Study Guide

Hyperion Mortality

By Dan Simmons

Mortality

The Consul thought of the Shrike, […] a creature which defied physical laws and which communicated only through death. (Prologue.29)

This sounds like our mother-in-law. JK MIL, we love you! But seriously, we'll let the Shrike's call go to voicemail. That's a conversation we're not ready to have. And if you think about it—isn't this the way a lot of gods seems to communicate?

"There is no death in all the Universe!" (1.44)

Poet Martin Silenus is quoting poet John Keats's "The Fall of Hyperion." Ironic (and sad), given that Keats died at a young age and Silenus himself has witness the death of many at the hands of the Shrike.

I have been in Port Romance eight days and I have seen three dead men. (1.213)

Father Duré has difficulty coping with the lack of respect for life in Port Romance. We can understand. With a name like Port Romance, you'd expect it to be a nicer place. A lot of places in Hyperion seem to have this disconnect between name and reality.

You cannot die because you belong to the cruciform and follow the way of the cross (1.339)

Duré does follow the way of the cross, Catholicism, and he's about to see certain aspect of his religion become way too real. That'll fix his doubts—but will it save him? Or destroy him?

All die the true death [...] except the Three Score and Ten (1.510)

Well, maybe. We're thinking that the Bikura might have died the true death when Orlandi nuked them. Can the cruciform withstand a nuclear explosion?

The Bikura have realized the human dream of immortality and have paid for it with their humanity and their immortal souls. (1.646)

Duré believes that losing your individuality and identity is the same as eternal damnation, so he decides to kill himself to avoid the same fate. Death is his only release.

"Oh build your ship of death," [Silenus] whispered [to Brawne Lamia]. "Oh build it!" (4.125)

Does Silenus's antagonizing of Lamia signify a death wish, the fact that he's a total jerk, or a little bit of both? (Related: do all jerks secretly have a death wish?)

[Sol] knew by now that it would take a minute for the fact of her mother's death to become real for Rachel. On the first day he had not known if a four-year-old could truly comprehend the concept of death. He knew now that Rachel could. (4.651)

Rachel, aging backwards, has to cope with her mother's death anew every single day. Of course, unlike Sol, she won't remember it the next day. Who has it harder—someone repeatedly experiencing the initial shock of loss or someone going through daily grief?

"Tell me [...] what it was like to die. What it was like to be reborn" (5.765 – 5.767)

Brawne gets answers to some of life's great mysteries from Johnny. Although he's not exactly human, so who knows how accurate his response might be. (Maybe more accurate, come to think of it.)

"Just a minute," [Mike Osho] said and died. Died. A real death. Brain death. (6.317-6.318)

Brain death is a point of no return, unlike those who are of the cruciform and die or Johnny Keats who never had a human "life" the way we know it. Are there other forms of death in the novel? Can anyone die and still be alive?