Tag Archives: dan simmons

The Rise of Endymion

After reading Endymion I wavered as to whether to back it up with the concluding the series. On the one hand, so many other books to read! On the other hand, getting a conclusion (again)! On the gripping hand, I knew I had Issues with this book when I first read it, and I was worried…

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Anyway, I did it. In fact, I stayed up rather late last night to finish it, because I really, really wanted to get to the end again.

Spoilers ahead for the first three books. Actually, spoilers for this book, too. What the hell.

Endymion concludes with Aenea, Raul and A. Bettik on Earth – somewhat miraculously – with Aenea giving mysterious hints about her and Raul’s futures, and Raul being all confused (again). This final volume of the Cantos finally clears up most of the mysteries that have plagued it, especially about who Aenea is and what she’s meant to be and do. Raul does some travelling alone, which is mostly filled with terror; he reunites with Aenea and has some non-terror time; then they travel together again, with bonus terror. Also, you know, the finally being adults together in the same place and time *waggles eyebrows*.

I do love this book. I do. But I have more problems with this volume than with any of the others.

1. It’s bloated. There are some sections with extensive lists that really could, and should have been cut down. Also, gratuitous descriptions that could have been pared.

2. Sex scenes that are… well. They’re not quite Bad Sex Awards prize-worthy, but they’re not great.

3. The whole idea of using Aenea’s blood as some sort of communion thing… made me very uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s that I’m Christian and I’m offended/annoyed by the appropriation. Perhaps it’s that the suggestion of her being a virus had been an aspect of the Pax/TechnoCore’s propaganda that seemed just that, so to have it accepted and perpetuated by Aenea herself was jarring. Also, surely there are other ways of sharing nano machines? And if it has to be via blood, does it have to be in this parody of an important and immensely symbolic ritual, when Aenea herself keeps on insisting that she is no messiah, let alone a god?

I do not have a problem with the multiple conclusions. It makes sense, actually, since Raul has been writing a memoir and then we, the reader, finally catch up with his life and get to experience what comes next alongside him. That feels ok.

I have no problem with Aenea dying. It was sad, for sure, and I don’t doubt others have had legitimate problems with it and its outcomes: perhaps that it seems a way of redeeming the men via a woman’s sacrifice, or that it was pointless – and they wouldn’t be wrong, I just don’t have the same reaction. I guess I can accept the idea of a willing sacrifice, especially when it has the (admittedly perhaps overblown) consequences that it does here.

I think my big annoyance last time I read this was the time-travel aspect right at the end. This time, partly because I knew it was coming, it didn’t trouble me. It does seem like a little bit of a cop-out, but it’s neat and it works ok. And it’s not like it completely changes things – Aenea is still dead, they all still have to carry on.

So. Overall, I do think this is one of my best-beloved SF series. Simmons creates great and believable characters, he does masterful world-building, he does clever things interrogating how humanity might interact with AI (which here really stands for Autonomous Intelligence, which I like) and how they might use androids and story-telling. He melds the evil of humanity (have I mentioned this is not an Alisa book? THIS IS NOT AN ALISA BOOK) with the glory and wonderful potential of humanity. It was worth re-reading.

Endymion

I have a ludicrous number of books that I physically own but have not read.* Yet I have indeed indulged in some re-reading recently; specifically, the last two of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos.

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This post includes some spoilers for the first two books in the series.

Endymion begins nearly 300 years after the end of Fall of Hyperion, when the farcasters were destroyed, along with a number of planets, and various nefarious things had been revealed about the TechnoCore. Brawne Lamia was pregnant to the cybrid John Keats, all sorts of weird things seemed to be promised by the AIs, and the Shrike – the 3m-tall, made-of-metal, makes-the-Terminator-look-pathetic Shrike – was Up To No Good. And it opens with the accusation “You are reading this for the wrong reason.”

Who me?

