What is the significance of Moneta in Dan Simmons' science fiction novel The Fall of Hyperion?
Dan Simmons’ 1990 science fiction novel The Fall of Hyperion, one of a trilogy, is a complicated story involving time-travel and ill-defined characters and concepts. Consequently, there really is no simple answer to the question of “what is the significance of Moneta” to the story. Besides the narrator, one of the main characters in Simmons’ novel is a military officer named Colonel Fedmahn Kassad. Colonel Kassad has fought, both in “reality” and in simulated battles wars that extended throughout human history and well into the future. A constant presence throughout these journeys through time has been Moneta. Moneta mysteriously appears to make love to Kassad, such as in the following passage in which the colonel recalls their first encounters, during the Battle at Agincourt:
“Moneta had first come to Kassad at Agincourt on a late-October morning in a.d. 1415. The fields had been strewn with French and English dead, the forest alive with the menace of a single enemy, but that enemy would have been the victor if not for the help of the tall woman with short hair, and eyes he would never forget. After their shared victory, still dappled with the blood of their vanquished knight, Kassad and the woman made love in the forest.”
And, in the following passage, Moneta’s mysterious and inexplicable presence again confounds both Colonel Kassad and the reader:
“Fedmahn Kassad and the shadow named Moneta had made love in the quiet corners of battlefields ranging from Antietam to QomRiyadh. Unknown to anyone, unseen by other stimsim cadets, Moneta had come to him in tropical nights on watch and during frozen days while under siege on the Russian steppes. They had whispered their passion in Kassad's dreams after nights of real victory on the island battlefields of Maui^Cffvenant and during the agony of physical reconstruction after his near-death on South Bressia. And always Moneta had been his single love--an overpowering passion mixed with the scent of blood and gunpowder, the taste of napalm and soft lips and ionized flesh.”
The difficulty in explaining Moneta’s identity and role in The Fall of Hyperion, however, lies in the author’s deliberately vague descriptions. Moneta is identified in different parts of the story as possibly interchangeable with the equally mysterious and ill-defined “Shrike” that apparently seeks Colonel Kassad and his men’s demise ["Colonel Kassad continues with his twin obsessions of finding the woman named Moneta and of killing the Shrike. He is aware that they may be one and the same."], and, towards the end, Moneta and Rachel, the biblical scholar Sol Weintraub’s daughter, are revealed to be one and the same, but how and why is left uncertain. Because The Fall of Hyperion involves so much time travel and so little useful detail regarding Shrikes and Moneta, the significance of the latter is difficult to articulate. She could be a metaphor for mankind’s inexplicable need to decimate each other, as she regularly appears in the midst of fighting and invariably compels Colonel Kassad to have sex with her, and the presumed parallels between sexual activities and war have been drummed into our collective heads for decades. She could function as a spy for the Shrike, or could actually be the Shrike. Probably, the greatest significance of Moneta lies in the claim by Rachel to be Moneta. Throughout the book, Rachel is presented as an infant being cradled by her father, Sol Weintraub. Weintraub, as noted, is a biblical scholar whose writings about the Old and New Testament may provide glimpses into whatever message Simmons is trying to convey, such as with the following:
“Weintraub had dealt with the New Testament's message as a presage of a new stage in that relationship--a stage wherein mankind would no longer sacrifice its children to any god, for any reason, but where parents . . . entire races of parents . . .would offer themselves up instead. Thus the Twentieth Century Holocausts, the Brief Exchange, the tripartite wars, the reckless centuries, and perhaps even the Big Mistake of '38. Finally, Weintraub had dealt with refusing all sacrifice, refusing any relationship with God except one of mutual respect and honest attempts at mutual understanding.”
Rachel is aging in reverse, from a 26-year-old woman to a baby. She will die on her first birthday. Rachel had returned from an archaeological expedition to Hyperion, contracting a fatal disease known as “Merlin’s sickness.” Weintraub’s deep interest in biblical studies, especially with the notion of total obedience to God and with the Abrahamic experience of being ordered to sacrifice one’s child, has clearly colored his perspective, especially with Rachel’s contraction of a fatal disease that is causing her to age backwards. As Simmons writes,
“Sol heard the answer in his mind even as he groped for the words. There would be no More offerings. Not this day. Not any day. Humankind had suffered enough for its love of gods, its long search for God. He thought of the many centuries in which his people, the Jews, had negotiated with God, complaining, bickering, decrying the unfairness of things but always--always--returning to obedience at whatever the cost. . . Sol had solved Abraham's problem of obedience to a God turned malicious. Obedience could no longer be paramount in relations between humanity and its deity. But when the child chosen as sacrifice asked for obedience to that God's whim?”
So, if Rachel and Moneta are one the same, and Rachel is representative of biblical prophecy, and Moneta always appears in the midst of massive violence to make love to a warrior, then one can conclude that Moneta’s significance is as a divine presence guiding mankind to its end of days. This, however, is pure speculation. Weintraub sacrifices Rachel by giving her to the Shrike or, as Simmons wrote, “Sol Weintraub had handed his only child to a creature of death.” By sacrificing his daughter, Weintraub demonstrated that he was beyond the reach of any God or, as described in the novel,
“By denying the sacrifice at the last moment, by stopping the knife, God had earned the right--in Abraham's eyes and the hearts of his offspring--to become the God of Abraham.”
By following through and sacrificing Rachel, Weintraub could assess that no God was above him. Which brings us back to Moneta. Near the end of The Fall of Hyperion, Simmons attempts to resolve some of the mystery surrounding this mysterious figure. Rachel’s revelation that she is Moneta occurs as follows:
"Colonel Kassad knew you as Moneta," said Martin Silenus.
"Wi// know me as Moneta," said Rachel, her eyes clouding. "I have seen him die and accompanied his tomb to the past. I know that part of my mission is to meet this fabled warrior and lead him forward to the final battle. I have not truly met him yet." She looked down the valley toward the Crystal Monolith. "Moneta," she mused. "It means 'Admonisher' in Latin. Appropriate. I will let him choose between that and Mnemosyne--'memory'--for my name."
Moneta is apparently a messenger, but precisely what is the nature of that message is impossible to ascertain, unless one can communicate with Dan Simmons.