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Literature: Hyperion Cantos

The Hyperion Cantos is a series of four science fiction novels written by Dan Simmons. In order, they are: Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion

Eight hundred years into the future, humanity has fled the Earth's accidental destruction at the hands of an artificial black hole and has established the WorldWeb, a society of many planets connected through the Farcaster network. With the help of its allies in the TechnoCore (a group of AIs), mankind lives in peace...until the mysterious "Ousters", a splinter race of humanity adapted to living in deep space, attacks.

As the war becomes desperate, a group of seven pilgrims are sent to the planet Hyperion, a colony world guarded by the inscrutable killing machine known as the Shrike. They hope their desperate appeal to the Shrike will persuade it to give them some of its alien technology that can save humanity. During the journey, the pilgrims, each of whom has a personal link to Hyperion, begin to tell each other their stories, and realize that things are much more complicated than they thought.

Overall, the series is inspired by the unfinished epic poem Hyperion by John Keats. The first book is modeled after The Canterbury Tales, especially in how each pilgrim has an opportunity to tell their own individual story.

This series provides examples Of:

  • Abusing the Kardashev Scale for Fun and Profit: The Lions and Tigers and Bears are at least a Solid Type III, quite possibly higher.
  • Artificial Human: "Androids" in the series are nearly identical to regular humans, and "cybrids" are androids that act as biological terminals for the TechnoCore.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: The Templars and the Voice of the Tree appear to worship John Muir, a major proponent for the preservation of American forests in the early 19th Century. A book by Muirs is found among Het Masteen's possessions after he is apparently killed by the Shrike. The Templar's devotion to Muir vaguely resembles that of Brave New World's adulation of Henry Ford as a god-figure in the future.
  • The Alternet: The dataspheres and the megasphere are successors to the internet.
  • And I Must Scream: Features prominently a number of times. Makes sense, since in Real Life Dan Simmons is actually good friends with Harlan Ellison.
    • The Shrike's victims on the Tree of Pain.
    • Father Duré, who was crucified on a "Tesla Tree" but was not able to die due to parasitic "cruciform" that continually revived him.
    • Martin Silenus the poet suffers brain damage from cryosleep and is temporarily left unable to talk or use language for a period of time. Though torturous, the experience taught him real poetry and led him to begin his magnum opus, The Hyperion Cantos.
  • Awesome McCoolname / Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Rhadamanth Nemes, and her three siblings Scylla, Gyges, and Briareus.
  • Author Appeal: Simmons is a former English teacher, so it amuses him to stuff his genre fiction with as many literary references as he can get away with. The first novel in the series, Hyperion, is a Whole Plot Reference to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The works of John Keats also factors heavily into the series.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Brawne and Johnny visit one in one of Lusus's seedier Hives.
  • BFG: The "FORCE:GROUND multipurpose assault rifle", which can split a boulders in a single one shot and on higher power settings carve long holes through mountains. It has a range measured in thousands of kilometers.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • The cruciform in Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion is a cross-shaped parasite that grants its hosts a powerful Healing Factor - but slowly transforms them, physically and mentally, into neutered caricatures of humanity.
    • In Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, the cruciform also makes you dependent on the Pax and gives your mind over to the Core. It also functions as built in shock collar.
  • Body Horror: The cruciforms are embedded in the flesh of their hosts.
  • The Butcher: Colonel Kassad. The "backhanded compliment" version, at least to some.
  • Cessation of Existence: What happens after death, according to Aenea.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: Military Power Armor works this way.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Both played straight and subverted in Endymion, where it is established early on that resurrection (which normally takes three days) can be rushed to completion in six hours at the risk of some major Body Horror. Separately subverted with a literal "Chekhov's gun" - huge plasma rifle which the narrator mentions and plays up for quite some time - but never is used for to significant effect.
  • Cloning Body Parts: Mentioned as possible but too expensive for wide use.
