Hyperion is a Hugo Award-winning 1989 science fiction novel by Dan Simmons. It is the first book of his Hyperion Cantos, and is the only book in it to extensively employ the literary device of the frame story (although arguably The Fall of Hyperion also uses it, but to a lesser extent). The plot of the novel is highly complex, featuring multiple time-lines and characters whose behavior changes dramatically.
The Hegemony itself is sophisticated and decadent, relying on its military ("FORCE") to incorporate into the WorldWeb the colony planets, even unwillingly, and also to defend the Hegemony from attack by the Ousters, quasi-transhumanist "interstellar barbarians" who dwell free of and beyond the bounds of the Hegemony and shun all the works of the TechnoCore (especially farcasters). The political head of the Hegemony is an executive advised by the TechnoCore advisory council, and working with the "All Thing" (a real-time participatory democracy, much like a web forum, which is enabled by the TechnoCore's datasphere, and reminiscent of the medieval Icelandic Althing), and the senators that the All Thing elects. All is not well in the Hegemony, however. All the TechnoCore's advice and predictions are confounded by the mysterious structures and creature on the remote colony world Hyperion (named after John Keats' poem); the Time Tombs and the Shrike (respectively), were sent back from the future by an unknown party into the present for unknown reasons and to accomplish unknown purposes. Even worse, the Ousters have long been obsessed with Hyperion, and their long-planned invasion is imminent.
Into this turbulent situation come those who will be the last seven pilgrims to make the journey to the Time Tombs and the Shrike, there to ask one wish of it. Each has their reason for seeking out the Shrike, which is bound up tightly with the coming crisis. The first to be seen in the novel is the Consul, former Hegemony ambassador to Hyperion, who had been enjoying a retirement aboard his private spaceship, which is a remarkable rarity in a farcaster civilization, when he receives an FTL communication over the "fatline" (a medium in which messages are sent via tachyons) from the current Hegemony CEO, Meina Gladstone. She asks him to board a Templar treeship which has been chartered to carry the pilgrims to Hyperion and then to evacuate Hyperion residents before the coming conflict; Gladstone also tells him that one of the pilgrims is known to be an Ouster agent.
Aboard the treeship, after their arrival years later at Hyperion, the pilgrims finally meet after being revived out of their cryogenic storage state; they decide they each will tell their tale to enliven the long trip to the Tombs and to get to know each other. By lots, the first to tell his story is the young priest of the dying Catholic faith, Father Lenar Hoyt.
The journal tells of Duré's travels to the Cleft. The morning of arrival at the cleft Duré finds the Bikura. He discovers they arrived on Hyperion on one of the early seedships and were infected by the parasites called cruciforms. These cruciforms resemble crosses that are irreversibly encrusted into the victim's chest. They digitally store all of the information that makes up the infected individual and reconstruct the body of that person after their death, making them nigh immortal. A resurrected individual retains their memory but information is progressively lost and after a number of cycles the individual becomes sexless and retarded. The Bikura can therefore be described as a society composed of 70 immortal genderless idiots. As Father Duré slowly discovers the truth about them, they lead him into Hyperion's labyrinth system where he sees the Shrike, and a cruciform is placed on his chest.
In desperation, Duré flees the Bikura village risking immeasurable pain by distancing himself from the village which holds some power over the owner of the cruciforms. Through the haze of pain, Duré escapes into the Flame Forest surrounding the mesa on which the Bikura village is located. To keep his body from being reborn as a mindless automaton, Duré crucifies himself to an electricity conducting tree. It is here that Father Hoyt finds him seven years later, eternally being electrocuted and reborn, but not losing his mind because the electricity somehow negates the cruciform's ability to destroy a person's mind during reincarnation. Hoyt takes Duré's cruciform into himself (much like the eating of Jesus' flesh in Catholic dogma) and also has a cruciform implanted for his own reincarnation. It is these dual cruciforms and distance from the village that makes Hoyt so sick when he meets with the rest of the pilgrims for the journey to the Time Tombs on Hyperion.
