Eric Weeks - personal pages - miscellaneous -
Book Reviews: Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Book Review #8, by Eric Weeks

August 2, 1998
[home] [research]
[software] [pics]
[misc] [about me]

"Endymion" by Dan Simmons, Bantam Books, 1995; "The Rise of Endymion" by Dan Simmons, Bantam Books, 1997.

These two books are the second half of the "Hyperion" story. I thought about rereading and reviewing the first two Hyperion novels (Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion), but these two books do somewhat stand on their own, and I'm feeling lazy. I'll simply say that the first two books are excellent, especially Hyperion, which won the Hugo Award. If you haven't read the first two books, I'd definitely recommend going out and reading them first. It's not essential for these two books, but it's useful.

Endymion (the novel) starts several hundred years after the end of the previous two novels. Endymion (the character) is a native of Hyperion, who is enlisted to protect Aenea, a twelve year old girl. Sounds fairly easy...

Well, a lot has happened since the end of the first two Hyperion novels. The Catholic church has found a way to resurrect people without any side effects, with memory intact and body healed of whatever might have killed you. The catch is that to be resurrected, you have to be a member of the church. Because of this, the power of the "Pax" church government is enormous and essentially the Pax controls almost all of human civilization. For some reason (unknown at the beginning of Endymion), Aenea is seen by the Pax as a huge threat, so the vast military of the Pax is out to get her. Endymion's job is starting to look a little more difficult.

However, it's not all bad. Aenea has some powerful allies who remain somewhat in the background (they may be artificial intelligences lurking in hyperspace, they may be aliens, we don't really know at first). These allies allow Aenea and Endymion to instantly teleport between worlds, if they can reach certain teleportation points. Endymion focuses on their adventures in these different worlds, and the chase of the Pax forces trying to catch up with them. The Rise of Endymion tells the story of Aenea and Endymion after Aenea has had a chance to grow up. This book describes her becoming sort of a messiah, preaching a philosophy which is threatening to the Pax, and also undermining the resurrection schemes of the Pax. We also get the love story of Aenea and Endymion. The book ends with an exciting showdown between the Aenea and the Pax.

One character worth mention is Father Captain de Soya, who has been sent by the Pope himself to lead the chase to capture or kill Aenea. de Soya is an interesting character, who does his duty out of strong religious convictions, and who also is an intelligent enough person to know that the Pax is not necessarily infallible. He is a great bad guy... although he's essentially a good person, so Simmons also provides for some truly evil bad guys, to help make it clear exactly how bad the Pax really is. Which is another strong point of these two books: I think Simmons does a great job showing how the Catholic church would be affected by being provided with the tangible means for eternal life. We see both the political implications as well as the theological implications, and also some military implications.

I had one major disappointment with the novel, though. Right from page one, we know somewhat the outcome of Endymion and Aenea's adventures. Endymion is writing from within a death-trap prison cell, where he will be killed at some random unknown time. However, we know he has survived his adventures up to this point, and that Aenea has grown from the 12 year old girl he first met to become a messiah. We know Endymion can't be put into this death-trap cell until Aenea's a messiah, and also until the two of them are lovers. I felt this took a lot of the suspense away from the story. Add to this the fact that Aenea can somewhat see the future -- her vision of the future is hazy, but this is irrelevant, Endymion has made clear from the start that certain key things will definitely occur. Sure, it's interesting to see how they avoid capture or death, and yes, they have lots of close scrapes, but overall I felt it lacked tension.

My rating for the Endymion and The Rise of Endymion is 3 1/2 stars. Interesting characters, interesting places, interesting adventures, but a lack of tension prevents this from getting a higher rating. However, it's got a good fast pace and I liked the story. There's enough peripheral characters (such as de Soya) whose fates we don't know that I was curious how things would turn out. But I would recommend you first read the two Hyperion books.

One last point: one enjoyable thing about these two books is that some of the strange events of Hyperion are finally explained somewhat. For example, the Shrike plays a role in these books (a mysterious killing thing introduced in the first novels -- alien? robot? god?), and finally an explanation for the Shrike is given.

"Dr. Futurity" by Philip K. Dick, Ace Books, 1960.

This book was a surprise to me, only because it's such a mainstream sf book lacking most of the style of PKD's other books. This is a straightforward time travel novel, starring medical doctor Jim Parsons from the year 2010. Through some unknown mechanism (later revealed) he is brought forward to the 25th century. Despite the high level of technology in the future, medical science has been forgotten and in fact the culture has a taboo against healing people. Parsons at first has difficulties making his way in this society that he's been thrust into, and then later gets caught up in a grand plot involving further time travel. The time traveling in this book has the twists of some of the better short stories I've read about time travel, and is quite satisfying in the end.