Choosing to reveal the end-point of your story at the start can be a risky business. Sure, pointing out that they’re “star-cross’d lovers” can make for that spine-tingly dread and anticipation that can sometimes be very enjoyable. But it can backfire, too, if you don’t care enough about the characters to want to know how they got there (cough, Romeo and Juliet). Here, we know that the narrator is under a death sentence, and that he has been the lover of someone thought of as a messiah. That’s… bold. He does also seem to verge on being a bit of a whinger.

Fortunately, things get better. The story itself is somewhat like Hyperion, in that it’s a journey story. Raul Endymion is tasked with finding and protecting a child, Aenea, which he does through fire and sand and the Shrike. He and she (and another friend) then proceed to travel to various worlds, learning about each other and their galaxy and getting a bit of a sense of what’s ahead of them. Simmons is good at describing new planets, and at making them varied; he has imagined enormous challenges for humanity in colonising different worlds, and knows that yes humanity probably would make a go of living on a planet much like the Arctic tundra, or a jungle, or a desert. Why not? We do here on this planet.

I’d read the book if that was all there was to it, as long as the characters and dialogue were intriguing enough. Raul is an entertaining enough narrator, with some really nice asides about the realities of being a hero (ie he’s not); Aenea acts too old for her age, but that’s explained by her experiences, I think. Simmons goes beyond the simple journey-narrative, though; he also gives the reader insight into some of the other characters, and here’s one of his master strokes: the man tasked to hunt Aenea is not portrayed as a monster. It would have been too easy to do that; after all, we’re meant to be entirely on her side, and against the Pax (on which, more below). Simmons, though, makes him sympathetic, so that while being appalled by some of his actions there’s a certain admiration for his tenacity, and sympathy for his trials. I like this aspect a lot; I’m largely impatient with straight-forward villainy these days.

The other really intriguing aspect of the Hyperion Cantos is the world-building, on the macro scale. In the first two books, most human worlds are under the Hegemony; connected by farcasters and communicating via the fatline (FTL, haha), accessing a datasphere thanks to the TechnoCore, and generally living the high life (well… if you’ve got the money. There is still poverty and misery on a massive scale). Here, not only has that ease of communication disappeared, but the Catholic Church has risen to immense importance once again thanks to one thing: the cruciform that Father Paul Dure discovered, which – once implanted – allows the bearer to be resurrected after death. Many, many times. This, not unnaturally, gets them a lot of converts. It also gets them a lot of temporal, not just spiritual, power (why yes, much like medieval Europe, now you mention it). Their dominion is known as the Pax.

This is one of the few books that I’ve read that seriously considers religion in a space-faring age (and not just Catholicism; there’s also Judaism, and Islam, and Buddhism, and new religions too. Protestants only get one mention, and it’s a fleeting one – “Protestant sects” – in the next book… which makes me sad). The hierarchy of the Church is unpleasant and there’s a lot of greed and ambition; but Simmons does also show priests and parishioners who are genuine in their faith, for which I am glad. Again, complexity; so much more intriguing than simplicity.

My love for this book is possibly somewhat unreasoning. Yes, I think it goes on a bit, and some of the Raul-Aenea bits are maybe indulgent. But I can’t read this with genuinely critical eyes; the Suck Fairy has not visited, so I’ve still got my initial rosy-coloured glasses in place from the first time I read it. LOVE.

 

*Ludicrous by my standards, and by the shelf space in my house. I understand that my physical TBR pile is laughable when compared with the entire bookcases of certain other people, not looking at anyone specifically, Alisa and Tansy.

Galactic Suburbia #44

In which we fight crime, rail against derailing and read a million books. You can get us from iTunes or stream from Galactic Suburbia.

