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Brawne Lamia is the sole female pilgrim on the voyage to Hyperion. It's a little hard to picture her. She's from Lusus, a world that has gravity 1.3 times stronger than that of Earth. Because of that, she's shorter than many others, but has "heavy layers of muscle" (1.30). She also has "black curls [that] reached to her shoulders" (1.30) and a mouth "wide and expressive to the point of being sensuous, curled slightly at the corners in a slight smile which might be cruel or merely playful" (1.30) According to the narrator, she "might well be considered beautiful" (1.31).
We can't help picturing this plays-tough-chicks-on-tv.
Want some more visuals? Here's one artist's cute cartoon representation of Brawne. Or maybe she looks more like Fanny Brawne, the love of John Keats's life, would look like if she were a bodybuilder. Or maybe she looks like her namesake the Lamia, a snake woman that preys on men.
Whatever it is, we're definitely rocking the Keats connection: John Keats's poem "Lamia" is a haunting and beautiful love poem. And we couldn't really says that Brawne preys on Johnny at all. Their love and relationship is mutual, and her main motivations seem to be helping Johnny and trying to solve the mystery of her dad's suicide (which she thinks was murder). Nothing wrong with that.
But the Keats poem does show the dangers of all-consuming love. Brawne and Johnny's love definitely has some consequences—but since they involve artificial intelligence and a futuristic version of the Internet, we doubt this is what Keats had in mind.
Until she tells her story, in Chapter 5, we don't learn much about her. All the characters state their religious affiliation early on. Brawne? She doesn't have one: "I ignore religions. [...] I do not succumb to them" (1.85). Also, she really doesn't like Martin Silenus, "He makes me so... angry" (4.129) she says without elaborating. Sometimes she even threatens him with violence. (Of course, he's so crass and obnoxious sometimes, that we sometimes wish she would smack him around a little.)
When Brawne finally tells her story in Chapter 5, it's a doozy, second in length only to the Priest's Tale. Brawne's story has much in common with film-noir detective stories, you know, the ones that start with a beautiful but dangerous woman walking into Humphrey Bogart's cheap, kind of sleazy office.
Except this time things are a little different. It's a beautiful man that walks into Brawne's cheap, kind of sleazy office, and Brawne has a few more high-tech tricks up her sleeve to help him, like when she swallows a melanin pill to turn her skin dark and go undercover.
She's good at what she does, every bit as strong and skilled as the hundreds of male detectives who have preceded her in popular culture. If we had a mystery, we'd definitely want Brawne on the case. Her strength and ingenuity shows most during the breakneck chase scene that occurs when Brawne pursues the man who may have been responsible for her client Johnny's murder: "I charged at him, feeling something like joy at the thought of the next few minutes" (5.646). She gets a kick out of the impending pursuit through multiple farcaster portals and just as many strange, foreign worlds.
When she finally catches up with him, an intense physical fight breaks out. Brawne doesn't back down here either, practically gloating before the fight begins, "Now we'd see who the better guy was" (5.664).
With all her ability to kick any guy's butt from here to Jupiter, it's easy to forget that Brawne has emotions. She has deep-seated trust issues that only start being resolved when Johnny comes into the picture: "I don't think I'd trusted anyone since Dad blew his brains out twenty years ago and Mom retreated into the pure selfishness of her seclusion. There was no reason in the universe to trust Johnny now. But I did" (5.1151-5.1152).
So, why the sudden trust? Maybe she was destined to be with Johnny. After all, he might just be the reincarnation of the poet John Keats (check out his character page to clear up any "huh?" moment you might have had just then), and her first name is the last name of Keats's beloved Fanny Brawne.
What might Fanny have in common with her namesake? We can't imagine the 19th-century Fanny shooting her pursuers with eagle-eye accuracy. But Hyperion's Brawne is reserved with her emotions like Fanny, who kept her relationship with Keats a secret until long after his death. When Johnny says he loves Brawne, she notes, "I nodded, still tough. I forgot that my visor was up and he could see my tears" (5.1167).
Still, Brawne reciprocates Johnny's love more than Fanny ever did Keats's. Brawne has the baby bump to prove it, too: "I'm pregnant twice. Once with Johnny's child and once with the Schrön-loop memory of what he was" (5.1217). In layman's terms, that means that Johnny's human body is so human it can reproduce, and that Brawne has been implanted with his consciousness in this Schrön-loop thing implanted at the base of her neck.
Now that's love.