Monday, May 31, 2004

May 31 2004

I’ve been reading a lot of good books lately. One of the latest is Dan Simmon’s Hyperion.

While I was discussing it with Brennen called the universe of Hyperion one of the best space opera universes he’s ever come across (or words to that effect). I actually disagree at this point, as what I’ve read of Hyperion isn’t much of a space opera according to the standards that I know of. Hyperion is big and epic, but it’s the grand scale of a Shakespeare play rather than that of a Republic serial.

Essentially, this book is sort of a futuristic Canterbury Tales; a mysterious, quasi-spiritual creature is on a killing spree on the planet of Hyperion, and six travelers are journeying there together. Some want revenge, others want answers; they all are tied to Hyperion and the creature in some personal way. This novel tells their stories, while (I understand) the sequel, Fall of Hyperion, tells of their fates.

Each story is fascinating in its own way, and impressively distinct. One is a religious/moral tale, another is the autobiography of a poet (told with appropriately vivid words), another is a hardboiled detective story, another is a bit of military SF, and yet another is a heartrendingly simple rendition of a couple losing their only daughter, and the final story is in the tradition of SF’s golden age, a tale of the end of a world’s way of life, and the consequences of man’s common blindness to the vastness of life.

The stories’ variety kept me interested and intrigued despite the length of the book. It’s really six novellas and short stories strung together with a common theme and the meta-plot of the six pilgrims making their way to Hyperion. This deepened my appreciation of the characters, though it’s a shame that the payoff won’t come until the sequel. Still, the device worked. There are still moments of the book that haunt my memory.

Which is an impressive statement for any book, really.

In other news, as part of a very busy weekend, my Mom and I braved the oddball weather (beautiful one moment, spitting rain the next) and saw Shrek 2.

I don’t want to write much about it, because any discussion of it will necessarily spoil a good amount of the humor, and I want any readers who haven’t seen the film to walk into that theater without preconceptions or expectations.

I will tell you that I found the film brilliantly funny, so much so that I didn’t hear a few of the lines because I was laughing so hard. The film maintains and enlarges on the spirit of devil-may-care fun in the first film. Moments like the fried bird’s eggs in Shrek—which were actually quite rare when compared to the time spent on the plot—are everywhere in Shrek 2, which is stuffed with cultural references and little gags.

But that’s icing on a solidly plotted cake (if I may mix my metaphors). There’s a good, solid story here, which is pretty predictable but nicely done.

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