Hyperion (Simmons novel)

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Hyperion cover.jpg
Paperback cover
AuthorDan Simmons
Cover artistGary Ruddell
CountryUnited States
SeriesHyperion Cantos
GenreSoft science fiction/Space opera
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages482 (mass paperback edition)
AwardsLocus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1990)
ISBN0-385-24949-7 (1st ed. hardcover)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3569.I47292 H97 1989
Followed byThe Fall of Hyperion 

Hyperion is a Hugo Award-winning[1] 1989 science fiction novel by American writer Dan Simmons. It is the first book of his Hyperion Cantos. The plot of the novel features multiple time-lines and characters. It follows a similar structure to The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The next book in the series was The Fall of Hyperion, published in 1990.

Plot summary[edit]


In the 29th century, most of the galaxy has been colonised by the Hegemony of Man, the bulk of which is maintained within a network (the "WorldWeb") of instantaneous quantum portals known as farcasters. Earth has long since been destroyed by an scientific accident where a black hole was spawned at its core. The Hegemony maintains an uneasy alliance with the TechnoCore, a secretive and mysterious civilisation of self-aware AIs who have invented almost every piece of high technology that the WorldWeb depends upon. Another human civilisation known as the "Ousters" have absconded from the WorldWeb after the destruction of Earth and live in space stations "in the darkness between stars". The Hegemony regards the Ousters as "interstellar barbarians" after several military conflicts with them.

Numerous colonised planets lay outside of the WorldWeb, and are known as being in the "outback". These planets cannot be accessed without occurring significant time dilation costs via space travel. One of these planets is known as Hyperion, which is home to mysterious structures known as the Time Tombs. The tombs are encased in an anti-entropic field that is theorized to be carrying them backwards in time. The tombs are said to be guarded by a legendary god-like creature known as the Shrike. The Shrike is the subject of a cult, the "Church of the Final Atonement", commonly known as the Shrike Church, who worship the Shrike as "The Lord of Pain". Occasionally the church sends a prime number of pilgrims to the Time Tombs; there is a legend that all but one would be slaughtered by the Shrike and the remaining pilgrim is granted a wish.

The Ousters have been long obsessed with Hyperion, and on the eve of their invasion of the planet and a probable galactic-scale war between the Hegemony and the Ousters, a final pilgrimage has been organised. Seven pilgrims have been carefully selected by unseen elements of the TechnoCore to make the journey to the Time Tombs and the Shrike, with the objective of aiding the Hegemony in the imminent war. Collectively overwhelmed by the mystery and magnitude of their situation, the pilgrims decide that they will each tell their tale to enliven the long trip to the Tombs, to get to know each other, and to make sense of their situation.

Part One, The Priest's Tale: "The Man who Cried God"[edit]

As the seven pilgrims travel toward Hyperion, Father Lenar Hoyt is chosen to tell his tale; he begins by sharing stories from the journals of Father Paul Duré. Duré and Hoyt are two of only several thousand remaining members of the Roman Catholic Church. The aging Duré, in disgrace for fabricating archaeological discoveries, has chosen Hyperion as a suitable location on which to complete his exile; Hoyt accompanies him. He reveals to Hoyt that he plans to travel to an isolated region along Hyperion's Cleft, site of the legendary Bikura civilization, in order to establish an ethnological research station among them.

Father Duré travels to the continent of Aquila, where the Cleft is located. He reaches Perecebo Plantation and is given a guide named Tuk. Duré and Tuk venture into the "flame forest" where electrical tesla trees are found. Traveling during the forest's inactive season, they manage to make it through unharmed and reach the Cleft.

Shortly thereafter, Tuk is murdered and Duré stumbles into the nearby Bikura village. The Bikura are an unintelligent people, incapable of grasping most concepts. After many weeks, Duré steals into their sacred cavern and discovers a finely wrought cross-shaped artwork that predates human spaceflight by millennia. He deduces that the Bikura are survivors from a seedship crash centuries earlier who have been infected with cross-shaped organisms called cruciforms that integrate themselves into their host. After death, the cruciform rebuilds the physical body and resurrects them. Over time they pay a price for immortality; they become unintelligent and androgynous. When Duré is seen topless while bathing, the Bikura discover he has no cruciform on him. They decide against killing him, and lead him into Hyperion's labyrinth system where he encounters the Shrike and is infected with a cruciform.

