by Dan Simmons
In a Nutshell
Picture a world seven hundred years in the future. Humans live among robots and androids on dozens of different worlds. Interplanetary travel is as common and easy as taking a bus is today. And dead poets live on in robot form. No, this isn't Futurama (although we'd love to see Bender recite Romantic poetry): this is Hyperion, a novel by sci-fi and horror master Dan Simmons.
And actually, Hyperion has more in common with The Canterbury Tales than any sci-fi you've experienced. You read that right: The Canterbury Tales, that Middle English epic poem you may have had to read in school. The one where everyone talkéd lyke thysse. But you don't need to know another language to enjoy Hyperion (although a degree in physics might help).
Basically Hyperion is what you would get if you shot Chaucer into space. Both Canterbury and Hyperion are about a pilgrimage, a long journey of spiritual significance, and what better way to pass the time than to tell stories? But instead of the Friar, the Knight, and the Wife of Bath from Chaucer, in Hyperion we're hearing from the Priest, the Soldier, and the Hegemony Consul.
Hyperion is the first in a four-book series, including Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Rise of Endymion. It's author, Dan Simmons, won the Hugo and Locus awards in 1990. Those are basically the Academy Awards and People's Choice Awards of science-fiction and fantasy literature, so Hyperion was a pretty big deal.
And we can see why. Even though it was published in 1989, before widespread use of cell phones and the Internet, before Hubble and Mir, Hyperion doesn't feel dated. It feels like an exciting and terrifying future, and one we're not quite sure we want to see. The only way to experience the beauty and horror of Hyperion is to read it yourself. With the lights on.
Why Should I Care?
Even if you're not already a science-fiction fan, you have to admit: it's fun to imagine what the future might look like, whether it's simply thinking about tomorrow, a year from now, or seven-hundred years from now. But it can also be a bit scary: waiting for a college acceptance letter, fretting about a job interview, or wondering whether or not to super-size your order of sweet-potato fries.
With Hyperion, Dan Simmons presents a fully fleshed out vision of the future. It immerses you in a world that your great-great... we don't know how many greats, at least 23... grandchildren might live in. There have been huge advances in health care, technology, transportation, even plastic surgery. But it's also a frightening place, one where wars don't just happen between countries but between planets, where teleporting alien creatures prey on humans for fun, and where there might not even be sweet-potato fries.
Still interested in looking into the future? You don't even have to wait until farcaster portals are invented (or know what they are). All you have to do is read the book.