Hyperion - Dan Simmons 4.5 stars. I really liked this one. What a great book, probably the most thoughtful and provocative science fiction novel I've read in a long, long time, and written in such a style and with such care that I wouldn't hesitate to call it a work of art. Influenced and inspired by classic English literature, history and themes (Keats, obviously, will be a recurring figure), it's definitely not one of my usual sci-fi fluff reads. Simmons also adds some his mind-blowing twists on the idea of time and time travel.

Hyperion is a "frame story", its structure is loosely similar to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. As the universe teeters on the edge of intergalactic war, seven pilgrims travel to a planet called Hyperion to make a request of the demon-gold called the Shrike. With this setting as a backdrop, each pilgrim tells his or her story of why they are going to see the Shrike. Each story is like a puzzle piece, answering questions and filling in more of the time frame and plot.

I loved that about this book, but it's also the only reason I didn't rate this a full 5 stars. You have about half a dozen stories from each of the pilgrims, each with its own mini-plot, theme, mood, style, symbolism and voice. They were all very well done, but obviously a few of them appealed to me more than others. Without giving away any spoilers, I just want to make a few comments on each individual story, as it's just easier this way for me to express why I enjoyed this book so much.

The Priest's Tale: Traveling to Hyperion, the pilgrims all wake up from their cryogenic storage state on a treeship and meet each other for the first time. To pass the time, they decide to tell each other their stories, and of course no one wants to go first. I mean, would you want to share your deepest secrets and most personal memories with a roomful of strangers? So they sort of draw numbers to determine the order in which they will go and the priest Father Hoyt draws the short straw. And, wow. Just wow. What a great story he has to tell, and what a perfect opener hitting the reader like a freaking gut punch. With hints of horror, it will disturb you and leave you with more than a few uncomfortable questions.

The Soldier's Tale: I am not so very impressed with Colonel Kassad's story, mostly because the theme is love (albeit a twisted, messed up kind of love) and here I find Simmons is a bit weak in describing relationships (yes, even the twisted, messed up kind) and intimate feelings. The revelation between the lovers is mind-boggling though, and I have to applaud his cleverness and vision.

The Poet's Tale:: It probably actually speaks well of the author that I was actually quite annoyed with Martin Silenus' tale, because while the poet is hilarious, he's also foul-mouthed, arrogant, irritatingly loquacious, and constantly using big words and quoting literature in a pretentious way. Admittedly, the fact Simmons is able to maintain the voice of that blowhard and make it convincing throughout his entire story is quite the feat. I just didn't really like the character, but he was written extremely well.

The Scholar's Tale: Sol Weintraub, the Jewish professor traveling to Hyperion with his infant daughter Rachel, has the most heartbreaking story of all. And it's probably my favorite out of all of them. It's a gut-punch too, but in a whole different way.

The Detective's Tale: Brawne Lamia's tale is detective/noir-ish, and if I'm not mistaken contains quite a few cyberpunk tropes. I'm often lost in stories dealing with such themes, which could explain why I found the least enjoyment in reading her backstory.

The Consuls's Tale: The story that seeks to tie everything together and bring a close to the first volume of this Hyperion Cantos. In this tale I once again get the feeling that Simmons struggles a bit in writing the subtle nuances between couples in this kind of Romeo and Juliet story that ends in war and hatred and bitterness.

As you can see, the stories are quite varied, resulting in a little bit of everything in this novel, thus my interest shifted accordingly. But on the whole, I thought this was one brilliant book. Hyperion and the next book Fall of Hyperion is meant to be one work in two volumes, so I'm definitely going to be picking it up soon for the conclusion.