Hyperion -- Is there a FAQ?
March 31, 2015 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are really one story, split into two books. I enjoyed them, but I've never read any books that just left me with so many unanswered questions. If I had the time and inclination, I literally feel like I could sit down with a pen and notepad, re-reading the series and writing questions the whole time. If you've read and/or love the books (and I assume there are a lot of you), would you mind helping me out a bit? Questions below the fold.

So, what is the Shrike? Why was it able to roam free before the tombs opened? Why (and how!) did it plug Lamia into the core? How exactly was Lamia able to first float on air, then kill the Shrike?

What exactly was the Consul's original plan? He triggered the (false) device to open the Tombs early... but (as far as he knew), the Ousters were planning to do that *anyway*, just a little later. And the Consul didn't even know what would come out of the tombs. Did he think it was the Shrike? But the Shrike was *already* loose on Hyperion. And even if it was the Shrike, how would that topple the Hegemony? The Shrike only kills one person at a time -- it wouldn't even make a dent in the Hegemony's birth rate. And slaughtering innocent civilians -- that was the moral and decent Consul's plan?

Why did the Shrike kill Sad King Billy, and not Martin? Did Martin's writing have some kind of magical power? If so, then why didn't it save him later?

And what about the Labyrinths? They were hundreds of millions of years old -- how did they get there? How did all those cruciforms survive down there with nothing to eat? Why did the Shrike plant a cruciform on Dure, instead of killing him? Or, for that matter, on the villagers? What made the cruciforms cause Dure and Hoyt excruciating pain when they were away from that village?

What was the point of giving the baby Rachel to the Shrike? Rachel's own voice seemed to command Sol to do that ... but why? The Shrike only seemed to have her for a minute, before Severn plucked her out of his hands. And where was the Shrike going to take the baby? Why not just kill it? The Shrike's actions just seem completely random.

Why did Moneta/Rachel rape Kassad? I mean, they'd *just met*, right? (To be precise, she'd just met him -- he of course was familiar with her already.)

Het Masteen was going to pilot the Tree of Pain ... to where?

The Ousters - Why did they keep hanging around the Hegemony? I mean, they were a genetically modified, spacefaring branch of humans who didn't need planets. Why didn't they just fly away?

etc. etc. etc. And I feel like this is just a fraction of the questions I could come up with.
posted by Alaska Jack to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know there are more books, right? Endymion, and Rise of Endymion. At least some of these questions are answered in those books!
posted by Andrhia at 6:50 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seconding Andrhia, almost every single one of your questions is answered in the second set of books, plus they're great books in their own right.
posted by hobgadling at 6:55 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a wiki that doesn't have a ton of information, but might be useful for looking up references. The Wikipedia articles have some useful summaries too. The TVTropes page catalogs tropes, references, and allusions. And there is a subreddit where you can post questions, add comments, and search through past discussions.

However, you should stay away from all of these until you've finished the Endymion books!
posted by mbrubeck at 7:48 PM on March 31, 2015


Personally I thought that the only merits of Endymion and Rise of Endymion was that they answered my questions. I've never re-read them, and I've gone back to Hyperion at least twice.

If you do finish the series, don't miss the short "Orphans of the Helix." It takes place after Rise and cannot be read separately due to necessary backstory you don't know yet, but it is probably the greatest ST:TNG episode never filmed. If you're into that kind of thing.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 8:28 PM on March 31, 2015


You might feel a little red-faced but I love how this question captures the WTF of being in the middle of the Hyperion Cantos.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:47 PM on March 31, 2015


Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to read Endymion and Rise of Endymion. I just don't have time. I'm on a project to catch up on all the books I haven't read over the years, and I have too many to get to to spend any more time on Hyperion. (In fact, I wouldn't have chosen it if I'd known it wasn't a stand-alone story. Don't get me wrong; I liked it -- It was, after all, engaging enough to get me to continue on to TFoH, in the hopes to get some answers. But it's time for me to move on.)

Considering how popular these books have been over time, I thought there would be a FAQ or something somewhere. The wiki that mbrubeck refers to would be a good start, but it just hasn't been fleshed out.
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:26 PM on March 31, 2015


As it happens, Endymion and Rise of Endymion are mostly not nearly as good as the two Hyperion books, though I like the character of Father Captain Wossname and the Death Robots. In particular, I remember that they have some terrible retcons.

Anyway, and all just IIRC so I could easily R not C'ly,

So, what is the Shrike?

As of Fall: A death machine built by the Techno Core that ends up working for Rachel and the Ousters after Soldier Dude kills it in a battle between millions of iterations of the Shrike and millions of iterations of him.