I felt pretty off my game for this podcast, unfortunately; I think I burbled more than usual when talking about the books I read, and fear I even waded into incoherence. Tansy and Alisa are, as always, very interesting, though…

News

Our Sisters in Crime, Still Fighting

Ada Lovelace Day

Wonder Woman gets a father (yesthisisnews)

Alisa’s news: Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex now available as e-book

Tansy’s news: publishing date for Reign of Beasts and the Creature Court Fashion Challenge Contest

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons; Yarn, Jon Armstrong; Thief of Lives, Lucy Sussex; Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts; The Word for World is Forest, Ursula le Guin; Eyes like Stars, Lisa Mantchev

Tansy: The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood; Thief of Lives, Lucy Sussex; Catwoman: Crooked Little Town, by Ed Brubaker; Fablecroft blog series On Indie Press wraps up; Sofanauts interviews Paul Cornell; Two Minute Timelord round-table about Season 6 Doctor Who

Alisa: Doctor Who. Shorts: The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book) – Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld March); Younger Women – Karen Fowler (Subterranean Summer), Valley of the Girls – Kelly Link (Subterranean Summer)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 42*

In which we discuss Orson Scott Card’s Hamlet, the agent who said no way to gay YA, Tansy’s Blake’s 7 dolls, the superhero who fights with her hair, and Alisa works through her issues with Doctor Who. You can get us on iTunes or download/stream us from Galactic Suburbia.

News
Subterranean Press address email complaints about “Hamlet’s Father” by Orson Scott Card (and the Rain Taxi review that started it)

The other big Internet Thing – agent says no gay in YA dystopia please & authors speak out 

New podcast – Live and Sassy 

Twelfth Planet Press opening for novel submissions

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding; Blake’s 7; Hyperion, Dan Simmons. 
Tansy: Torchwood (non spoilery), Justice League comics (the new 52), The Business of Death by Trent Jamieson 
Alisa: Podcasts: Locus Roundtable (Gail Carriger and Francesca Myman; Kathleen Goonan, Eileen Gunn and Gary K Wolfe); Eurocon 2011 Gender in SF&F Panel; The Outer Alliance Podcast Episode 11, Season 3 Doctor Who
[Book calling for papers on the topic of race and Doctor Who]

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

* Alisa and Tansy recorded no. 41 without me, as a Spoilerific Book Club episode about The Hunger Games trilogy. It’s on iTunes or at the website if you’re interested. 

Hyperion

This is my second time reading this book, and happily it was as wonderful and intriguing this time as the first. Of course, I am older and at least a little more knowledgeable this time, so I think I’m actually getting more out of it.

Firstly let me admit to my own blindness the first time I read it: I don’t think I picked up on the resonances with The Canterbury Tales, which is just embarrassing… although at that stage I’m not sure I’d read any of that poem, so perhaps that excuses me slightly! But still, the pilgrims’ stories are each labelled as such, so you would think that I would have picked up on it. But no. There is also – and I guess this is really only obvious right at the very end, but it doesn’t spoil the story – a bizarrely amusing parallel to The Wizard of Oz.

This is is a story set in the 28th century AD, when Earth is no more and humanity has spread to the near reaches of the stars in the Hegira. Multiple planets have been colonised, technology has advanced, there are sentient AIs… and there are still divisions, squabbles, and politics. Sad, but tragically believable. The plot itself revolves around seven pilgrims who have been chosen to visit the Time Tombs at a time of war between the Hegemony – to which most planets belong – and the Ousters, a renegade human faction. The Time Tombs are on Hyperion, they are protected by a terrifying something called the Shrike, and it all goes from there.

Fascinatingly enough, most of the book itself is not taken up with the pilgrimage. Instead, in the spirit of Chaucer, the pilgrims share their stories with each other in an effort to understand both why they have each been chosen and what might happen when they are arrive. Their stories are very different – a military officer, a diplomat, a private investigator, an academic, a Catholic priest, a spaceship captain, and a poet – but they all have common elements of pain and loss and tragedy. And a connection to Hyperion.

I love the different elements that Simmons combines in this book, through the device of the background stories being told through a deliberate and completely plot-appropritate info-dump. I love the mystery of Hyperion, I love the mix of characters, I am enthralled by the diversity of world tied to a somewhat pessimistic view of humanity itself. One of the things that I really love about the book is its exploration of religion and its place in this future. The first story is that told by Father Hoyt, the priest, and it deals very honestly with the issues that do and will face the Church in confronting technological change and everything else the future promises. I appreciate that he imagines a place for such faith, even in a dwindling and sometimes confused manner. And the academic, Sol, is Jewish, and his story ties in many elements and ideas of Judaism. I hope that a Jewish person reading it would have the same reaction to his portrayal as I did to Hoyt (although I am not Catholic). As well as these Old Earth religious hangovers, Simmons also imagines a plethora of brand-new religions based on all sorts of different things. Which is cool.

