Dan Simmons’ epic novel Hyperion is a Hugo Award winner, highly praised in the science fiction world and evidence of why I cannot read anymore of the genre. Sci-fi should lend itself to dynamic narratives, to worlds beyond our repetitively predictable laws, but instead becomes mired in the same dreadful aspects: unimaginative writing, flat characters, ill-thought plot and unbelievably stupid words put together in the guise of world-building.
The second law of writing (after Keep It Simple Stupid) would have to be Never begin with “It was a dark and stormy night”. And yet Simmons opens: Bruise black clouds silhouetted a forest of giant gymnosperms while stratocumulus towered nine kilometers high in the violent sky. Lightning rippled along the horizon. (3)
Simmons’ protagonist, The Consul, is singularly bland: (He) turned and dropped into the cushions…nodded and absently raised the scotch to his lips…went to pour another scotch…went outside to lean on the railing…the only sentient being on an unnamed world. (4-6) Sentient? Really?The story jolts forward, Chaucerien style, with each of the seven characters debating whether to share their back-stories:
“Those in favor of telling our tales?”
“I wouldn’t miss this little farce for a month in the orgasm baths at Shote.”
“I think it’s stupid,” said Brawne Lamia.
“The ayes have it. Who wants to start?”
(It’s a shame that they agreed; otherwise Hyperion would have been 400 pages lighter.)
They arrive on the planet Hyperion where the innkeeper informs them: “No food. No wine. No ale.” (113) And yet…a page later: Somehow Leweski had managed to send up a tankard of beer and a basket of bread and cold beef. (114) Truth is, the comically bad narrative often acts as a relief against a backdrop of nonsensical babble: If the fleet did construct a farcaster in time and the Hegemony committed the total resources of FORCE to defending Hyperion, the Worldweb ran the terrible risk of suffering an Ouster attack….yeah, and on.