Monday, 13 March 2017

Endymion by Dan Simmons

I loved, loved, loved Hyperion. It topped my top ten list the year I read it. I was just blown away by absolutely every part of it. Then I read the second book, and it was much less audacious , but still just so damned good that I was entirely enthralled, and occasionally, creeped out. Now I finally make my slow way to the third book, and now I'm not quite as enthusiastic. It's still good, but it's not as good. It's not the writing or the characters that's the problem, it's the plot.

It isn't that nothing happens, it's that not much moves forward. This book jumps forward a couple hundred years, to a time when a reinvigorated Catholic Church has gained control over the symbiotes that offer resurrection, and instituted a Pax across the galaxies - with force, if persuasion fails. Aenea, Brawne Lamia's daughter who is born at the end of the second book, comes out of the Time Tombs to a battalion of Pax soldiers waiting to capture her. The Shrike interferes to make sure that doesn't happen.

Raul Endymion was a shepherd/hunting guide on Hyperion was supposed to be put to death, but was rescued by an incredibly even older Silenus, who sets him the task of guarding Aenea as she journeys toward whatever she's going to be. She comes through the Time Tombs as a 12-year-old, and goes on the run with Raul and an android, Bettik.

I think my slight dissatisfaction is that I'm not the fondest of stories that are people on the run without any real progression towards either internal development or plot movement. Even if they're well written, when stories are just a journey, then a barrier, then an overcoming, then a journey, then a barrier, etc, etc, I get a little bored.

Authors can do things to mitigate this! Have the real changes in the story and plot be internal, or have that journey mean something, build towards something. I don't feel like Simmons quite achieves that here. Most of the development, the relationship that is promised to come between Endymion and Aenea is off in the future, as is her development into the messiah she's promised to be. This is just and solely, Raul getting her safely to the place where her teacher will be, and he doesn't really change, and neither does she.

There are interesting incidents along the way! The ice planet, the water planet, revelations about the deal the Church made in return for power. And most of all, the use to which the cruciform parasites are put when it comes to interstellar travel is truly and absolutely creepy, a twistiness that Simmons richly deserves to exploit, given how long the ideas about it are set up over the two previous books.

In fact, the Catholic Church and what it's become is the real meat of this book, and I just wish Aenea's story were equally pressing. I'm looking forward to the next book, because this one felt like a pause where not very much changed. But change seems to be on the horizon, and I can't wait.

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