The next action of note was Kassad's accomplishment of, amidst the brutal trench warfare in the wreckage of New Bressia against the Ouster invasion which had scorched the planet and massacred its inhabitants, throwing the Ousters out of the system. After the "victory" of New Bressia, Kassad was injured by a left-over Ouster booby-trap, and was dispatched back to the WorldWeb via a hospital-ship which was staging through the Hyperion system. The ship never made it back to the WorldWeb; an Ouster torchship captain panicked, mistaking it for a FORCE warcraft, and destroyed it. Kassad killed some of the Ouster space-commandos that boarded his portion of debris, and rode their stolen shuttle down to Hyperion- to the vicinity of the Time Tombs. Kassad is followed down by two assault ships, intent on avenging their fallen comrades. Moneta and the Shrike appear; Moneta tends Kassad's wounds and gives him a skinsuit/weapon, and the Shrike grants the two a portion of its own mastery of time.
The three attack the entrenched Ouster troops, and easily slaughter them. In the aftermath, Kassad and Moneta begin to have sex in their bloodlust-inspired frenzy. Somehow during their love-making, Kassad learns that Moneta/the Shrike wish to use him to spark an interstellar war in which millions will die; horrified, Kassad pulls away from Moneta, barely escaping uninjured (as Moneta starts transforming into the Shrike). He is eventually rescued and returned to the WorldWeb, where he resigns from FORCE and becomes an anti-war activist. His purpose on the pilgrimage is to seek out Moneta and the Shrike, and kill them.
Martin Silenus's story is next. He begins with an interlude describing Sad King Billy's quixotic quest to establish a kingdom of artists on the then-even less inhabited Hyperion, but quickly skips back to his origins as a wealthy scion of an ancient dying North American house, growing up in the time around the Big Mistake (after it, but before the miniature black hole actually destroyed the Earth). Silenus trained as a poet, but his training was interrupted when the Kiev Team's black hole ate the Earth; his mother (his father had been dead even when Silenus was born) dispatched her son aboard a slower-than-light flight ramship to a nearby system, calculating that the shrunken family fortune would accumulate enough in compound interest over the century the voyage would take that the family's debt would be paid off and enough left over for Martin to live on for a time.
Unfortunately, the accounts were nationalized by the Hegemony, and Silenus suffered brain damage during the voyage, leaving him able to speak only in profanity. Deep in penury, Silenus had to work as a common laborer. The back-breaking toil forces Silenus's mind to flee to higher planes, and as he recovers his use of language, he begins work on his Hyperion Cantos, a work which began as a parody of Keats' famous poem, but which evolved into a dual account of Silenus's life and an epic account of the Titanomachia, in which the Hegemony of Man takes the part of the Titans and the TechnoCore the Olympians. One day, a local thug beats up Silenus, when he is fortuitously rescued by a manager's wife; she reads his manuscript and sends it to a publisher. His Dying Earth (as it is called, in an explicit reference to Jack Vance's Dying Earth series) becomes an enormous hit, selling billions and making him a millionaire "many times over".
Silenus indulges in all the decadent vices the Hegemony has to offer, as if trying to make up for the lost century, and travelling extensively (and not merely through his upper-class home, whose separate rooms are literally worlds apart and connected by private farcasters). Eventually he falls into debt and in an attempt to produce another hit has a larger unabridged version of his cantos published, which is predicted to fail by his publisher. The work is a terrible flop, selling few copies and not recouping the money he was advanced. The final blow against his work comes from the response attributed to the TechnoCore, "The AI loved it...That's when we knew for sure that people were going to hate it." In order to pay his debt, Silenus is forced to produce further hackwork for his Dying Earth series. One day he realizes that his Cantos, his greatest work, has not been added to for years; his muse had fled. Silenus leaves his lifestyle, liquidates his assets, and signs on with Sad King Billy.
Billy is an aristocrat of the planet Asquith, descended from the House of Windsor, and an intelligent and sensitive lover and critic of the arts. (Besides being a good friend of Martin, he is also the classic stuttering absent professor, modelled on Norbert Wiener.) Fearful of the FORCE General Horace Glennon-Height's rebellion against the Hegemony, Billy decides to relocate to Hyperion and create a new Renaissance. He chooses for his central city, the City of Poets, a location near the Time Tombs, reasoning that their presence will give the proper ambience for the creation of great art.
