The Hegemony Consul awakes from his frozen state (hope he packed an electric blanket) en route to the Templar Treeship Yggdrasil.
There, he meets the six pilgrims: Templar Het Masteen, the Catholic priest, Lenar Hoyt; Fedmahn Kassad, also known as the "Butcher of Bressia" (1.22); Sol Weintraub, the scholar, and his baby; the poet, Martin Silenus; and Brawne Lamia, the detective. We have dossiers for each pilgrim on the "Characters" tab.
They sit down for supper. It's kind of like the last supper, except there's a secret Judas and no Jesus.
Silenus quotes poetry and belches throughout their yummy-sounding dinner of "roast beef and boiled sky squid" (1.49).
After dinner, they talk about religion and wonder why each person was chosen for this pilgrimage.
It might not be a good thing. According to myth, "When we meet the Shrike, we tell it what we want, one of us is granted the wish, and the others die" (1.94).
That sounds like a space-creature version of Russian Roulette—and you can count us out.
To figure out what links they all have to Hyperion, they decide to tell their stories.
They draw numbers to see who goes first, and Lenar Hoyt is up first.
Cue The Priest's Tale: The Man Who Cried God.
But first, The Priest's Tale starts with another priest's tale, that of Lenar Hoyt's friend and mentor, Father Paul Duré.
Father Duré had requested a transfer to Hyperion to study the Bikura, a race of people who may or may not still exist. Like people with landlines or who still get Netflix discs in the mail.
Lenar Hoyt tried to discourage Father Duré, saying "the Bikura are such a small mystery. […] Why choose them when there are big mysteries to study on Hyperion" (1.165).
But Father Duré pressed on. And disappeared.
All that remains is his journal, which Lenar Hoyt reads from. It starts "So begins my exile" (1.177). This is going to be v.v. different from Bridget Jones's Diary.
Over the course of the first week, Father Duré gets accustomed to Hyperion, and its largest city, Keats. It all sounds so poetic and romantic, like a blushing rose, but it's actually pretty bleak and dangerous, like its thorns.
Want to take a tour of Hyperion yourself? Are you sure? Well, check out the "Settings" tab.
Duré travels via dirigible, which is a much fancier version of the Goodyear blimp, to Port Romance.
Port Romance is no honeymoon. Over the course of a week, Duré sees three dead men: one washes up on the beach, one dies in a fire, and the third is shot right in front of Duré.
From Port Romance, Duré travels on a riverboat to Perecebo Plantation. The voyage takes over a month. It's all very Heart of Darkness.
Semfa, a village woman, nurses Duré back to health by the fifth day of illness. Duré never mentions what the illness was. All he says on Day 65 is "Thank you, dear Lord, for deliverance from illness" (1.246). And he never mentions it again.
After fully recovering, Duré and his guide, Tuk, begin the trek to the Cleft where the Bikura are supposed to reside.
But first, they have to travel through the dreaded Flame Forest (presumably like the Fire Swamp), where the Tesla Trees discharge searing arcs of electricity at random intervals, making travel dangerous, and likely fatal.
As Duré says: "Sweet Mother of Christ" (1.264).
With Tuk's experience, they make it through alive, reaching the Cleft.
Having served his use, poor Tuk is murdered in the middle of the night. We're not sure what's scarier, the flame forest, or the fact that someone—or something—is stalking their campground.
It turns out to be the Bikura, whom Duré describes as "a silent, smiling band of bald, retarded children" (1.309).
We'd laugh, except for the fact that they killed Tuk without remorse.
Duré begins his anthropological study on the Bikura. We've gone all anthropological on them too, on the "Characters" page.
The high points here: they're all roughly the same age, they're androgynous, there are no children, and they're just generally creepy, always talking about something called the cruciform.
Duré names them after Greek letters: Alpha, Betty (Beta), Del (Delta), Zed (Zeta), etc.