  • Corrupt Church: Very much so in the latter two books with the "Pax", a descendant of the Vatican that controls nearly all of mankind. While individual members (along with the occasional pope) may be good, the church overall acts as one of the main villain organizations in Endymion and Rise of Endymion.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Pretty much any time the TechnoCore is involved. Prominent in the second two books, with "Archangel-class" warships unceremoniously laying waste to almost everything they come up against. The attack on the Startree is particularly heart-breaking, with millions of Ousters mobilizing to defend what is possibly mankind's greatest achievement in the setting being put to the sword by just a few dozen ships. There is not even a Hope Spot, just endless death and destruction.
    • Pretty much any time the Shrike goes up against an opponent without phase shifting.
  • Colonel Badass: Kassad. He's called "the Butcher of South Bressia" for a reason.
  • Cool Starship: Archangels. Fleet destroying super-battleships with instant-anywhere FTL.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Aenea is a messiah, who trains as a architect and shares her blood and lets herself be killed to liberate mankind.
  • Doing in the Wizard : In the first two books the Shrike has an air of mystery heightening it's scariness. In the later two book its origins are fully explained and retconned in a way that rather diminishes its badassness.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: In the fourth novel when Raul takes on Nemes barehanded it's worth noting that, for the duration of the fight, the Powers That Be have taken away her ability to move in Bullet Time, making it just slightly more of an "even fight" (she still has bones made of metal, long claws, shark teeth, feels no pain, etc).
  • Debate and Switch: Immortal life at a spiritual cost, or harmony with the universe for a fleeting moment? Just kidding, immortality means being a slave to the machines. Also, it's damaging to the universe. Also, they constantly need you to die. Also, the life-restoring cruciforms are actually neural parasites. Wait, why is your hand still up?
  • Dyson Sphere: Well, Dyson Tree: an Ouster structure is composed of millions of trees grown/interwoven together in zero-g around a star.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Kassad dies defeating the Shrike in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Earth That Was: Earth was destroyed by an errant experiment involving micro-black holes. It gets better: it's revealed that the Lions and Tigers and Bears moved it to the Magellanic Cloud before the TechnoCore could destroy it. They also give it back
  • Ensemble Cast: The first book features six main characters, each taking the time to tell their own tale.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Consul.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: Meina Gladstone is likened to Lincoln, Churchill or "Alvarez-Temp" as a leader.
    • And Adolf Hitler is frequently mentioned in the same breath as "Horace Glennon-Height".
  • Fate Worse than Death: The condition the Ousters keep their prisoners of war in. The Tree of Pain is also this. Or the traitors who are "thoroughly interrogated" and "detained" by the Hegemony.
  • Face-Heel Turn: It's revealed in Endymion that Hoyt murders Duré and becomes the Pope. By spreading the cruciform to all of humanity, he enslaves it to the Core.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Martin Silenus undergoes body modifications in order to turn himself into a satyric figure.
  • Franchise Zombie: An in-universe example in "The Poet's Tale" section of Hyperion: Martin Silenus becomes famous for his "Dying Earth" series but eventually becomes forced to keep writing it just to make a living.
  • Gambit Pileup: Pretty much what caused the Ouster invasion. The Core provokes Bressia to attack the Ouster Swarm secretly, so the Swarm's massive retaliation looks like unprovoked barbaric aggression to the Hegemony. Said massive retaliation is actually not the Ousters, but instead the Core making sure the Web is freaked out about how genocidal and tough the Ousters are. Meanwhile the Core plants more fake Swarms around the Web so they can manufacture an invasion on demand. When Gladstone brings Hyperion into the Web, the real Ousters invade there to keep the Core from taking the Time Tombs. The Core sends their fake invasion against the Web and hands the Hegemony the deathwand device, urging them to point it at the real Ousters.
  • Genre Savvy : Many of the characters quip various lampshades in archetypal situtations (i. e. Father Duré wondering at first if the Bikura hadn't mistakened him for a deity, remarking that something like that is worthy of clichéd holonovels).