For ten years, all goes well; the way had been well prepared for years previously by Billy's indentured androids, and art flourished, except for Silenus, whose muse still did not come, so Silenus had himself surgically altered into a satyr and proceeded to deflower the women of the city. Until people begin vanishing, with no traces, and no abductors ever seen. At the same time, Silenus' muse returns, and he continues work on the Cantos. Soon, the culprit is discovered to be the Shrike. At this time, Silenus becomes convinced that it is the Shrike who is his muse, who, in some occult way, his poem had brought into existence. As the murders continue (and Silenus continues writing), the City of Poets is abandoned. Not all evacuate, and the murders continue until only one person is left living: Silenus. He writes the last line on the day that the last murder occurs.
One day, Sad King Billy returns to the City of Poets. Martin is gone on a trip to the Time Tombs seeking the Shrike, and when he returns to his quarters he is caught by surprise, and Billy stuns him after confronting him with the fact that his writing is dependent on cold-blooded murder, and that it will need more murdering if it is to ever be completed. When Martin awakes, he finds Billy burning his manuscript. Billy believes Martin about the Shrike, and concludes that the only way to destroy it is to also destroy the manuscript. Partway through, the Shrike intervenes. As Billy is impaled on the central thorn protruding from the Shrike's chest, he begs Silenus to burn the rest. Silenus almost does, but changes his mind and instead douses Billy and the Shrike with the kerosene, setting them afire. The Shrike vanishes with Billy, presumably to put him on the Shrike's legendary tree. Silenus is left completely alone. He recopies his poem, and goes briefly mad. Eventually he leaves Hyperion. In the centuries since, he has been waiting to return to Hyperion to finish the poem.
Sol Weintraub had been a professor of ethics on Barnard's World, the second colony founded from Old Earth. He and his wife, Sarai, had been happy; they had been even more happy when their only daughter, Rachel, was born. Rachel was the apple of their eye, beautiful and intelligent. She eventually became an archæologist, and while in her post-graduate studies went on an expedition to study the Time Tombs of Hyperion.
While mapping the so-called Sphinx for hidden passages or rooms, something happens to Rachel: all the instruments and equipment fail, and the Shrike appears in the Sphinx amidst a massive surge of "anti-entropic fields". (This incident is never clearly explained, although the second John Keats cybrid remarks on page 494 of The Fall of Hyperion that there were "several Sphinxes visible to my expanded sight: the anti-entropic tomb carrying its Shrike cargo back in time like some sealed container with its deadly bacillus, the active, unstable Sphinx which contaminated Rachel Weintraub in its initial efforts to open a portal through time, and the Sphinx which has opened and is moving forward through time again.").
Rachel is returned to the WorldWeb where her parents learn of the novel disease she has contracted, dubbed the "Merlin sickness" (after T.H. White's The Once and Future King), in which every time Rachel goes to sleep, she ages backwards two days (for a net loss of one day), losing her memories and in fact physically becoming younger; there is no sign that the condition will reverse itself when she ages backwards to her birth. Rachel's life is shattered by her slow retrogression into the past, shattering her links with the present; her parents devote their lives to caring for Rachel and trying to cure her. Meanwhile, Sol wrestles with his dreams, in which he is ordered to go to Hyperion and sacrifice Rachel, in a replay of the Binding of Isaac. Weintraub becomes increasingly fascinated with the ethical problem that the Binding presents.
As Rachel becomes younger, the Weintraubs resort to subterfuge to accommodate Rachel's beliefs as to when in time she is. Press coverage eventually forces them to flee to the Hebrew desert planet Hebron. While on a vacation home, Sarai dies. Sol begins worrying about what will happen when Rachel reaches her birthday, and begins a PR campaign to force the Shrike Church to allow him and Rachel to take the pilgrimage and implore the Shrike for a cure. The permission is granted literally bare weeks before Rachel's day of birth. The voyage arrested the condition, but nevertheless, time is short for Sol and Rachel.