There's not much else to say about this book. It's rather short, only 150 pages. There is some character development, but not very much. I enjoyed it, but somehow the overall feeling was more of reading a well-written short story rather than a novel. I give it 2 1/2 stars, it's a fun read but nothing extremely special. My overall impression is that it could have been written by any sf author; there is very little of PKD's unique style in this book. Still, that doesn't mean it's not a good book, I did enjoy reading it.

"Dr. Bloodmoney" by Philip K. Dick, Ace Books, 1965.

I finished reading Dr. Futurity and decided to next read another PKD book with a similar name. This book describes the aftermath of a nuclear war, specifically in northern California. The title character, actually Dr. Bluthgeld, was an atomic scientist who in 1972 advocated a high-altitude atomic test, which resulted in dangerous fallout and a rash of birth defects. Despised by everybody, Bluthgeld is mentally deteriorating. When the nuclear war starts, this doesn't help Bluthgeld at all.

This book is rather rambling. There really isn't a main character; despite the title, Dr. Bluthgeld is only one of many characters. The other characters include Stuart, a black man who Dick uses to explore racism before and after the bomb; Hoppy, a thalidomide baby who has grown up to have mental powers; Andrew Gill, who makes pre-war quality cigarettes and liquor; and Dangerfield, an astronaut trapped orbiting the Earth when the war starts. However, there are many more characters, and all throughout the book new ones continue popping up. There is a loose plot surrounding some of the characters, mainly centering on Hoppy's megalomania. Other plot threads randomly weave in and out of the story.

I liked this book, but the randomness of the plot and the continual introduction of new characters made it hard to really enjoy. PKD has written similar post-war short stories which pack much more punch. I give this book 2 stars; you'll definitely like it if you're a PKD fan, but there's not much other compelling reason to read this book, and PKD has written much better. My main reaction while reading this novel was to fondly remember PKD's much better short stories which contain similar topics and characters. The two differences between Dr. Bloodmoney and Dr. Futurity are that the former has much more of PKD's style, while the latter has more of a plot. I value plot over style, which is why Dr. Futurity gets the higher rating, but as I say, if you're a fan of PKD's style, you may well enjoy Dr. Bloodmoney more.

"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973.

The Princess Bride has always been one of my favorite movies. This novel was the basis for that movie. If you liked the movie, you'll think the book is great: the screenplay for the movie was also by Goldman, so the humor and style of the movie and novel are the same. Have no fear, I'm not going to try to be funny in this review or quote lines from the movie.

On the slight chance you haven't seen the movie, here's a brief outline of the plot. The beautiful Buttercup's one true love has been killed by pirates. When Prince Humperdinck demands Buttercup marry him or die, she agrees. Unfortunately for Buttercup, Humperdinck has arranged for Buttercup to be kidnaped and murdered, in order to start a war with a neighboring country. However, a sinister man in black is also trying to kidnap Buttercup for his own unknown purposes. The story moves along, and along the way we have romance, swordfights, battles of wits, and all sorts of epic adventures.

People who like the movie will find the book is very similar. Many of the lines in the movie come directly from the book. There are a few portions of the book which weren't in the movie, such as the Zoo of Death, and a good description of Fezzik the giant's personal history. We also learn a little bit more why Inigo and Fezzik are making rhymes with each other in the movie, and the origin of the holocaust cloak that Fezzik mysteriously has in the movie. 1 interesting difference is the framework of the book. In the movie, "The Princess Bride" is a book, by S. Morgenstern, read to a boy by his grandfather. In the novel, William Goldman claims he tracked down the original book by S. Morganstern and has made an abridged version of the book. Throughout the novel, Goldman sprinkles in humorous comments on what the "original" version said, such as when Goldman is supposedly skipping 66 pages of historical details.

If you've been reading the earlier reviews, you know I like to read humorous sf from time to time. I think this is actually just a fluke of what I've been finding at used bookstores recently; overall I spend much more time reading regular sf. However, I do enjoy a funny book, and this is the funniest sf book I've ever read. Am I biased? Sure, I really like the movie. Still, I give this book 4 stars, as a humorous sf book. As far as you are concerned, as the reader of this review, you can consider your opinion of the movie to be an accurate assessment of how you'll like the book. If you don't like the movie, don't bother with the book. As far as just a sf book, apart from the humor, the plot isn't extremely strong, but that is not why you'd read the book.

The one flaw this book suffers from is that, really, if you've seen the movie, you will find few surprises in the book. It is hard to find this book as "fresh" as most novels are upon the first reading.