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Martin's father takes this trope Up to Eleven.
  • God Was My Copilot: Bettik is the Observer for the Lions and Tigers and Bears.
  • Heavy Worlder: Brawne Lamia (and all other Lusans, by extension), as well as the (not often seen) folks from Sol Draconi Septem.
  • Heel-Face Turn: De Soya, and (most) the crew of both his Archangel ships.
  • Held Gaze: One happens between Kassad and Moneta when they are lying on the forest floor after they have just met.
  • Hero of Another Story: Rachel's adventures are hinted at in a few tantalizing scenes in first, second and fourth books.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Did you think Endymion was just about a Corrupt Church? Nope, they're just puppets of the TechnoCore.
  • Homage: The first book is written in the style of The Canterbury Tales and the series is inspired by the work of John Keats. In addition, several of the individual tales are homages to other SF works or genres.
  • Honor Before Reason: How Raul Endymion rolls. Of course it nearly gets him killed.
  • Hollywood Tactics: An intentional example. Hegemony ground wars before the Ouster invasion were fought with organized battles on open fields as it was considered more honorable and less harmful to civilians. While they wise up pretty quickly, their ground forces are initially devastated by the much more competent Ouster troops.
  • Human Popsicle: Used for interstellar travel. Silenus uses this to extend his life, and the Core does this to billions of humans in the second half of the series to use them as massive parallel processors.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The "Gideon drive" is described as being terrifying to use, possibly killing you in incredibly painful ways.
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: Many immortals in the latter two books are vaporized, devoured, or melted, resulting in "true death". Archangel-class ships are designed with the crew's gruesome and repeated deaths in mind. Considering the excruciating details of the original Archangel's introduction, this doubles as horrific.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Shrike gets its name from its habit of doing this.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. An entire maternity ward filled with babies gets blown up by PAX troops in The Rise Of Endymion.
  • Informed Ability: Rise of Endymion is full of references to the independent nature, critical thinking tendencies and, at one point, a vast mob of "intelligent, questioning, alert" Aenea's followers. Needless to say, they all obey their leader's every word without question, never hesitate, never second-guess and rarely show any personality beyond total obedience. Aenea's paradigm-shifting revelations are more often than not taken at face value.
  • Invisibility Flicker: The Shrike, with its super-speed and time manipulation abilities, can (and sometimes does) kill without ever being seen. However, owing perhaps to sadism, it normally appears in front of its victims in full view for the maximum amount of terror. Being Nigh Invulnerable means it's not much of a risk.
  • Instant Expert: Averted. When Kassad commandeers an Ouster transport ship, he's only able to get a vague idea of how to use it after randomly pressing buttons and comparing the cockpit to that of Hegemony ships, and the ship still blows up in reentry. Lampshaded when Kassad notes that characters in fiction somehow always know how to use any vehicle they get into.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Raul Endymion. Normally pronounced like the spanish "Raúl" (rhymes with "cool") but early on he specifies that it actually rhymes with "Paul".
  • Jerkass: Silenus is definitely seen as one throughout much of the first two books, with some of his fellow pilgrims assaulting and threatening to kill him due to his behavior.
  • Koan: Ummon has quite a few of these. Not surprising, given that he's named after the great Chinese Zen master Yunmen Wenyan, known in Japanese (and from there English) as Ummon. Some of them may or may not have the Ice-Cream Koan nature, depending on how firmly you believe the AIs are really in control of things.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Core in the first two books are behind everything from the Ouster invasion to the motherfucking Shrike!
  • May-December Romance: Raul and Aenea are a rather extreme example. They first meet when he is twenty-seven and she's twelve. Their ages are drawn closer together by the effects of relativistic travel before they actually become a couple.