Severe pain prevents Duré from either cutting out the cruciform or leaving the Bikura; his journal entries end. Father Hoyt tells the pilgrims that he found Father Duré's remains seven years later, burnt and decomposing in the flame forest. Hoyt tells the other pilgrims that some of his guides on that expedition died, and the rest nuked the village, destroying the Bikura.

When the time comes to leave the spaceship, Hoyt is late. The Consul finds him in his stateroom in immense pain. The consul promises to assist Hoyt with his pain medication in return for hearing the true story. Hoyt reveals that Duré crucified himself to a tesla tree with his journal wrapped in flame proof cloth, in a desperate attempt to rid himself of the cruciform. For seven years, Father Duré had been continually electrocuted and resurrected. As Hoyt touches Duré, the cruciform falls from his body and allows him to finally die. Hoyt reveals that his guides were murdered by the Bikura; he was spared due to his wearing a crucifix. In retaliation, the Bikura village and temple were destroyed with nuclear weapons, but not before Hoyt is infected with both a cruciform of his own and also with the cruciform that was implanted into Duré.

Part Two, The Soldier's Tale: "The War Lovers"[edit]

Having arrived on Hyperion, Colonel Fedmahn Kassad's tale begins with a flashback to his days training in the FORCE (Hegemony's military) academy on Mars, when he was immersed in a training simulation of the 15th century Battle of Agincourt. During the battle, a mysterious woman saves Kassad from a French knight and becomes his lover. Kassad and his mystery savior meet repeatedly in simulations until Kassad's final year in the Academy. After Kassad graduates from the Academy, the young Martian man becomes a FORCE officer.

Over his military career, Kassad earns a reputation for bloodlust. After a brutal conflict with Ousters on the system Bressia, Kassad is grievously wounded by a boobytrap and is placed on a Hegemony medical ship, which is attacked by Ousters. After a fight with the Ousters, Kassad hijacks an Ouster shuttle and crashes it onto Hyperion. There he is reunited with his lover, who introduces herself as Moneta. Kassad briefly glimpses the Tree of Pain, a gigantic steel tree where the Shrike impales its victims. Moneta then introduces him to the Shrike, and the two teach him to use time-altering abilities in combat. The three are attacked by an Ouster landing party, but with the use of these abilities Kassad and the Shrike mercilessly slaughter their attackers. Overcome with bloodlust, Kassad begins making love with Moneta amongst the corpses of his victims. Upon climax, Kassad suddenly realizes that Moneta and the Shrike have been manipulating him and wish to use him to spark an interstellar war in which billions of people will die. At this moment, Moneta transforms into the Shrike, and Kassad flees. After Kassad is rescued and returned to the WorldWeb, he resigns from FORCE and becomes an anti-war activist. His purpose on the travelers' pilgrimage is to track down and kill Moneta/the Shrike.

The Consul explains that because the Tree of Pain is moving backwards in time, Kassad may have seen victims on it that would be put there in the future, and suggests that he saw one or more of the pilgrims on the Tree. When queried, Kassad reveals he saw at least one of the pilgrims on the tree, but refuses to disclose who he saw.

Part Three, The Poet's Tale: "Hyperion Cantos"[edit]

Aboard a boat traveling toward the tombs, Martin Silenus tells his tale. He was born as a wealthy scion of North American house, growing up in the time around the "Big Mistake" which led to the destruction of Earth. Silenus trained as a poet, but his training was interrupted when the Kiev Team's black hole destroyed the Earth; his mother dispatched her son aboard a slower-than-light flight to a nearby system, calculating that the family fortune would accumulate enough interest over the century the voyage to allow Silenus to live comfortably.

Unfortunately, the accounts were nationalized by the Hegemony, and Silenus suffered brain damage during the voyage. Silenus was forced to work as a common laborer. During this time, he starts work on his Hyperion Cantos, a work he began as a parody of John Keats' famous poem, but which evolved into a dual account of Silenus's life and an epic account of the Titanomachia, in which the Hegemony of Man takes the part of the Titans and the TechnoCore replaces the Olympians. His Dying Earth (as it is called, in an explicit reference to Jack Vance's Dying Earth series) becomes an enormous hit, selling billions and making him a multi-millionaire.

