Hyperion Cantos

Hyperion Cantos

The Hyperion Cantos is a series of science fiction novels by Dan Simmons. Set in the far future, and focusing more on plot and story development than technical detail, it falls into the soft science fiction category. The title was originally used for the collection of the first pair of books in the series, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion,[1][2] and later came to refer to the overall storyline, including Endymion, The Rise of Endymion, and a number of short stories.[3][4] Within the fictional storyline, the Hyperion Cantos is an epic poem written by the character Martin Silenus.[5]

Of the four novels, Hyperion received the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1990;[6] The Fall of Hyperion won the Locus and British Science Fiction Association Awards in 1991;[7] and The Rise of Endymion received the Locus Award in 1998.[8] All four novels were also nominated for various science fiction awards.

A film adaptation of the series titled Hyperion is being developed by Warner Bros. and will encompass the Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion novels.[9][10][11][12]




First published in 1989, Hyperion has the structure of a frame story, similar to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and especially to Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. The story weaves the interlocking tales of a diverse group of travelers sent on a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on Hyperion. The travelers have been sent by the Shrike Church and the Hegemony (the government of the human star systems) to make a request of the Shrike. As they progress in their journey, each of the pilgrims tells their tale.

The Fall of Hyperion

This book concludes the story begun in Hyperion. It abandons the frame structure of the first novel, instead using a more conventional chronological narrative (although several jumps in time take place).


The story commences 272 years after the events in the previous novel. Few main characters from the first two books are present in the later two. The main character is Raul Endymion, an ex-soldier who receives a death sentence after an unfair trial. He is rescued by Martin Silenus and asked to perform a series of rather extraordinarily difficult tasks. The main task is to rescue and protect Aenea, a messiah coming from the distant future via time travel. The Catholic Church has become a dominant force in the human universe and views Aenea as a potential threat to their power. The group of Aenea, Endymion, and A. Bettik (an android) evades the Church's forces on several worlds, ending the story on Earth.

The Rise of Endymion

This final novel in the series finishes the story begun in Endymion, expanding on the themes in Endymion as Raul and Aenea battle the church and meet their respective destinies.

Short stories

The series also includes three short stories:


The Hyperion universe originated when Simmons was an elementary school teacher, as an extended tale he told at intervals to his young students; this is recorded in "The Death of the Centaur", and its introduction. It then inspired his short story "Remembering Siri," which eventually became the nucleus around which Hyperion and the Fall of Hyperion formed. After the quartet was published came the short story Orphans of the Helix. "Orphans" is currently the final work in the Cantos, both chronologically and internally.

The original Hyperion Cantos has been described as a novel published in two volumes, published separately at first for reasons of length.[3][13] In his introduction to Orphans of the Helix, Simmons elaborates:

"Some readers may know that I've written four novels set in the 'Hyperion Universe'—Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion. A perceptive subset of those readers—perhaps the majority—know that this so-called epic actually consists of two long and mutually dependent tales, the two Hyperion stories combined and the two Endymion stories combined, broken into four books because of the realities of publishing."[14]


Much of the appeal of the series stems from its extensive use of references and allusions from a wide array of thinkers such as Teilhard de Chardin, John Muir, Norbert Wiener, and to the poetry of John Keats, a famous English Romantic poet of the 19th century, and the monk Ummon; a large number of technological elements are acknowledged by Simmons to be inspired by elements of Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World.

The Hyperion series has many echoes of Jack Vance, explicitly acknowledged in one of the later books.

The title of the first novel, "Hyperion," is taken from one of Keats's poems, the unfinished epic Hyperion. Similarly, the title of the third novel is from Keats' poem Endymion. Quotes from actual Keats poems and the fictional Cantos of Martin Silenus are interspersed throughout the novels. Simmons goes so far as to have two artificial reincarnations of John Keats ("cybrids": artificial intelligences in human bodies) play a major role in the series.


Much of the action in the series takes place on the planet Hyperion. It is described as having one-fifth less gravity than Earth standard. Hyperion has a number of peculiar indigenous flora and fauna, notably Tesla trees, which are essentially large electricity-spewing trees. It is also a "labyrinthine" planet, which means that it is home to ancient subterranean labyrinths of unknown purpose.

Most importantly, however, Hyperion is the location of the Time Tombs, large artifacts surrounded by "anti-entropic" fields that allow them to move backward through time. The region where the Tombs are located is also the home of the Shrike, a menacing being that features prominently in the series.


Hawking Drive

The Hawking Drive was developed by humanity before the Big Mistake, allowing the faster than light travel which led to the Hegira. It was named after Stephen Hawking; whereas the hawking mat was named after the species of bird found on old Earth. Aenea later revealed that the TechnoCore created FTL drive by utilising the Void Which Binds.


The Farcaster network was given to humanity by the TechnoCore and again it was another use of the Void Which Binds that allowed this instantaneous travel between worlds.


Faster than light communications technology, Fatlines are said to operate through tachyon bursts. However, in later books it is revealed that they operate through the Void Which Binds.

Gideon Drive

A Core-provided starship drive that allows near-instantaneous travel between any two points in human-occupied space. The drive's use kills any human on board a Gideon-propelled starship; thus, the technology is only of use with remote probes or when used in conjunction with the Pax's resurrection technology.

Resurrection Creche

The resurrection creche can regenerate someone carrying a cruciform from their remains (though not always); this is integrated into the Pax Christian church original concept of resurrection. Usually it requires a clergy man to oversee (apparently, only a small percentage know the secrets involved), but Gideon Drive Pax spaceships, whose near-instantaneous travel killed its passengers, were equipped with automatically working devices.


