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…
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.