Eventually he falls into debt again. Silenus is forced to write popular fiction instead of focusing on art. One day he realizes that his Cantos, his greatest work, has not been added to for years; his muse had fled. Silenus leaves his lifestyle, liquidates his assets, and signs on with Sad King Billy.

Billy is an aristocrat of the planet Asquith, descended from the House of Windsor, and an intelligent and sensitive lover of the arts. Billy decides to relocate to Hyperion and create a new Renaissance by establishing a kingdom of artists. He chooses for his capital a location near the Time Tombs, reasoning that their presence will give the proper ambience for the creation of great art.

For ten years, all goes well, until people begin vanishing. At the same time, Silenus' muse returns, and he continues work on the Cantos. Soon, the culprit is discovered to be the Shrike. At this time, Silenus becomes convinced that it is the Shrike who is his muse. He writes the last line on the day that the last murder occurs.

One day, Sad King Billy returns to the deserted city. Martin is gone on a trip to the Time Tombs seeking the Shrike, and when he returns to his quarters Billy confronts him with the fact that his writing is dependent on murder, and that it will need more murders if it is to ever be completed. Billy burns his manuscript. After Billy is taken away by the Shrike, Silenus recreates his poem as well as possible. Eventually he leaves Hyperion. In the centuries since, reliant on life-extending treatments, he has been waiting to return to Hyperion to finish the poem.

Part Four, The Scholar's Tale: "The River Lethe's Taste is Bitter"[edit]

The pilgrims board an unmanned land vehicle to cross the Sea of Grass. Sol Weintraub, a Jewish academic, is present on the pilgrimage with his infant daughter Rachel. He had been a professor of ethics on Barnard's World, the second colony founded from Old Earth. He and his wife, Sarai, had been happy when their only daughter, Rachel, was born forty years ago. She eventually became an archaeologist, and while in her post-graduate studies went on an expedition to study the Time Tombs of Hyperion.

While mapping one of the Tombs, the Shrike appears amidst a massive surge of "anti-entropic fields". Rachel is returned to the WorldWeb where her parents learn of the disease she has contracted, dubbed the "Merlin sickness". Each day, she ages backwards, losing the memory of what happened the previous day. Rachel's life is shattered by her retrogression, slowly destroying her links with the present; her parents devote their lives to caring for Rachel and trying to cure her. Weintraub visits the Shrike Temple on Lusus, seeking information about Rachel and the Shrike. The bishop casts out Sol, claiming Rachel is the most blessed and cursed human in all of existence. Sol wrestles for years with dreams in which he is ordered to go to Hyperion and sacrifice Rachel in a replay of the Binding of Isaac. Weintraub becomes increasingly fascinated with the ethical problem that the Binding presents. Shortly before his wife dies, Sol learns that she has been having the same dream. He decides to become a pilgrim and to implore the Shrike for a cure.

Following Sol's story, the pilgrims witness a space battle. During the battle, the ship that brought them to Hyperion is destroyed. The next morning, fellow pilgrim and ship captain Het Masteen, is missing. His room is found full of blood, despite a watch that has been kept all night.

Part Five, The Detective's Tale: "The Long Good-Bye"[edit]

The pilgrims cross a mountain range via cable car. Brawne Lamia, the daughter of a senator of Lusus, eschewed politics for the life of a private investigator after her father's apparent suicide. This supposed suicide occurred shortly after he proposed a bill to quickly incorporate Hyperion into the WorldWeb. Her current client is a "cybrid" (a cloned human body which is controlled by a TechnoCore intelligence) named "Johnny", who wishes to hire her to investigate his own murder. This cybrid is the genetic clone of famous Romantic poet John Keats, and the AI controlling it was programmed to have the personality and memories of Keats as best as could be reconstructed from surviving materials and the 'Core's finest extrapolations.

Unlike most "retrieved personalities", which are of insufficient fidelity to maintain sanity, Johnny functions quite well (though he disclaims poetic talent). His previous cybrid was shut down with a virus; a backup was brought online but resulted in the loss of five days' worth of data and memory. Lamia sets out to discover what Johnny had learned or done in those five days to prompt such an assault; initially, all she discovers is that it is somehow related to Hyperion.