The pilgrims find no answer to the mystery of Masteen's disappearance, and safely board the tramway over the mountains (albeit not without some heroic efforts by Kassad); during the trip, Brawne Lamia tells her noir-ish tale.
Brawne Lamia, the daughter of an All Thing senator, eschewed politics for the life of a private investigator after her father's apparent suicide (which occurred shortly after he and the then junior senator Meina Gladstone proposed a bill to quickly incorporate Hyperion into the WorldWeb). Her client is a short man named "Johnny", who wishes to hire her to investigate the murder of his self. He is what is known as a "cybrid"; a cloned human body which is controlled through its electronic implants by a TechnoCore intelligence. Less than a thousand exist in the Hegemony. This cybrid is unusual in that it is the genetic clone of famous Romantic poet John Keats, and that the AI controlling it was programmed to have the personality and memories of Keats as best as could be reconstructed from surviving materials and the Core's finest extrapolations.
Unlike most "retrieved personalities", which are of insufficient fidelity to maintain sanity, this Johnny functions quite well (though he disclaims poetic talent). His AI self was murdered in the TechnoCore and a backup could not be brought online for a full five minutes, with the loss of five days' worth of data and memory; this limited amnesia was the apparent goal of the assault. Lamia sets out to discover what Johnny had learned or done in those five days to prompt such an assault; initially, all she discovers is that it is somehow related to Hyperion: Johnny should have heard of such a place, permeated as it is with tributes to the poet he is supposed to be, but he has not; such an absence of knowledge in an AI of his ability smacks of deception. Eventually Lamia bribes a drunkard into telling her of a meeting between Johnny, a Templar, and a mysterious Lusan. When Lamia defeats the Lusan on Maui-Covenant after a fight spanning multiple worlds, he proves to be less than amenable to talking, and self-destructs: he was a cybrid. Lamia barely escapes the pursuing police through a farcaster portal embedded in a hidden FORCE submersible.
She and Johnny are forcibly farcast to a planet that seems to be a perfect imitation of Old Earth, located somewhere in the Hercules cluster, into a portion of Italy, set around the time-period the real Keats died of tuberculosis. The next day, they are attacked by several thugs in the employ of the Shrike Church, which seems to think that Johnny is trying to renege on a pledge he made to them to go on the last pilgrimage to the Time Tombs, as the Bishop tells them when they show up at the Lusus Shrike Church looking for an explanation. However, for Johnny to go on the pilgrimage, he would have to cut himself off from the TechnoCore, invest a pitiful shred of his AI self in the limited capacity of the physical brain in his body.
However, the moment he does this by causing his AI personality to self-destruct, the TechnoCore will be vulnerable for a tiny amount of time; vulnerable to intrusion, to data-theft- and Johnny knows exactly what data he wishes to steal to better understand his place in the TechnoCore and indeed the reasons for his very existence. For this nigh-suicidal intrusion, Lamia enlists an old acquaintance: Ernest "BB" Surbringer, a "cyberpuke" (Simmons's term for a combination of hacker and cracker). He is intrigued by the prospect of duplicating "Cowboy Gibson"'s (an allusion to noted cyberpunk author William Gibson) feat of penetrating the TechnoCore.
In a scene straight out of Neuromancer (replicated in several episodes from the Shadowrun universe), Ernest dies in the attempt, and Lamia barely survives, but they nevertheless succeed in acquiring the data. Johnny relates it to Lamia: the TechnoCore is not as monolithic as it appears; it is fiercely divided into at least three factions, around the two axes of what to do about humans, and how to proceed with the so-called "Ultimate Intelligence" project - the UI project is the logical extension of the AI's constant drive to self-improvement: the end-goal is to create an intelligence of such power, such knowledge, such effective algorithms and immense computing power, that no more powerful intelligence is conceivable. The UI would be omniscient and omnipotent - God, in other words. But the factions differ on this project.
Johnny relates this to Lamia after she recovers. He had dragged them both down to the deepest slums of Lusus, to avoid the various human and not-so-human foes who now seek to kill them both. Their only hope is to reach the refuge of the Shrike Church, which has a vested interest in keeping them alive. They spend all their money buying illicit weaponry and armor, planning to simply blow their way through their foes.
