The Rise of Endymion (1997) by Dan Simmons

Don't miss out on other works in the series:
Hyperion (1989) Book Review
The Fall of Hyperion (1990) Book Review
Endymion (1996) Book Review
Available works by Dan Simmons


Set 4 years after the immediate prequel, Endymion (1996) – 278 years after the events of Hyperion (1989) – the interstellar civilisation of the Hegemony of Man has been replaced by the administrative body of the Pax, enforced by the Roman Catholic Church. The Rise of Endymion is the final 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. It won the Locus Best SF Novel award (1998) and the SF Chronicle Novel award (1998).

Raul Endymion continues the tale he started in Endymion (1996) from the inside of a Schrödinger’s Cat prison cell in orbit around planet Armaghast. Aenea, the girl he rescued from the Time Tombs, has finished her education on Old Earth – spirited away to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud galaxy – in a replica of Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical school of architecture, the Taliesin Fellowship. As she begins her inter-planetary ministry, her role of Messiah starts to take shape: followers who take her communion, literally drinking her blood, rid themselves of the parasite cruciform that the Church have been offering followers for centuries and which gave them eternal life guaranteeing literal resurrection. While none of the mysteries – the Church’s exact relationship with the TechnoCore, the rumours of an ultimate Machine God lurking in the Core, the role played by the cruciforms, Old Earth’s ‘relocation’, and the role played by Shrike – are solved until the end of the novel, it is clear that the key to unlocking all these mysteries lies hidden in the understanding of inter-dimensional space known as the Void Which Binds or Planck Space.

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.

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.

There is also a striking similarity between Simmons’ concept of the Void Which Binds and David Zindell’s Elder Eddas secrets in Neverness Universe (1988-1998). Both authors borrow from String Theory and rely on the existence of extra dimensions to develop the idea that the Universe is interconnected. Just as Raul can access and see before him events that take place far away, so Danlo is able to access visionary planes far removed. Simmons however is much more vocal about his multi-dimensional premises. The Core-construct super soldiers for example can phase-shift (freeze time) by borrowing energy from the Void Which Binds he explains. Simmons’ concept is further fleshed out by way of the much less scientifically grounded idea of the Omega Point, developed by the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). The Omega Point describes a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which (he believes) the universe is evolving. While the concept again recalls David Zindell, it is also closely linked to Ray Kurzweill’s notion of the Singularity and together with other theories represent an optimistic view of exponential growth. Aenea, who learns to access this plane, relates how the void is filled with resonances of consciousness, like music, a concept that seems very close to the ‘vibrations’ of String Theory. Given that she is a Core construct, she raises the pertinent question of whether artificial intelligence should be part of the process of reaching a higher, more empathic level of humanity.