmons

Endymion by Dan Simmons
Published: Bantam Spectra, 1996
Series: Book 3 of the Hyperion Cantos
Awards Nominated: Locus SF Award

The Book:

“Humanity once ruled an interstellar empire, held together by farcaster portals that allowed people to step directly over vast distances. When it was discovered that AIs were hijacking human brains while in transit, the portal system was destroyed, leaving each planet to its own devices. Nearly 300 years later, the Catholic Church offered something new to bridge the vast distances -- immortality through symbiosis with cruciform-shaped alien parasites. Billions of people were eager to accept the new sacraments of the Church. Raul Endymion was not one of them.

Raul was a young former soldier who found himself entrusted with the protection of a special child, Aenea, who traveled from the future to once again change human society forever.  Together with an android and a personal spaceship, they fled from the relentless agents of the Church. Their path was down the river Tethys, which once flowed across many different worlds, and did so again with Aenea’s influence.” ~Allie

This is the third book of the Hyperion series, and I listened to it via audio while commuting to and from work.      

My Thoughts:

Endymion seems to be a straightforward adventure story, which makes it a little different from the previous books in the series.  It primarily follows Aenea, Raul, and A. Bettik floating down a river through wildly different worlds, encountering exciting and dangerous obstacles. The other half of the story involves the pursuing warrior-priest, Federico de Soya, a man of true faith who is troubled by his increasing awareness of the ruthlessness of his organization. I think the structure of the story was especially appealing to me, since the broad strokes are so similar to pretend games I played as a child.  I loved seeing the environments and lifeforms of each world, as well as seeing how the isolated human populations had adapted to live. I feel like I got to see so much more of this universe than I had from the previous novels.

I also really enjoyed reading about these particular characters. Raul is a kind and resourceful guy, and a pretty good narrator. I don’t really understand the obsession science fiction and fantasy seem to have with magical children, but I thought Aenea felt pretty genuine as a person and not just a plot device. It’s strongly hinted that Raul and Aenea will be romantically involved at some point in the future, but for this book their relationship is entirely platonic (I’ll talk more about this issue in my review of the final book). I was not terribly interested in the inner workings of the fictional future Catholic Church, but Father de Soya was a surprisingly sympathetic antagonist. I appreciated that even though a corrupt church is the villain in this story, we also see people who are true believers and who take the moral doctrine of their faith seriously.  

My Rating: 5/5

The third book of the Hyperion Cantos picks up the story several centuries later, with an almost entirely new cast of characters. Endymion is an exciting chase story, with our heroes (Raul, Aenea and A.Bettik) fleeing across many interesting worlds while the Catholic Church continues its pursuit.  It was really fun to explore more of this universe, and to see what happened to the people after the destruction of the farcasters. The main plot is resolved within the novel, but it is also clearly the first half of a larger story. I was pretty eager to jump right into the finale, and it also does not disappoint.  I can see why this series is considered a classic of science fiction.

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