I am a bit sad that there is only one female pilgrim amongst the seven. Simmons does imagine an improvement in gender relations overall; the CEO of the Hegemony is female, there are female soldiers, etc. He also does not imagine an entirely Anglo future, either; I don’t know whether the pilgrims are ever described in terms of skin tone, although a few of them are described as ‘paling’ and other such giveaways. But many of the worlds have non-Anglo names and predominant cultures. I think his idea of the great Hegira is that humans will have colonised in like-cultural groups, as a number of SF writers have prophesied, and I guess I see the sense in that. But with the ‘farcasting’ technology of the Hegemony, people are able to move around even more easily amongst these planets than we currently do on Earth, so there is a great deal of intermingling.

The other really clever aspect to Hyperion is its connection to the poet John Keats. Hyperion was a Titan of Greek mythology, is a moon of Saturn, and an abandoned poem of Keats’ about the Titans. He tried again with “Fall of Hyperion,” which is also the name of this Hyperion’s sequel. There are nods to Keats in a number of the stories, and I’m sure I missed a few of them. I loved this idea of incorporating a 19th-century poet into a story set a millennium after his death.

I have a lot of books for review on my shelf at the moment, so I haven’t decided whether to read the sequel yet… heh. Who am I kidding.

Galactic Suburbia #19: the Greco-Roman issue

You can get us from iTunes or download us here!

While Alisa is away, Alex & Tansy play… in ANCIENT GREECE!  We talk awards, the end of publishing as we know it, stressful feminist debates, Vonda McIntyre, Twitter fiction, Stargate, and whether there’s enough Greek & Roman mythology in modern fantasy.

News
Tansy wins WSFA Small Press Award for Siren Beat;

Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners;

John Joseph Adams takes over from Cat Rambo & Sean Wallace as editor of Fantasy Magazine;

Realms of Fantasy dies: from Shawna McCarthy, and the publisher;

Wiscon committee disappoints through inaction (also here); and then finally moves to disinvite Elizabeth Moon as GoH (warning, many of the comments on that one are pretty awful to wade through); also here and here;

Paul Collins on how the ebook revolution isn’t working so well ;

Cat Valente on tedium, evil, and why the term ‘PC’ is only used these days to hurt and silence people;

Peter M Ball explaining how white male privilege uses requests for civility to silence the legitimate anger of others;

on Vonda McIntyre’s “Dreamsnake”, a controversial Hugo winning novel from 1979 which has been out of print for 10 years; and an interview with Vonda McIntyre about the book.

What have we been reading/listening to?

Tansy: Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson; Blameless, Gail Carriger, Bleed by Peter M Ball, “Twittering the Universe” by Mari Ness, Shine & “Clockwork Fairies” by Cat Rambo, Tor.com.
Alex: Silver Screen, Justina Robson; Sprawl; Deep Navigation, Alastair Reynolds; The Beginning Place, Ursula le Guin; abandoned Gwyneth Jones’ Escape Plans; listening to The 5th Race, ep 1 (Stargate SG1 fan podcast).

Pet Subject

Classical mythology in modern fantasy. Can it still work? Do you have to get it ‘right’?

Book mentioned:
The Firebrand, Marion Zimmer Bradley

Medea, Cassandra, Electra by Kerry Greenwood

Olympic Games, Leslie What

Dan Simmons’ Ilium and Olympos

Gods Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips

Troy, Simon Brown

Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and Jeanette Winterson’s Weight, also David Malouf’s Ransom – along the same lines as Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Robert Holdstock’s Celtika, Iron Grail, Broken Kings

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs or on Facebook, and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes!