Lamia wins through, but Johnny is fatally wounded. In the last moments he transfers his consciousness into Lamia, via an implant he had installed in her in Dreg's Hive (a Schrön loop, a fictional device possessing enormous storage capacity). Lamia is let into the Church, and all parties believe Johnny to be well and truly dead. Pregnant by him and revered by the Church as "the mother of our salvation", Lamia decamps after medical treatment aboard the Yggdrasil.
The Consul's grandparents had been Merin Aspic (of Lusus) and Siri (of the lush and beautiful ocean-plant Maui-Covenant). Aspic had signed a long-term contract to engage in several voyages aboard a spinship (with all the years lost to relativistic time dilation that that implies), which would make multiples trips to Maui-Covenant to build a farcaster, thereby connecting Maui-Covenant to the waiting voracious hordes of Hegemony tourists. While on leave, he falls in love with a beautiful girl named Siri. Soon however, his best friend is killed by a Covenanter who disagrees violently with Maui-Covenant joining the WorldWeb (the events parallel those of Romeo and Juliet). Merin kills his friend's murderer, and is detained aboard ship until it sets out to return to the WorldWeb.
The two become a local legend, and poems are written about their separation, and festivals held when Merin returns to Maui-Covenant; Siri and Merin meet five more times, but each time Merin is only a little older, while Siri ages at the usual rate, a difference which grows ever more pronounced until the sixth visit, in which Merin returns to find Siri dead of old age, and the farcaster about to be activated. The flood of Hegemony visitors and the induction of Maui-Covenant fully into the WorldWeb would, as Merin prophesied to Siri, utterly ruin the ecology and all the dolphin, human, and motile isle settlers hold dear. Faced with this bleak reality, Merin chooses to sabotage the farcaster, beginning "Siri's War", a hopeless resistance against the FORCE units dispatched against them.
In crushing the rebellion, FORCE destroys the ecology as thoroughly as the tourists would have, but far more violently: many dolphins die, as does a large proportion of the original Maui-Covenant colonists. The Consul was forbidden by Merin to join in the fighting, and so survived to thrive with distinction in the Hegemony diplomatic corps. There he aids the Hegemony in destroying whatever resistance to the Hegemony there be, whether it be the isolationists of Hebron, or the fen centaurs of Marsh, or a number of other sapient species who inhabit planets the Hegemony wants. He bides his time, waiting for a chance to betray the Hegemony and achieve revenge for his dead world. He gets his chance when he is sent as an agent to the Ousters.
He becomes their agent, but betrays them too when he activates prematurely Ouster devices intended to release the Shrike from the Time Tombs when it would have a chance to enter the WorldWeb. He knows of the many deaths this action will cause (quite aside from murdering the Ouster technicians) and was driven to this by the Ouster's irrefutable evidence that the Big Mistake that destroyed Old Earth was deliberately planned by elements of the 'Core and the Hegemony, and that the Hegemony was deliberately killing off any species which might become a rival to man in order to maintain its place, and that the TechnoCore feared Ousters who were out of their control, and sought to use the Hyperion system as bait in order to eliminate them.
The other pilgrims take the Consuls' revelation of his true loyalties and crimes quite calmly; one notes that none of them feel a great deal of loyalty to the Hegemony after what they had experienced.
The Danish progressive power metal band Manticora released a concept album called "Hyperion" based on the novel in 2002. However, names of characters and locations were changed due to copyright issues.
In the anime series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Yuki Nagato is shown reading a copy of Hyperion. She later lends the book to the character Kyon, with a note instructing him to meet her concealed as a bookmark. She refers to the novel as "unique." Within the universe of the show Yuki Nagato is the equivalent of one of the novels cybrids having been created by a thought-data entity similar in concept to the AI TechnoCore, explaining why the novel was referenced. Similarly, the presence of Yuki's differently purposed counterparts (also from the data-thought entity) parallel the fight between the cybrid proxies of the various competing interests within the TechnoCore.