Hyperion† by Dan Simmons
This is the first book in a series Ė one might even say it is the first volume in a two-volume novel †(which is followed by another two-volume novel, Endymion).
The story takes place in a far future of galactic civilization, FTL starships, what sounds like teleportation, etc.† Although it says the Catholic Church is now more like a cult than a major religion, one of the main characters is a priest and another says he was raised in a Lutheran family.
It's one of those novels that manages to convey a distant future, yet portrays people as seeming in many ways like people today.† We also see frontier worlds which don't even have paved streets or other infrastructure one would expect from a developed nation comparable to the 20th Century.
The story begins with a "pilgrimage" to the planet Hyperion.† The pilgrimage is under the auspices of the Shrike religion, although none of the pilgrims belong to that religion.† Nevertheless, they are following the traditional rules for pilgrimages to Hyperion.† The Shrike religion is based around an [alien?] being that lives on Hyperion.† Legend says that if a group of pilgrims goes to the being, it will allow all of them to tell it what they wish for.† The being will grant the wish of one pilgrim and kill the others.
The seven pilgrims in this book decide to tell each other their stories about the significance of Hyperion to them.† This sounds vaguely like a reference to The Canterbury Tales.† However, although the Hyperion travelers take turns giving their narratives, it seems more of a literary technique to give us the background on the civilization and the individuals, and gives us the beginning of the plot threads.† The stories told by six of the travelers take up most of the book, but there is a meta-story between the travelersí tales.† The meta-story gives us a better idea of current events in the galaxy..
Each of the travelersí tales is long and could more or less work as a short story or novelette by itself.† This may lead to the suspicion that this was not originally developed as a single novel.† However, there donít seem to be such short stories published prior to Hyperion.† Certainly each story makes sense taking place in the same universe, with the same kind of human civilization and the same conditions on Hyperion.
Perhaps, the travelersí tales could stand alone as short stories for those readers who are fond of short stories.† I read them in the context of a group of tales presented with a meta-story being told in between them, in a volume sold as a novel rather than as a story collection.† In that context, the stories are background threads to the novel.† As such, each story may feel that it is leading somewhere and the destination is never arrived at in the individual travelerís story.† For that matter, we donít reach the destination in the Hyperion volume.† To really find out where the plot is going one has to read the second volume, The Fall Of Hyperion.
1) The Priest's Tale
A priest recounts the experiences of a disgraced priest with an isolated tribe in a nearly inaccessible region of Hyperion.† The tribe seems to be the descendents of a colonist ship that crashed there.† They act dimwitted and he has difficulty getting clarification of some questions from them.† In particular, the tribe has not killed him because of the cross he wears around his neck.† They tell him they belong to the Cruciform, but they know nothing of Jesus, God or the Bible.† It is also difficult to tell who is a man and who is a woman.† There are no elderly members and no children.† Questions about children don't get answers.† When he finally discovers their secret, he is brought to a ceremony at which the Shrike gives him a Cruciform.
2) The Soldiers Tale
The soldier had trained in virtual-reality type military re-enactments.† He found that on some occasions during the simulations he found himself with a mysterious woman.† They had a sexual affair over the course of time and he became infatuated with her.† Eventually, his military career led him to landing on Hyperion in an emergency pod.† There he meets the woman in person, but finds she is associated with the Shrike.
3) The Poet's Tale
The poet was born into a rich family, but circumstances lead him to traveling to a poor colony world in cryogenic sleep.† The cryo-sleep leaves him mentally impaired and working as a laborer in the lowliest kind of work.† Eventually, his brain heals, he begins writing poetry.† His poetry is discovered by accident and he becomes a rich and famous writer.† He writes more, but he's told that there's no market for more poetry.† He becomes a writer of hack fiction, eventually finding his muse is gone.† He wants to return to writing great literature and goes to join an artist's colony on Hyperion.† His muse does not return for some time, and when it does it coincides with a series of killings by the Shrike.† Eventually, we are left with the possibility that the Shrike may have been destroyed.
4) The Scholar's Tale
He was a Jew and a professor at a college on Barnard's World.† His daughter becomes an archeologist who goes to Hyperion to research.† He has a dream in which he is told to take his daughter to Hyperion and give her as a burnt offering in order to benefit humanity.† The daughter has a strange experience on Hyperion after which her aging process goes in reverse.† The scholar struggles with the issues of this and the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac which he associates with it.
5) The Detective's Tale.
The detective was hired to investigate the "murder" of an AI.† An android under the control of the AI came to the detective's office and tells her that someone attacked it.† Although the AI was able to be recreated from backups, there was some loss of memory and data - which the AI considers to be comparable to being killed.† The lost memory has eliminated most knowledge of the events leading up to the attack.† It turns out the android had been used in a part of a project modeling parts of historical human settings, and the android had been playing the part of the poet Keats [who had been referred to in the Poets Tale].† Now, apparently the AI community has reasons to want to kill him.† They believe that Hyperion's time anomalies are related to a future interstellar war between AI's and humans, but they're not sure which side controls Hyperion.
6) The Counsel's Tale.†
He first plays a recording of another man.† The other man was a starship crewman who has a relationship with a woman on a colony world.† Each time the spaceman returns to the woman she has aged years more than he has.† The natives of the world wish to protect their planetís natural features and life, while the interstellar civilization wants to integrate the planet and make it a vacation spot for the affluent.
The Counsel tells how he went to Hyperion with a group of Outsters to set up a device that might be used to interrupt the time anomaly which they believe would cause an interstellar war that could be to their advantage.† The Counsel kills the others and sets off the device.† He leaves telling the Outsters an accident killed the others.† He contacts his government and tells them he needs some time off.† He then bides his time waiting for the pilgrimage to bring him back to Hyperion.
As the pilgrims arrived on Hyperion, a fleet of Outster starships are approaching the Hyperion system.† The interstellar government is planning to repel the coming attack.