In the Endymion books: it's retconned to be more friendly, and somehow the protector of Little Miss Sunshine who is the daughter of Brawne Lamie and the Keats cybrid. Also it somehow contains the consciousness of Soldier Dude, who volunteers to be Shrike-ified as he is somehow not dead after all even though we saw Rachel and the Ousters bury his dead body. See what I mean about retcons?

What exactly was the Consul's original plan?

AFAIK, to create the conditions that prophecy said would defeat the Techno Core and Hegemony because reasons.

They were hundreds of millions of years old -- how did they get there? How did all those cruciforms survive down there with nothing to eat?

Techno Core wizards did it.

Why did the Shrike plant a cruciform on Dure, instead of killing him?

To fuck with him? Because it can't recognize that he's not part of the experiment?

Or, for that matter, on the villagers?

The cruciforms were a Techno Core experiment in keeping humans alive indefinitely, so the Core could just pack the Labyrinths with people, slap cruciforms on them, and run on their meat forever. In the Endymion books, the Catholic Church (with evil Techno Core help) figures out how to get the cruciforms to run correctly so people can be fully resurrected without getting all fucked up.

What made the cruciforms cause Dure and Hoyt excruciating pain when they were away from that village?

Part of the experimental design, I guess, to keep the cruciforms in an easily observed area.

Why did Moneta/Rachel rape Kassad? I mean, they'd *just met*, right?

From her perspective, they met at the Big Battle in the Future. So for her, he's the Big Hero who showed up and kicked just so much ass and saved everything. Which, apparently, turns her on.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:17 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks ROU-X! I actually really appreciate the time you took to type that up.

Frankly, it sounds -- apologies to Hyperion fans; no offense intended -- pretty muddled.

This morning, as I was taking a shower, I decided as a thought experiment to try in good faith to reconstruct the timeline/plot of the first two novels. Here's what I came up with.

* AIs become sentient, and conspire to cause the destruction of the earth and the Hegira, for reasons not entirely clear.

* AIs provide farcaster technology, and hide themselves into the spaces "between" the farcast portals.

* AIs secede. So far, so good.

* Hyperion is partially settled, and found to have the Time Tombs. The time tombs are surrounded by a field indicating that they are moving backwards through time. Fluctuations in this field indicate that this field is weakening, and give an estimate as to the approximate time the tombs will become joined to "our" time and open. The AIs, the Hegemony and the Ousters are all concerned about what will come out of the Time Tombs. (Why didn't they just quarantine the planet, put a bunch of stations in orbit with nukes, and wait and see what came out? But whatever.)

* AIs have by now evolved the ability to predict pretty much everything, except anything to do with Hyperion.

* AIs at some point develop the cruciforms. Their plan is to murder most of humanity, and stick the rest in these giant labyrinths, implanting them with cruciforms so they can never die, even though there's no food or water or anything down there. The AIs will then benefit from this somehow.

* Meanwhile, at some point in the far future, there is some kind of war going on. On one side are hyper-evolved AIs -- very close to deities. On the other side are evidently is kind of hyperevolved human tripartite entity, comprising "empathy" and two other parts. The empathy part gets tired of fighting and flees to the past.

* The future AIs evidently feel like beating the other two would be like beating up someone with one arm tied behind his back. (Why this would bother them is unclear.) So they go looking for Empathy, also in the past. Their agent is the Shrike, who for some reason is confined to the planet Hyperion. In fact, just a part of Hyperion. Anyway, the Shrike randomly kills some people and kidnaps others, impaling them on some kind of gigantic tree, which may or may not be either real or some kind of metaphysical construct. The idea is that it is a trap - the eternal pain it causes might be able to lure Empathy into showing herself.

* Oh yeah, at some point the AIs have constructed a complete copy of the planet earth, way out in the Magellenic cluster. Different parts of this earth represent different time periods. For example, Rome is late 19th century. On this planet they experiment with creating human/AI hybirds and implanting them with reconstructed personalities of human celebrities like John Keats.

* Let's see. The Time Tombs were created by super-evolved humans ... to ... damn, lets see. Wait. Kassad is taken into the future by the Shrike, for reasons I cannot fathom. There he hooks up with all these super-evolved humans, and they fight a bunch of shrikes and, evidently win. After winning, these evolved humans send the tombs back in time. I still don't know why.