  • Meaningful Name: Dan Simmons is quite fond of literary references
    • Brawne Lamia (Brawne being the last name of John Keats' Real Life sweetheart, and Brawne herself falls in love with a retrieved from the past John Keats in the form of a cybrid).
    • Rachel Weintraub. Rachel means "Lamb" and at the midpoint of the Fall of Hyperion she becomes the Sacrificial Lamb when Sol, her father, re-enacts the Sacrifice of Abraham.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Shrike.
  • Nanomachines: A ubiquitous part of the setting.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability:
    • The cruciform allows for regeneration from From a Single Cell, albeit with the consequence of repeated revivals slowly transforming one into a retarded and genderless being.
    • The Shrike is seemingly indestructible and with its natural Time Travel abilities, can come back after appearing to be destroyed.
    • Nemes, when phase shifted, shows invulnerability second only to the Shrike. Even an eighty-gigawatt laser is unable to harm her.
  • Non-Linear Character: Moneta, a character Kassad meets who seemingly is meeting him backward in time (his first time meeting her is her last time seing him, and vice versa). Later revealed that she's actually Rachel Weintraub, whose experience in the Time Tombs has enabled her to move backwards and forwards in time, thus allowing her Time Travel Romance with Kassad. She ends up as one of Aenea's disciples and ultimately saves her younger self when her father tries to sacrifices her to the Shrike.
  • No Name Given: The Consul.
  • Offing the Offspring: Sol Weintraub attempts to reenact the Sacrifice of Abraham, only with his time-reversed infant daughter as the sacrifice and the Shrike instead of God. Considering she was only seconds away from non-existence anyway, this might have been the only way to save her.
  • Oh Crap: When Kassad is in a simulation of the Battle of Agincourt he notices that, while he may be trained with virtually every kind of weaponry there is, from futuristic guns to the longbow, he doesn't have any of those things on hand...and he's just unthinkingly charged alone after a heavily armed knight. His reaction: "Ah shit."
  • One-Man Army:
    • The Shrike can, and does, kill thousands of people and destroys dozens of vehicles in less then a picosecond. Literally.
    • Nemes and her "siblings" are each capable of tearing through an army as well.
    • Individual PAX Swiss Guard troopers can easily defeat thousands of regular PAX troopers(each of whom carries enough firepower to level mountains).
  • Organic Technology: Fairly common in the universe. The largest example being the Templars "tree ships", which are giant, space-travelling trees protected by force fields generated from living things. Many forms of AI are apparently DNA based, whatever that means. The Core utilizes humans as vast parallel processors, first by using people travelling through farcasters, and then using the cruciforms.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Kassad's conquest and defense of the Solar System are largely off-camera.
  • Our Gods Are Greater: They're called "Ultimate Intelligences". At least some are computers, and humans create them, not the other way around.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Depending on your definition of "person", the Shrike. It is effectively invulnerable, and with his time manipulation it can kill thousands in less than a second.
  • Physical God: The Shrike can freely manipulate time and space, and is for all intents and purposes invulnerable. Appropriately enough, he has a church devoted to him.
  • Planet of Hats: There's planet of the Jews (which suffers implied genocide), planet of the Muslims (a backward, desert world also genocide), planet of the tree-worshipping Asians which gets nuked, planet of the Palestinians(!) (in a permanent state of rebellion), planet of the slums, planet of the bureaucrats, planet of the Catholics...
    • To be fair, some of these are justified as being self-selected. For example Mars as home to the Palestinians is explicitly mentioned as their second stage of refugeedom, while many other planets were expressly established with some religious or ideological agenda e.g. Maui-Covenant (environmentalist Hawaiians playing nice with dolphins), Hebron (a Replacement Goldfish for Israel), MadredeDios (Latin American Catholic pioneers), Asquith (Brits, to the point of keeping The House of Windsor on the throne), and Madhya (a Hindu haven).
