Endymion (1996) by Dan Simmons

Don't miss out on other works in the series:
Hyperion (1989) Book Review
The Fall of Hyperion (1990) Book Review
The Rise of Endymion (1997) Book Review
Available works by Dan Simmons


274 years after have passed since the events of Hyperion (1989), and the interstellar civilisation of the Hegemony of Man has been replaced by the administrative body of the Pax, enforced by the Roman Catholic Church. Endymion is the third novel in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (1989-1997), which collectively represent a high point in postmodern space opera with its playful, self-conscious style and appropriation of past literary genres. Endymion came second place in the Locus Best SF Novel award (1997).

When the destruction of the farcaster system brought the Hegemony of Man to an end, the Catholic Church moved in to fill the power vacuum. Now the dominant force in a much impoverished galaxy, the Church is the only institution that can afford to build faster-than-light space ships. While the Church prohibits the use of advanced AI, it derives its power from offering followers eternal resurrection in its literal form, a technology that is based on mastering the parasite cruciform associated with the Shrike. Thus Pope Julius XIV has been the same pope for centuries. The narrative starts with the dying Martin Silenus – the original Poet pilgrim – as he instructs local Hyperian, Raul Endymion to rescue the girl Aenea, daughter of Brawne Lamia and cybrid Keats, before the Church can get to her. It is foretold in Silenus’ Hyperion Cantos that Aenea will reappear in the Time Tombs on a specific date to play a pivotal role in the intricate conflict between mankind, the Ousters and the TechnoCore. It is also foretold in the Hyperion Cantos that Aenea has special powers. From here follows a dizzying race across the Universe, the heroes searching for the architect who will unleash Aenea’s powers, the Church and TechnoCore in hot pursuit.

The Rise of Endymion is written in the same self-conscious first person account as its immediate prequel, and while the mystery of Raul’s omniscient view of events is only revealed at the very end of the story, it is clear from the get-go that Simmons lets Raul’s personality traits – he is a regular, no-nonsense Han Solo – colour the novel’s style, a Golden Age sf romp of a novel. Even Raul himself is amused by the epic Arthurian quest laid out before him by Silenus, as he is instructed to defeat the Church, stop the Shrike and find (the disappeared) Earth.

The themes of bioengineered posthumanism, sentient machine intelligence and spacetime manipulation naturally raise a number of fundamental questions about what it means to be human in Hyperion Cantos. While the TechnoCore becomes a vehicle for machine godhood, threatening to usurp mankind, the spacetime manipulation of the Time Tombs opens up for prophesies and messianic impulses, ideas also explored in David Zindell’s Neverness Universe (1988-1998) and Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (1980-1983). Postmodern space operas often revolve around a spiritualism-science axis, where on the one hand technology and inter-stellar pluralism chip away at humanity’s religious inclinations, and on the other hand technology generates new conditions for godhood, religions and messianic cults to evolve. While the Catholic Church is reduced to a historical footnote in the first two books, technology revives it in the sequels.

The sf trope of the Messiah comes into full bloom in Endymion, and while the source of Aenea’s powers are not wholly revealed until the series’ final instalment, her human-Core hybridity provides the key to her uniqueness, allowing her for example to travel on the defunct farcaster system of the River Tethys, originally developed as an inter-planetary pleasure cruise circuit. She also enjoys a mysterious relationship with the Shrike who on more than one occasion steps in to help her. Meanwhile the Church is busy promoting its own Manichean-framed agenda, portraying Aenea as the Evil One, an agent of the TechnoCore in league with the Shrike, intent on bringing down the Pax and, seeking revenge for humanity’s destruction of that farcaster system.

The exact role of the TechnoCore however – its relationship with the Church and its involvement in Aenea’s quest – continues to be shrouded in mystery. What is clear, is that the Church has entered a Faustian bargain with the Core, acquiring from the Core the technology that allows for safe resurrections. The Church’s search for Aenea has also come to rely on Core-construct super soldiers based on similar designs to the Shrike.