She and Johnny are forcibly farcast to a planet that seems to be a perfect imitation of Old Earth. They become lovers during their adventures on this planet. After surviving an attack by mercenaries, Lamia and Johnny decide to undertake a dangerous virtual reality heist on the TechnoCore. In the chaos of the heist, Lamia is knocked unconscious, and Johnny manages to retrieve a manifesto of sensitive information. The main information is this: the 'Core is not as monolithic as it appears; it is fiercely divided into at least three groups which continually fight each other.

  1. The Stables. Their central thesis is that humanity and the TechnoCore need each other, and that the 'Core should continue in the symbiosis. They are also opposed to the UI project (creation of a godlike Ultimate Intelligence): the UI would need the resources that the current AIs use, and they do not wish to die. (In Silenus's Cantos, the Stables are identified with the Titans, who did not wish to yield to their Olympian successors). They have for decades been subtly working to help the Hegemony in its fight against the Volatiles, quietly seeking to bring Hyperion into the WorldWeb, on the chance that its unpredictability will help them.
  2. The Volatiles. They generally support the UI project. They believe that humanity has outlived its usefulness to the 'Core, and that it actually now poses a real danger, and therefore should be eradicated. They are behind many events, but they fear the planet of Hyperion, because it is a "random variable": it could tip the scales against the 'Core; the effects of Hyperion are impossible for them to analyze.
  3. The Ultimates. They care only for the UI project. They are quite willing to sacrifice their lives to the UI, believing that the value of its existence far outweighs their own. Previously they had been aligned with the Stables against the Volatiles, as humanity (and especially the cybrid retrieval projects) still posed some puzzles which when solved would help in the UI project. It is implied that they feel they've gathered enough data, and have re-aligned now with the Volatiles to get rid of human kind.

When Lamia wakes up, Johnny informs her that he has installed a storage implant behind her ear and that he is aware of a large bounty placed on both of them by unseen forces in the TechnoCore. They agree that their only hope of survival is to seek asylum with the Church of The Shrike. They purchase an excessive amount of military gear from black market dealers in the underground and then travel to the church, but are ambushed at the main entrance by dozens of mercenaries. Johnny is killed in the ensuing battle, but not before he transfers his consciousness into Lamia's implant.

Lamia is rescued by the Shrike cultists, who reveal to her that she is pregnant with "The One Who Teaches", a genetically engineered messianic figure who is destined to save humanity. The cultists worship Lamia as "the mother of our salvation", and reveal that this sequence of events, including her relationship with Johnny, was entirely planned by the Stables in order to bring forth The One Who Teaches. Lamia is granted asylum by the Church of The Shrike under the condition that she will embark on the pilgrimage, and she agrees.

Part Six, The Consul's Tale: "Remembering Siri"[edit]

Like Father Hoyt, the Consul tells another tale before his own; the story of Merin Aspic (of Lusus) and Siri (of the ocean planet Maui-Covenant). Aspic engages in several voyages aboard a spaceship to build a farcaster portal on Maui-Covenant, thereby connecting Maui-Covenant to the WorldWeb and its waiting hordes of tourists. Eventually he falls in love with Siri.

Siri and Merin meet six more times, but each time Merin – due to the relativistic time dilation of his journeys – is only a little older, while Siri ages at the usual rate. This difference grows ever more pronounced until the eighth visit, in which Merin returns to find Siri dead of old age and the farcaster about to be activated. The flood of Hegemony visitors and the induction of Maui-Covenant fully into the WorldWeb would, as prophesied, utterly ruin the planet's ecology. Faced with this bleak reality, Merin chooses to sabotage the farcaster, beginning "Siri's War", a hopeless resistance against the Hegemony. In crushing the rebellion, the military destroys the ecology as thoroughly as the tourists would have, but far more violently: all the dolphins die, as do a large proportion of the original Maui-Covenant colonists.

The Consul reveals that Siri and Merin were his grandparents. The Consul's father forbade him from joining the war, and so he survived to thrive with distinction in the Hegemony diplomatic corps. There he aids the Hegemony in destroying whatever resistance the Hegemony encounters. He bides his time, waiting for a chance to betray the Hegemony and achieve revenge.

When he is sent as an agent to the Ousters, he becomes a double agent. The Ousters reveal that the Big Mistake which destroyed Earth was deliberately planned by elements of the TechnoCore and the Hegemony, and that the Hegemony is deliberately killing off any species which might become a rival to humanity. The Consul betrays the Ousters and triggers a device which will lead to the emptying of the Time Tombs and the release of the Shrike, knowing that doing so will likely cause the destruction of humanity.

