HYPERION – BOOK REVIEW

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov

In the circle of book worms it is always believed that a book is as good as the person who recommended it to you, and I should say, what a beautiful book it was.

It reminded me of the fallacies of humankind, who while in the cosy embrace of mother earth, are hell-bent to destroy the very planet they reside. While they squabble over religion and language thinking one is superior to other, I am again reminded of the above quoted lines from the Father of science fiction Isaac Asimov.

Dan Simmon’s Hugo prize winning magnum opus is, to say the least, possibly the most futuristic book ever-written. A story told in the background of a few millenniums into the future, starts with an obituary on Mother Earth often nostalgically referred as old-earth, yes, as you rightly guessed, because they now had a New Earth. After the Hegira, supposedly the exodus of life from Earth before the planet ceased to be a liveable haven, the whole set of species led by Humans relocated to an array of planets separated by a few light years. This family of planets are referred as the Web, and travelling between these rocks were a routine affair with a technology called farcasting. If even two centuries back if I had talked about somebody having breakfast in Mumbai, lunch in Dubai and dinner in London, people would have labelled me either a lunatic or a science-fiction writer. So before you pooh-pooh the concept of farcasting as an element of wild optimism, think twice.

Here is a set of pilgrims on their way to Hyperion, a distant planet humans had habituated off late. Each of them has their own reason to travel to this dreaded destination. Dreaded because of the presence of somebody who was more popularly known as the “Lord of pain”, Shrike, happens to be an intriguing character walking the tight rope of speculations whether it was a God or a mere human. And each of these travellers had a reason to unravel the mystery.

What makes the book so entertaining are the stories these pilgrims have. That way each of their stories qualify as a Novella and what we read as a book is a collection of these novellas woven together with a seamless ending. One needs to have a scientific and an imaginative mind to enjoy this marvel.

Though what takes the cake, is the concept of time tombs in Shrike Temple, wherein, if encountered by Shrike, that person starts growing in a reverse way, eventually dying as an infant. A concept of bringing the past personalities alive, namely, John Keats, the romantic poet, also is a novel idea. The set of poems written by the poet among the pilgrims, namely, Hyperion Cantos, is what gives the book its name. The poet who loses his motivation to write with the death of his muse is in pursuit of her whereabouts in Hyperion to rekindle his poetry, and to quote him “only a poet knows the pain of losing his muse”.

This book could be a good fodder for the recent debate between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, on the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence going the wrong way. Unsurprisingly the story hovers around how Artificial Intelligence considers humans as substandard and wants to finish off the obsolete race once forever. Their only hindrance was Hyperion, the abode of Shrike.

The AI dominated world called Core wanted to destroy Hyperion before it could join ranks with rebel humans called Ousters.  Hegemony, that’s what the string of planets were called where humanity resided in concurrence with Cybrids (Human body with programmed intelligence) and Androids (fully AI). Hegemony which was intellectually dominated by Cybrids and Androids, created a hatred amongst self-respecting humans, some of whom stayed away in their secluded abodes and were called Ousters.

Finally what happens is left to imagination in an artistic way.

 

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