Hyperion Cantos

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Hyperion (book) redirects here. For Hyperion by Friedrich Hölderlin, see Hyperion (Hölderlin).

The Hyperion Cantos is a tetralogy of science fiction novels by Dan Simmons. The books are:

  • Hyperion (1989)
  • The Fall of Hyperion (1990)
  • Endymion (1996)
  • The Rise of Endymion (1997)

The Cantos is one of the more well-known epic science fiction series to be written in the past two decades. Set in the far future, and focusing more on plot and story development than technical detail, it falls into the soft science fiction category, and could be described as space opera. The first half of the series is generally considered to be stronger, and Hyperion is widely viewed as the best of the four novels; it received the Hugo Award for best novel in 1990. The Fall of Hyperion was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novel in 1990.

The first two novels were originally submitted to the publisher as a single large manuscript, but due to its extreme length, it was decided to split the story in half. Thus, the story in Hyperion ends rather abruptly, with many mysteries left unresolved; The Fall of Hyperion answers some of those questions and provides an ending. The second two novels take place three hundred years later in the chronology of the story, and contain an almost entirely-new cast of characters, although the events of the earlier novels provide important background.

Much of the appeal of the series stems from its infusion with references and allusions to the poetry of John Keats, a famous English Romantic poet of the 19th century. The title of the first novel, "Hyperion", is taken from one of Keats's poems, the unfinished epic Hyperion. Similarly, the title of the third novel, "Endymion", is taken from a Keats poem of the same name. Quotes from actual Keats poems and the fictional Cantos are interspersed throughout the novels -- a device that was also used by Tolkien to flesh out prose. Simmons goes so far as to have an artificial replication of John Keats, called a "cybrid", play a major role in the series.


The planet Hyperion

Hyperion is the name of a planet where much of the action in the series takes place. It is described as having one-fifth less gravity than Earth standard. Hyperion has a number of peculiar indigenous flora and fauna, notably 'Tesla Trees' which are essentially large electrified trees. It is also a "labyrinthine" planet, which in Simmons's world means that it is home to ancient labyrinths of unknown purpose.

Most importantly, however, Hyperion is the location of the Time Tombs, large artifacts surrounded by "anti-entropic" fields that allow them to move backward through time. The region where the Tombs are located is also the home of the Shrike, a menacing being that features prominently in the series.


Hyperion has the structure of a frame story, similar to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The story weaves the interlocking tales of a diverse group of travelers sent on a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on Hyperion. The travelers have been sent by the Shrike Church and the Hegemony (the government of the human star systems) to make a request of the Shrike. As they progress in their journey, each of the pilgrims tells their tale.

Major Characters

  • The Shrike is the monster and anti-hero of the novel. 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.
    • It is the object of a cult, the Church of the Final Atonement, and guards the Tombs of Time. The church sends prime-number pilgrims to the Time Tombs; all but one are killed and the remaining pilgrim gets his request granted. The Shrike is capable of manipulating time. This, along with its martial art skills backed up with four arms and a spiked armoured body, makes it an unbeatable opponent. The Shrike is capable of single-handedly slaughtering entire battle corps. Time manipulation making firearms both unnecessary and worthless, the Shrike fights only hand-to-hand.
    • It seems that the Shrike has been built by the machine god in a distant future in the purpose of creating as much suffering as possible. This would lure the Human god, which is all compassion, and allow the Machine god to destroy it. For this purpose, the Shrike impales its victims on the Shrike Tree, a torture device which keeps its victims alive artificially.
    • In the following Endymion series of books, the Shrike appears as a somewhat benevolent character.
  • The Consul is the former planetary governor of Hyperion.
  • Lenar Hoyt is a Roman Catholic priest, in a universe where Catholicism has shrunk to a shadow of its former self, claiming only thousands of followers.
  • Fedmahn Kassad is a colonel in the Hegemony of Man's FORCE military, of Palestinian descent. Kassad was determined to meet and destroy both the Shrike, and its keeper, Moneta on Hyperion. He eventually challenges the Shrike to personal combat, nearly succeeds, and in his death inspires Moneta's people (humanity, millennia in the future). The outcome of this inspiration is not described by the author. It is later revealed that Kassad himself was part of the animating spirit of the Shrike, a fact made possible by the passage of the Time Tombs backwards in time.
  • Brawne Lamia is a private detective.
  • 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 a small number of Treeships in existence.
  • 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.

The Fall of Hyperion

This book concludes the story begun in Hyperion. It abandons the frame structure of the first novel, instead using a more conventional chronological narrative.

Major Characters

  • All characters from Hyperion are also in this book.
  • The Keats Cybrid is a cybrid recreation of the poet John Keats. His body is biologically identical to the original poet, and has implanted memories retrieved from Keats' poetry and biography. His mind is connected with some Artificial Intelligence. He has some mysterious connection to the Seven Pilgrims.
  • Ummon is an artificial intelligence of some stature who has taken on the persona of a buddhist monk. He acts as a mentor, in a fashion, to Keats.


The story commences 272 years after the events in the previous novel. Few main characters from the first two books are present in the later two, and those that do appear are secondary characters (these include Martin Silenus, Colonel Kassad, and Het Masteen). The book Endymion features a main character of Raul Endymion, who is an ex-soldier who became a guide for hunters. When a grossly unfair trial yields his (first) death sentence, he is rescued by Martin Sileneus and asked to perform a series of rather extraordinarily difficult tasks. The main task is to rescue and protect Aenea (whose name may derive from Aeneas), a messiah coming from the distant past via time travel and the daughter of Brawne Lamia (a character from the two previous works). Raul Endymion saves her and escapes, but is pursued by the warped and changed Church's troops. The Catholic church has, in the storyline of the novel, been taken over by various power-hungry people using Lenar Hoyt (a character from the first two books) as a figurehead. The Church has become a dominant force in the human universe in this novel, and wants to protect itself from Aenea. They view Aenea (correctly) as a potential threat to their power. The group of M. Aenea, M. Endymion, and A. Bettik (an android) evades the Church's forces on several worlds, ending the story on Earth.

Major Characters

  • Aenea is Brawne Lamia's daughter, sent forward in time. She is a messianic figure.
  • Raul Endymion is an ex-soldier who accompanies Aenea.
  • A. Bettik is an android who accompanies Raul and Aenea.
  • Federico DeSoya is a captain of the church navy who is commanded to capture Aenea.

Several of the characters from the first two books appear in this one despite the fact that it occurs 272 years later. However, with the exception of the Shrike and Lenar Hoyt, they are minor characters.

  • Hoyt is the perpetual pope of the reinvigorated Roman Catholic church. After returning with the Hyperion cruciform parasite, he regenerates every time he dies.
  • The Shrike appears to be a more benevolent figure in this book and the next.

The Rise of Endymion

The final novel in the series, it finishes the story begun in Endymion.

Major Characters

  • The major characters are the same as those in Endymion.

External Links

fr:Hypérion (roman)


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