Review – The Rise of Endymion

The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4)The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
Synopsis from GoodReads:
The time of reckoning has arrived. As a final genocidal Crusade threatens to enslave humanity forever, a new messiah has come of age. She is Aenea and she has undergone a strange apprenticeship to those known as the Others. Now her protector, Raul Endymion, one-time shepherd and convicted murderer, must help her deliver her startling message to her growing army of disciples.

But first they must embark on a final spectacular mission to discover the underlying meaning of the universe itself. They have been followed on their journey by the mysterious Shrike–monster, angel, killing machine–who is about to reveal the long-held secret of its origin and purpose. And on the planet of Hyperion, where the story first began, the final revelation will be delivered–an apocalyptic message that unlocks the secrets of existence and the fate of humankind in the galaxy.

I finally crawled through the end of this quartet.

That’s a weird thing to say (well, type) considering how much I loved the first book, Hyperion, back when I first read it about ten years ago.  I don’t know why I didn’t finish the series then, but I didn’t, and now, with older eyes – or different tastes – I can say, quite plainly, that I’m not sure this series is for me.

I enjoyed it, but it was a struggle to read.  I felt that it suffered, particularly in the third novel, Endymion, and in the first half of this novel, from trying too hard to feel epic at the expense of entertainment.

The first novel is basically The Canterbury Tales with a sci-fi twist, but you get to know the characters and the narrative shifts are interesting and the mystery and malice of the Shrike drove me on.  The second novel was still engaging but also felt like it was going off in seven different directions – which, in a way, it was, after all, as the various characters from the first book tried to drive their agendas to completion.  The third novel was very similar to The Hobbit or Gulliver’s Travels in that it was all about the journey.  And then there’s this fourth novel.

Like the second novel, The Rise of Endymion goes in several different directions, beginning as a continuation of book three’s travelogue before growing into a story about a messiah, a religious message, and the direction in which humanity could or should evolve.  And of course, under it all is the question of from what point Raul Endymion is actually writing.  I think the drawn-out suspense of that ‘mystery’ was the most annoying.

Don’t get me wrong – I like books that make me think, books that make me want to go out and talk about them and pick them apart.  But there were too many aspects of The Rise of Endymion that either didn’t make sense, weren’t answered in any significant way (or at all), or that simply felt too explained.  I get that we have different narrators between the first two novels and the second two, and I get that it’s part 1 and 2 of book 1 and part 1 and 2 of book 2.  But that’s not enough for me.

That doesn’t mean the series – or The Rise of Endymion – was all bad.  Again, the philosophical and religious discussions were fascinating, I loved the question of evolution and how different people answered it, I thought a lot of the talk about the TechnoCore’s past, present, and future was great, and so much more.  But I couldn’t connect to most of the characters.  And in a series where the answer to the question is empathy/sympathy/compassion, that’s a major problem.

In the end, however, I felt for where Aenea was going – and to what and for why.  So even though I didn’t feel a lot for her and Raul’s relationship (and was honestly quite sick of it early on in The Rise of Endymion), I had some powerful emotions move me.  Which helped the rating, in the end.

There is one last aspect I want to touch on before I give my rating, however, and that is the Shrike.  It is one of the most central characters in the entire series.  In the first two novels, it was appropriately menacing, mysterious, etc.  Even for most of the third.  But as soon as Nemes was introduced, the Shrike lost basically all of its menacing qualities, all of its mystery, all of my interest in it and belief in it as a terrifying force.  The only thing that helped it in this novel was finding out its true origins, and even that wasn’t particularly emotionally satisfying because I didn’t believe most of the emotions coming out of these characters.

The final score for this one is 3 out of 5 stars.  The Hyperion Cantos is, unfortunately, overall mediocre for me, but if you like epic quests, philosophical discussions, and don’t mind distant characters (or dumb ones – Raul), then perhaps this series is for you.

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