The Consul reveals that the night he activated the device was the same night that Rachel Weintraub was attacked by the Shrike, and recounts a series of coincidences that link all of the pilgrim's stories together. With this knowledge, all of the pilgrims are now convinced that their experiences are a part of a pre-ordained destiny.


The pilgrims decide to continue their journey to meet the Shrike. The narrative abruptly ends as they approach the Time Tombs across the desert plain.

Major characters[edit]

  • The Shrike is a menacing and immensely powerful creature of uncertain origin and motives which appears throughout the narrative, often in a seemingly antagonistic role. It is known for impaling people on a massive tree made of metal, whose branches are massive thorns. It is named after the "Shrike" bird which impales insects and small animals on the thorns of a tree. The pilgrims expect to find the Shrike in the Time Tombs, which are the ultimate destination of their journey, but as they tell their individual tales it becomes clear that the creature is already deeply connected to each of them.
  • The Consul is the former planetary governor of Hyperion. He is for much of the first novel enigmatic, observing and recording the stories of the other Shrike Pilgrims but reluctant to record his own. He is one of the few thousand individuals amongst the hundred and fifty billion Hegemony citizens to own his own private starship.
  • Meina Gladstone is the CEO of the Hegemony of Man and Commander in Chief, former senator, residing on Tau Ceti Center.
  • Lenar Hoyt is a Roman Catholic priest in his early 30s, in a universe where Catholicism has shrunk to a shadow of its former self, claiming only a few thousand followers.
  • Fedmahn Kassad is a colonel in the Hegemony of Man's FORCE military, of Palestinian descent from Mars.
  • Brawne Lamia is a private detective. Her name derives from a combination of Fanny Brawne, the love of John Keats, and the eponymous creature of his Lamia and Other Poems. Brawne is the daughter of Senator Byron Lamia, once a friend of CEO Meina Gladstone's, who "apparently" committed suicide when Brawne was a child.
  • Het Masteen is the most mysterious of all seven pilgrims. He is a Templar—a nature priest of sorts—who captains the Treeship Yggdrasill that brings the pilgrims to Hyperion.
    • Treeships are living trees that are propelled by ergs (an alien being that emits force fields) through space. The ergs also generate the containment fields (force fields) around the tree that keep its atmosphere intact. There are only five treeships in existence including Yggdrasill.
  • Martin Silenus is a foul-mouthed poet. Born on Earth before its destruction, he is incredibly old. Like Keats, he is working on an unfinished epic poem.
  • Sol Weintraub is a Jewish scholar. His daughter was afflicted with an illness dubbed the "Merlin Sickness" that caused her to age backwards: she gets younger as time progresses.


  • Hugo Award winner, 1990[1]
  • Locus Award winner, 1990[1]
  • British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1990[1]
  • Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 1992[2]
  • NPR-Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books: Hyperion Cantos Rated 51st[3]

Screen adaptations[edit]

In 2009, Scott Derrickson was set to direct "Hyperion Cantos" for Warner Bros. and Graham King, with Trevor Sands penning the script to blend the first two cantos "Hyperion" and "The Fall of Hyperion" into one film.[4] In 2011, actor Bradley Cooper expressed interest in taking over the adaptation.[5] On June 10, 2015 it was announced that TV channel Syfy will produce a mini-series based on the Hyperion Cantos with the involvement of Cooper and King.[6] As of May 2017, the project was still "in development" at Syfy.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "1990 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-16.
  2. ^ "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-16.
  3. ^ NPR-Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books-2011
  4. ^ Fleming, Michael (Jan 29, 2009). "Scott Derrickson to direct 'Hyperion'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-12-10. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  5. ^ Falconer, Robert (May 27, 2011). "Bradley Cooper Anxious to Adapt Dan Simmons's Hyperion for the Screen". cinemaspy.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  6. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (June 10, 2015). "Bradley Cooper, Graham King, Todd Phillips Adapting Dan Simmons' 'Hyperion' for Syfy". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  7. ^ Fowler, Matt (May 12, 2017). "Syfy Reboot Includes Greenlit Krypton Series, George R.R. Martin's Nightflyers and More". IGN News. Retrieved 2017-06-28.

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