* Rachel is ... oh man, this making my head hurt. Rachel is regressed to an infant, somehow communicates to Sol that she wants to be given to the Shrike, he gives her to the Shrike, the AI hybrid Keats takes her from the Shrike, 26-year old Rachel shows up from somewhere, takes the baby from the AI and gives her (now cured) back to Sol, then 26yo Rachel returns to the future, grows up more, meets kassad at this final battle, survives, then volunteers to be sent backward in time with the Shrike, who for some reason doesn't kill her ... and she is able somehow to appear in combat simulations with young kassad ... holy crap none of this makes sense.

* One of the AI hybrids has sex with a random private investigator, and she becomes pregnant with the baby who will for some reason become the Empathy person noted above.

Does that pretty much cover it?
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:57 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


* AIs at some point develop the cruciforms. Their plan is to murder most of humanity, and stick the rest in these giant labyrinths, implanting them with cruciforms so they can never die, even though there's no food or water or anything down there. The AIs will then benefit from this somehow

The TechnoCore will benefit by using human brains as their CPUs. That's what they were doing every time a human stepped through a farcaster. Rendering them all immortal and comatose and then sticking them in storage in the labyrinths would be even better. And, IIRC, the cruciform was given to the Core in the present by the future AIs.

* Oh yeah, at some point the AIs have constructed a complete copy of the planet earth, way out in the Magellenic cluster.

Turns out it's not a copy of Earth, it is Earth. What had apparently been its destruction when a small artificial black hole "accidentally" dropped into the planetary core was actually a cover story for the nascent TechnoCore stealing the planet and transporting it out to the Magellanic cloud for their experiments in creating an Ultimate Intelligence.

Het Masteen was going to pilot the Tree of Pain ... to where?

Through space and time, dropping off the disciples of Aenea who had partaken of her blood in communion so that they would understand the Music of the Spheres and the Void Which Binds and blah blah blah, it's really too hard to explain easily. This is definitely one of the questions that requires reading the subsequent books.



And as much as I dig the Hyperion Cantos (including the much-maligned Endymion books), even I have to admit the Kassad/Shrike stuff makes little sense. I believe there's a discussion in one of the latter books that says something to the effect that time is always in flux and sometimes the Shrike is an agent of the future AIs and sometimes of the future humans fighting them. That's why its motivations seem to change, in particular why it protects Aenea from the agents of the TechnoCore in the Endymion books.
posted by roosterboy at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just realized that in the summary above, there is one thing I did not get quite right about Rachel. I don't think 26yo Rachel goes back to the future. I think she is the one who continues into the *past* to dally with kassad. Sol then takes *baby* Rachel into the future to grow up.

This doesn't let Simmons off the hook, though. It still doesn't make a lick of sense. Like, Rachel's connection with the Tombs seems purely arbitrary. She seems to be able to jump around in time and space at will. But if that's the case, why doesn't she? Why not just jump back to pre-Hegira Earth and say, "Hey, guyz -- stop building sentient AIs or the Earth will be destroyed!"? etc. etc.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:10 PM on April 1, 2015


Their plan is to murder most of humanity, and stick the rest in these giant labyrinths, implanting them with cruciforms so they can never die, even though there's no food or water or anything down there. The AIs will then benefit from this somehow.

Keeping a bunch of comatose humans alive is easier than keeping human societies alive and not blowing themselves to bits and not accidentally blowing you up?

Turns out it's not a copy of Earth, it is Earth.

I think the one Keats was on is just fake Earth. Real Earth got abducted by whatever aliens A. Bettik is actually one of to serve as a cross between heaven and a conference center.

Through space and time, dropping off the disciples of Aenea who had partaken of her blood in communion

I think that's more retconning in Endymion. In Hyperion and Fall, I think his goal was more to be in charge of driving the timey-wimey stuff backwards through history but according to his/their plans instead of the Techno Core's.

You do sort of have to accept that Simmons is happy to put things in that make for cool moments but don't make much global sense. Or, maybe, that you have to be really high for them to make sense. Certainly I don't think Simmons was trying to rigorously describe what an acausal time-traveling war would be like.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:17 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK thanks everyone. Out of curiousity, I Googled around a bit, and am reassured to find that I am FAR from the only one left with a lot of questions after reading these books.

Ultimately, I think the best bit of advice I found was from Redditor 2A_is_the_best_A: "Just go find a better book series to read."
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:34 PM on April 2, 2015


If I remember correctly (and it's been a decade at least) there is actually a scene in Rise Of Endymion where many of the characters from all the books are suddenly on a ship and Simmons literally has them asking questions of Moneta(?--Aenea? I don't remember--it's been so long) exactly what is gong on.

As in Simmons had so written himself into such a corner at that point that he had to resort to all the characters being in a literal FAQ in order to proceed.
posted by sourwookie at 9:44 PM on April 6, 2015


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