  • Powered Armor:
    • The combat armor worn by FORCE troops in the first two books. It lets Kassad chop his hand faster than the speed of sound to decapitate an opponent; it also has a ton of specialized defensive capacities (absorbing concussions from explosions as well as bullet/frag impacts, radiating off heat energy from laser beams, etc).
    • The Swiss Guard's armor in the latter two books.
    • The "skinsuits" Kassad and Moneta utilize, which give wearers incredible strength, speed, and durability, and as a defense against light/laser-based attacks makes the wearer into a Chrome Champion.
  • Power of Love: The Void That Binds. Allows for time travel and a form of telepathy/psychometry with all living things.
  • Powers That Be: The Lions and Tigers and Bears. Not to mention the various Ultimate Intelligences.
  • Pregnant Badass: Brawne Lamia
  • Reformed, but Rejected: No one ever remembers that Kassad resigned his commission and became an anti-war activist - once you earn a nickname like "The Butcher of South Bressia", you're not going to be remembered for anything else.
  • Retcon: The second two books revise and reinterpret many of the events of the first two. See Doing in the Wizard above.
  • Retro Rocket: The Consul's starship is designed to look like one. His intent was to make it fit the Platonic ideal of "space ship".
  • River of Insanity : Father Duré's expedition to the mysterious Bikura tribe on Hyperion, retold by Hoyt in "The Priest's Tale".
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Averted. Several sapient species described in Hyperion are incredibly different. Even the Ousters, who are genetically altered humans, look radically different from normal humans.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: There is mention of intelligent telepathic dolphins. Unfortunately they are noted to have been hunted nearly to extinction two hundred years prio...because they were sentient.
  • Sapient Ship: The Consul's "singleship" is piloted by an AI (and lacks obvious manual controls).
  • Scenery Gorn: In the second book the invasion of Hyperion. Also when the "Ouster" swarms destroy Heaven's Gate and God's Grove.
  • No Sense Of Energy: Certain starships are depicted as capable of devastating entire planets and blowing up stars. However, any time actual firepower is described, it is kiloton level beams and megaton-level missiles, delivered in single-digit salvos. You'd have to spend a long time destroying anything as big as a planet (or a trillion square kilometers of forcefield-protected tree) that way.
    • Could be because all explicitly noted firepower yields were for Ouster and Techno Core masquerading as Ouster ships, which are generally inferior to Hegemony/PAX ships and fight using Zerg Rush tactics.
  • Seven Dirty Words: Brain damage reduces Martin Silenus' vocabulary to these, for a time.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: More like attempted murder, brutal rape, begrudging consent. Jarringly, Moneta is never held accountable for this and is an otherwise sympathetic character.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Martin Silenus' entire Modus Operandi.
  • Space Cossacks: The Ousters.
  • Space Is Noisy: Colonel Fedmahn Kassad spends an extended scene fighting Ousters in the vacuum of a derelict ship using a sonic gun.
  • Space Marine: The Swiss Guard in the second two books are pretty much this. For bonus points, they are foot soldiers of an evil Catholic empire, fighting alien heresy with Powered Armor and Latin. Yeah, they're those kind of Space Marines.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Shrike is covered head-to-toe in (or maybe is just made of) vicious looking metallic thorns.
  • Swiss Army Gun: The multipurpose FORCE assault rifle. A laser-shooting flechette-grenade-launching Disintegrator Ray particle cannon sniper rifle. It noted that the only thing it was not designed to do is cook the troops food...but with its energy output set to its lowest setting, it could probably do that too.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: "Farcasting" allows for instantaneous travel through two connected points. At the end of the series, anyone can teleport anywhere using the "Void That Binds".
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Kassad considers himself the only one who can kill the Shrike. The Rise of Endymion reveals that he is only one allowed to do so because part of his soul actually resides in the Shrike, thus he is paradoxically killing himself. That same paradox ensures that by killing the Shrike (and himself) he will live into the future and becomes Moneta's lover and one of the heroes of the Hyperion Cantos saga.