Every day they travel over the edge of the cliff and somehow scale down the cliff face. They won't let Duré accompany them.
One day, he manages to sneak down there, where he finds a cavernous room, an altar, and a cross: "It had been set here a minimum of many thousands of years ago—perhaps tens of thousands—long before mankind first left Old Earth. Almost certainly before Christ taught in Galilee" (1.476).
He wants to leave and spread this message, but the Bikura hold him prisoner. They see him shirtless and believe that he is "not of the cruciform" (1.506), whatever that means, and they almost kill him.
This is definitely not a fun missionary story, like The Book of Mormon. This is dangerous and scary.
Instead of killing him, they carry him down the Cleft, to the very, very bottom, where there's an entrance to Hyperion's labyrinth.
Inside the labyrinth, Duré meets the Shrike. Well, "meets" implies a cordial visit, with handshakes and hugs. Trust us: you do not want to hug the Shrike, with its "four long arms" "fingers […] like chrome scalpels" (1.557), and "large red eyes […] which seemed to burn within the creature's barbed skull" (1.559).
The Shrike departs, and the labyrinth glows. There are dozens of cross-shaped objects on the walls. Pretty!
The Bikura break one off and place it on Duré's chest, where it attaches itself. Pretty scary!
Back at camp, Duré uses a body scanner to check himself out, kind of like a futuristic hand-held X-ray. Or a tricorder.
He treats us to a description: "The cruciform is quite visible […] as are the internal fibers that spread like thin tentacles, like roots, throughout my body" (1.583).
Yikes. Guess Duré is now "of the cruciform" (1.585).
Try as he might, he can't remove it. It's more stubborn than a Chinese Finger Trap.
Over the next few months, Duré discovers that the Bikura can die and be revived by the cruciform.
Alpha falls over the cliff and dies. The Bikura take him to the basilica inside the cliff, and the cruciform revives him.
Another Bikura named Will (guess Duré ran out of Greek letters) disappears, and is found a few days later, the skin stripped from his bones by flesh-eating bugs.
The Bikura named Theta takes Will's cruciform and attaches it to his-/herself. Duré postulates that when Theta dies, they will both be reborn.
By the time a year has passed, Duré has built his own chapel. He says Mass, takes Communion, prays to God, and plans his escape. It is his last journal entry.
Back on the Treeship, Father Lenar Hoyt tells the pilgrims that he returned to Hyperion and found where Father Duré died, trying to escape through the flame forest: "The intensity of the tesla charges had destroyed the... the cruciform... as well as his body" (1.679).
Hoyt confesses that his traveling companion Orlandi nuked the Bikura's village, despite Father Hoyt's protests.
With that happy ending, it's time to board the dropship and descend to Hyperion.
But first, for a surprise twist, the Consul discovers Father Hoyt on his knees. Not praying, but reaching for a syringe of ultramorphine, which must be like morphine but, well, ultra.
Like Mario but Super.
And then he tells the true story of what happened on his return to Hyperion.
The Bikura killed Semfa and Hoyt's other guide before leading him to the Son of Flames, which is what they called Father Duré.
Duré had crucified himself on a tesla tree, where every day he was electrocuted until death, and revived.
If you haven't eaten today, keep reading: "It still looked like Paul Duré. […] No skin. Flesh raw or boiled away. Nerves and things visible... like gray and yellow roots" (1.716).
The cruciform had kept him alive, in the most basic sense of the word, for seven years.
Father Hoyt removed the cruciform from his body, and "[ Duré] smiled. And he died... really died... there in my arms. The ten thousandth time, but real this time. He smiled at me and died" (1.719).
After that, the man Orlandi, angry at Semfa's murder, killed all the Bikura and nuked their village. Hoyt didn't protest; he laughed.
The Consul injects Father Hoyt with the ultramorphine. After Hoyt falls unconscious, the Consul takes a peek under his robes and discovers two cruciforms attached to him: his own, forced upon him by the Bikura, and Father Duré's.