Author-struck

So I mooned a bit over Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter while at Swancon, to the amusement and probably boredom of a number of people. I think they’re both utterly, utterly splendid – I love everything I’ve read of theirs – and they’ve made me love space opera. It’s occurred to me I need to add another name to that list.[1]

Iain M Banks is a master.

This is not a revelation for me; more a rediscovery. I read Consider Phlebas when I thought that they were sequential… then discovered they weren’t, so just bought the first one than came to hand next time – Use of Weapons. Which has been sitting there, looking at me reproachfully, for… a while. With the release of Matter, I finally decided to go and read it.

Woohoo!!

This is one person where I am actually tempted to go into a shop and buy every single thing he’s written (scifi, at least… might have to test the mainstream first). I might go secondhand first, but still – I want to read it all! Now! might go on hiatus….

[1] Actually, two: Dan Simmons is also heroic. And I think that, if I deign to watch Hyperion the movie, I will have to go alone, since I may end up either piffing things at the screen or getting violent. Or both, escalating.

Playing hookey

Not with work or anything, but with my responsibilities. Instead of reading some of the anthologies waiting for me, I’ve got Ilium, by Dan Simmons, to read. It’s mine, it’s just been with someone else for an awfully long time. Long enough that I’ve bought the sequel, Olympos, and haven’t read it yet – despite the fact that my hands almost literally itch every time I see it lying there on my bookshelf – because I must re-read the first so that it’s clear in my mind.

I love this book. I love it a lot. In fact, I love almost everything by Simmons, but that’s another issue. There aren’t too many books that manage to combine the Trojan stories with lovely, breath-taking scifi (yeh, OK, there’s Simon Brown’s Troy anthology – did I mention and I did a podcast on it?! – but short stories are a different teapot of eels from a full-blown space opera epic novel). It confused me delightfully the first time I read it, and I am loving reading it again – because I already know what various things mean, but there’s a lot of detail that I’ve forgotten and it’s just wonderful.

Pity I didn’t get this at the start of the holidays… as it is, I’m going to have to play a little bit of hookey when I go back to school next week, as I’ve got too much on this weekend to be able to finish it…

Books

Well.

I read and finished Garth Nix’s Mister Monday, and I’m excited because there will be 6 more in this series and that’s really, really cool. I am really looking forward to reading the rest.

Then, I had to choose something to read next. I had yet to find Rise of Endymion, about which I was very cranky; so I started The Gutenberg Revolution, by John Mann, which J bought me ages ago. I’ve read the introduction. Then I got restless, so I started The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. Interesting: a number of people have told me it’s crap, then another friend told me she really enjoyed it… so it really will be interesting to see what I think of it. I’ve read the first chapter and a half. And then…I went into the city tonight with Kate because she was involved in a reading night with her CAE class. So, I thought I’d check out Readers’ Feast in the off-chance that they might have it; no. So I bought Ilium, also by Simmons, instead to make me feel better. Then Kate had a brilliant idea: go to the CAE library! And because I have a library card with Yarra-Melbourne libraries, I can borrow there. And they did have it! Hurrah! So excited.

So I’m reading that.

Simmons and others

Just finished Simmons’ Endymion, and I really did nearly cry because I have yet to find The Rise of Endymion and I’m feeling a bit desperate for some closure, thanks to the tantilising nature of this one. Doesn’t matter that I have almost a zillion books to go on with; they’re not the one I want.

I’ve got some books from school to read. One is for the English faculty – Mister Monday, by Garth Nix – to see if it’s fit to be a set text. The others were in a box in the staffroom yesterday for holiday reading, not sure why – whether they’re new (although some weren’t), or the librarians just make up boxes for teachers’ delectation. One is The Pirate Queen, by Alan Gold, which looks like a lot of fun – Elizabethan, not sure if it really is based on fact or not – the blurb says “Through the daring of her piracy Grace nearly bankrupted the English treasury; she caused nothing but trouble for Elizabeth I.” The other book I grabbed is The Ill-Made Mute, which I have largely heard poor reports of but I want to make up my own mind. Bold move, I know.

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