Living trees (related to Dyson trees) that are propelled by ergs (spider-like solid-state alien being that emits force fields) through space. The ergs also generate the containment fields around the enormous tree that keep its atmosphere intact. There are only a small number of Treeships in existence - in Hyperion, the Consul remarks that the Yggdrasill is one of only five.


  • Lasers: Commonly referred to as Hellwhips, these range in power from small pistols to large vehicle based weapons. Lasers are not commonly used on ships, which can mount more powerful particle beam weapons.
  • Plasma bombs and grenades: A type of weapon available to military forces (and civilians, through the black market). Plasma weapons are described as being very powerful and destructive, as well as producing large amounts of radiation. During the Ouster invasion of Hyperion, plasma bombs are used and are seen as brilliant semispherical explosions of light. In the riots on Hyperion, shortly before the arrival of the Consul and the other pilgrims, several plasma grenades were used on the Shrike church, reducing the massive stone-and-steel structure to a mass of smoldering rubble and slag.
  • CPBs: Ship based particle beam weaponry. These range in power from small beams with a radius of only a few meters, as seen in Endymion, to weapons capable of leveling cities, as used by the TechnoCore in The Fall of Hyperion, and are the main armament of Torch Ships.
  • Hawking Missiles: Missiles equipped with their own Hawking Drive, allowing them to travel faster than light and giving them a much greater range than conventional weaponry. Only seen in Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.
  • Bhees: Beams of High Energy Electrons, these are beams of focused and accelerated electrons with considerable penetrating power.
  • Deathwands: Weapons given to humanity by the AI TechnoCore. These are the ultimate "clean" weapon: capable of killing people while leaving property intact. Deathwands burn out all the synapses in a human brain, causing almost instantaneous death; thus they would kill humans but not damage physical property (compare neutron bomb). These weapons were normally handheld, though with a wide dispersal beam. Just before the Fall of the Hegemony (in The Fall of Hyperion), the TechnoCore introduced a large scale deathwand variant which it claimed would kill the entire population of a planet, as well as any other world in a 1.5 light year radius of its point of detonation. Its introduction was apparently pushed by the Volatile and Ultimate factions of the TechnoCore; this origin as well as other indirect evidence suggests the possibility that TechnoCore was lying about the lethal radius, and that the radius was either indefinite (as the Hegemony's scientists had concluded and is supported by Aenea's contention in the Endymion duology that a deathwand operated by means of disturbances in the Void-Which-Binds) or vastly greater than that of the Hegemony's spatial expanse. Another possibility is that they lied about the number of the deathwand bombs built, and actually had enough to wipe out every system individually.
  • Flechette guns and rifles: Weapons which shoot thousands of small steel darts. These weapons have a wide dispersal and are capable of ripping practically anything in their path to shreds.
  • Stunners: Small weapons which are used to subdue rather than injure (point blank headshots, however, are lethal). Neural stunners cause paralysis by affecting the nervous system. A person hit by a stun beam is incapable of even blinking.

Cultural references

  • Danish progressive power metal band Manticora released a concept album called "Hyperion" based on the first book.
  • The anime The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi contains numerous references to Hyperion, hinted at by the appearance of the book itself in the second episode of the remake (2009) of the series.
  • The Einhänder (1997) video game for PlayStation contains references to "Hyperion".
  • The song Raspberry Jam Delta-V by Joe Satriani is most likely a direct reference to Endymion.
  • The album and song "Razorblade God" by Drakkar refers to the Shrike.
  • A flagship battlecruiser in the Starcraft series is named Hyperion.

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal
  • Planets of the Hyperion Cantos


  1. ^ Simmons, Dan (1996). Hyperion Cantos. ISBN 1568651759. 
  2. ^ Landon, Brooks (2002). Science fiction after 1900: from the steam man to the stars. Routledge. p. 236. ISBN 0415938880. http://books.google.com/books?id=M0Qu9AVGNeAC&pg=PA236&dq=hyperion#v=onepage&q=hyperion&f=false. 
  3. ^ a b Hartwell, David G. (2006). The Space Opera Renaissance. Macmillan. p. 311. ISBN 0765306174. http://books.google.com/books?id=7bPbU-yIdeAC&pg=PA311#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  4. ^ "About Dan: Publishing history". dansimmons.com. http://www.dansimmons.com/about/pub_hist.htm. 
  5. ^ Simmons, Dan (1989). Hyperion. p. 179. http://books.google.com/books?id=uxTqmsv66RUC&pg=RA1-PA79&dq#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  6. ^ "1990 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1990. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  7. ^ "1991 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1991. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  8. ^ "1998 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1998. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  9. ^ "Warner Bros. nabs Hyperion"(an update from the author's website)
  10. ^ "IMDB entry". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1213645/. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  11. ^ Hunter, Rob. "Dan Simmons’ ‘Hyperion Cantos’ Finds A Director". Film School Rejects. http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/news/dan-simmons-hyperion-cantos-finds-a-director.php. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "database entry". The Movie Insider. http://www.themovieinsider.com/m4713/hyperion-cantos-/. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  13. ^ Harris-Fain, Darren (2005). Understanding contemporary American science fiction. p. 129. ISBN 1570035857. http://books.google.com/books?id=3pHm6_8kBM4C&dq=hyperion+cantos+shrike. 
  14. ^ Simmons, Dan (2002). Worlds Enough & Time. HarperCollins. p. 65. ISBN 0060506040. http://books.google.com/books?id=EKoIG4auiB4C&pg=PA65#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 

External links

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