  • Time Travel: Used very frequently throughout the series.
    • Casual Time Travel: In the future, it seems to be employed quite literally by the Core and humanity.
    • Future Badass: Rachel becomes Moneta, who is quite capable of taking down Kassad.
    • Merlin Sickness: The Trope Namer. A "disease" in Hyperion that Rachel Weintraub contracts after contact with the Time Tombs causing her to age backwards (as well as progressively lose her memory).
    • Stable Time Loop: The entirety of the plot of the series seems to suggest one, but see below.
    • Terminator Twosome: The Core sends the Shrike into the past to kill humanity's Ultimate Intelligence, and Moneta/Rachel follows it to help set the plot into motion.
    • Time Stands Still: The Shrike, thanks to its ability to manipulate time.
    • Time Travel Romance: Kassad and Moneta
  • The Whites Of Their Eyes: Averted and Lampshaded. Spacebattles in the series take places at ranges of millions of kilometers, and it's noted that modern infantry would find the ranges that most fictional starships engage at to be claustrophobic
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Kassad is the Shrike. Or, more accurately, the Shrike comes from him.
  • Torch the Franchise and Run: Done in-universe. The poet Martin Silenus, finally realizing that his profitable Dying Earth series of booksnote  has become a brain-dead Cliché Storm, decides to just kill the thing off completely and utterly so that he can search for his lost muse and work on real poetry.
  • Underground City: The planet Lusus contains several, unflatteringly called "Hives" by the locals.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Raul in Endymion, such as when he claims initially not to know Aenea's fate. He admits it later, and proceeds to dump us (the readers) with a gruesome torture scene followed by Aenea burning to death. Who knows what else he hid from us?
  • Universal Driver's License: Raul contemplates this in Endymion as he considers stealing an "ornithopter". He realizes he can't fly one, and muses that a fictional hero should be able to pilot ''any'' vehicle.
  • We Will Use WikiWords In The Future: Where to begin? The "TechnoCore", the "WorldWeb", and the "AllThing" are all staples of the series. Some examples are particularly egregious, such as the enigmatic "TangleWebs" and the somewhat redundant "DeathBomb". As a rule of thumb, if a device or technology is not named after a person, this is how it's referred to.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Most of the first volume, to The Canterbury Tales. Also the final part of Endymion, to the second Terminator.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The cruciform keeps you from dying no matter how much you might want to - and also keeps you from leaving a small geographic area. In the latter books, the technology has been harnessed to keep humanity virtually immortal but at a hefty spiritual price.
  • The Worf Effect: Nemmes utterly wipes the floor with the Shrike, which previously engaged and summarily defeated a combined ground-air-space task force in a gruesome Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • Later, her boss remarks that Nemes cheated. Later encounters have Shrike easily defeating her clone and the other two clones being sacrificed to take it out.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Raul gets one before his final showdown with Nemes.
  • Wretched Hive: These abound, although the most prominent is the one on Lusus.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Het and Kassad are both destined to die, Rachel is destined to become Moneta, and the Shrike will always be created in the future. However, the existence of alternate futures seems to open the possibility that fate isn't set in stone.
  • Zero-G Spot: Raul and Aenea's weightless consummation of their relationship in the Ouster Startree is described in great...detail.

Carrion ComfortCreator/Dan SimmonsIllium
ReplayArthur C. Clarke AwardDoomsday Book
Islands in the NetHugo AwardVorkosigan Saga
The Hunt for Red OctoberLiterature of the 1980sThe Icewind Dale Trilogy
His Dark MaterialsThe EpicThe Kalevala
Tau ZeroSeiun AwardRed Mars Trilogy
The Hundred Secret SensesLiterature of the 1990sThe Icarus Hunt
The Hunger GamesScience Fiction LiteratureI Am Legend
Mary ReillyNebula AwardBone Dance

alternative title(s): Hyperion Cantos; Hyperion; Hyperion; Endymion
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