The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The two books of The Hyperion Cantos take their titles and themes from two unfinished poems by the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) that deal with the displacement in Greek mythology of the old gods, the Titans, by the new gods, the Olympians. In Dan Simmons’ work, Old Earth has been destroyed by a black hole, and humans are spread across two hundred worlds and moons scattered throughout a thousand light-years in space. Communication and travel are achieved through fatlines and farcasters, operated by Technocore Artificial Intelligences, who inhabit singularity environments and cyberspace. The artificial intelligences evolved in a symbiotic relationship with humankind but have decided that humans are no longer necessary.

There are three factions of artificial intelligences: the Volatiles, who want to remove humans altogether; the Ultimates, who are prepared to make way for a negotiated new order; and the Stables, who believe in continued coexistence. The fate of the universe depends on which of these groups is able to take control of the unforeseen variables occurring on the planet Hyperion. As the story opens, a number of futures theoretically are possible.

A cosmic conflict looms between the logically predestined Artificial Ultimate Intelligence and a newly evolved human Ultimate Intelligence, which is a triune god composed of Intellect, Empathy, and The Void Which Binds (or Quantum Reality). The Empathy part of this trinity has fled backward in time to avoid the conflict. To lure it back into the struggle, the artificial intelligences have accessed the worst nightmares of billions of humans to create an Avatar of Pain, called the Shrike. The idea is that the Shrike, which has impaled thousands of suffering humans on the branches of its Tree of Pain, will broadcast enough agony to drive Empathy out of hiding.

The Stable Artificial...

(The entire section is 774 words.)