The Hyperion Cantos Critical Essays

Dan Simmons


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Simmons’ early fiction was largely horror, with some fantasy, but Hyperion, which won the 1990 Hugo Award, is science fiction. The Hyperion Cantos might be described as metaphysical science fiction in that it deals with concepts relating to the universe as a whole. The two books are theological in that they offer a discourse on eschatology and predestination, as well as philosophical in their adaptation of the early Romantic concept of perfectibility as pure abstract process.

This work also falls within the category of recursive science fiction, which treats real people and the fictional worlds that they create as having equivalent reality. In placing a reconstructed John Keats persona at the center of the text, Simmons aligns this work with a number of other recursive texts, such as Tim Powers The Stress of Her Regard (1989), that make extensive use of the already self-reflexive lives and works of the major late Romantic figures, particularly George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), and John Keats. To these Romantic writers, the proper function of memory is to provide a path to the divine, using the mythopoeic powers of the imagination to transform base nature into transcendent reality. In postmodern fiction, especially in works dealing with cyberspace, the inspired order of memory has been reduced to the accumulation of data. This means that the...

(The entire section is 503 words.)