Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Perry Rhodan #1: Enterprise Stardust & #2: The Radiant Dome - Fun Retro Sci-Fi from Germany

Perry Rhodan: Enterprise Stardust & The Radiant Dome By K.H. Scheel and Walter Ernsting

Just as I was finishing another book and wondering what to read next, a friend on Facebook ended my wondering by telling me about a series of books that I had never heard anything about. That is probably because the books he pointed me to is a German pulp fiction series that began publication in 1961 and is still going today. The Perry Rhodan series is found in novella form and is widely popular in Western Europe. Even though there was an attempt to bring these stories to the United States in the late 1970’s, it never caught on. When I looked the name up on Google, I discovered I could easily spend the rest of my life catching up on these stories, if they were all translated into English. My friend sent me the first 120 novellas in the ePub format that I have to convert into the Mobi format to read on my Kindle (yeah, there’s an app for that).

The first two novellas I have read so far involve a first contact situation. In Enterprise Stardust, American astronaut and physicist, Major Perry Rhodan, leads the first expedition to the moon in a spacecraft called the Stardust. With all of his crew’s training complete and the spacecraft outfitted with enough supplies for the trip, the ship launches for the several-days long trip to the moon. Unfortunately, there are some radio emission from the lunar surface that cause the ship to malfunction forcing Rhodan to crash land on Earth’s only natural satellite. The Stardust ends up near the south polar region of the moon, just out of the line of sight with the Earth and their base in Nevada. Fortunately for the crew, the damage to the ship is minimal and easily repaired, but the radio emissions are preventing the Stardust from a return trip. In an effort to learn and correct whatever is causing the radio interference, Rhodan leads a few of his crew on a ride to the source of the problem

Upon arrival, the Terrans discover a huge spherical ship that belongs to an alien race calling themselves Arkonians. They appear to be an interesting race. The leaders are intelligent, but the rest of the crew only seem interested in playing some sort of video games, and outside of that, would seem to be imbecilic. The main body of work is carried out by artificial intelligences in the form of robots. The commander of the alien ship is a female who is quite militant and has a great deal of disdain for the inhabitants of Earth, considering them to be low class of intelligence, at least by their standards. On the other hand, there is also an Arkonian scientist on board the alien craft that finds humanity quite fascinating, which saves Rhodan and his companions from being killed out of hand.

Perry notices that the Arkonian scientist is not well and Rhodan callus upon a doctor from the Stardust who examines the Arkonian. The doctor discovers that the scientist has leukemia and will die without treatment. After talking with the alien commander, Rhodan is able to convince her to allow him to take the scientist back to Earth to be cured of the blood disease. Perry and his crew travel back to the Earth knowing that if he lands at his base in Nevada, the military will take the Arkonian into custody. This will likely trigger a nuclear war between the superpowers on the planet, which appears to be imminent anyway. WIth the help of the Arkonians, the Stardust returns.  Rhodan lands his ship in the middle of the Gobi desert where none of the Earth’s superpowers will have access to the alien scientist before he can devise a defense. Rhodan is very concerned that if the alien should fall into the custody of any one government, they would try to wring secrets out of him to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. This is where the first story leaves off.

The second installment, The Radiant Dome, picks up where the first ends with Rhodan, his crew, and the Arkonian scientist in the Gobi. The ship is being protected by an invisible dome that is generated by a machine on board. Further, the Arkonian commander is also transmitting a field that renders nuclear weapons inert. The scientist is treated with a miracle medicine and is cured of leukemia, but remains in a coma while his body heals from the stresses that has been placed upon it. In the meantime, the superpowers all gather to try to convince Rhodan that he has to turn over the scientist and tell everything he and his crew has learned. Rhodan remains steadfast in that he is not going to cooperate and announces that he is setting up his own superpower to thwart the plans of the three existing powers, knowing that they will only exploit the Arkonian and his knowledge to further the cause of war among them.

When the commanders of the superpowers learn that they are being stopped by the Arkonians still on the moon, they launch three manned rockets to destroy the spacecraft on the moon. The rockets are armed with a type of weapon that cannot be affected by the Arkonian damping field At the same time, they begin a heavy bombardment on the dome that is protecting Rhodan’s ship in an attempt to overload the generator and take it out. The three ships make it to the moon and deliver their cargo of bombs, but not before the alien commander escapes to Earth, joining Rhodan and her fellow Arkonian. The dome generator is about to overload and burnout when the Arkonian scientist wakes from his coma and explains how to repair the machine.

Despite being stranded on Earth, the commander accepts that she and her scientist compatriot will never be able to return to their home. That is where The Radiant Dome ends, I presume that the story will continue in the third novella.

First off, I will say that I enjoyed these stories a lot, and what I didn’t like was mostly technical in nature. While the translation of the text was very good, there were a few typos here and there that weren’t too distracting, however the formatting of the translation from the ePub format to the MOBI was not at all good and, for the most part, caused me some confusion as I read the story. The paragraphs, in many places, ran together and the dialog was hard to follow. Often times I had trouble knowing which character was saying what and had to reread a lot to make sense of it. After a while though, I was able to adapt to the problems and with a little careful reading, I was able to enjoy the story. That is the only complaint I have about these stories. I corrected this by downloading an ePub app on my iPad. The formatting is far better and will make the text easier to follow.

I liked pretty much everything else about the stories. They are short and easily read in one or two sittings, and they are focused. There is also a lot of story packed into the text including details that are well described and offer a vivid backdrop. In Enterprise Stardust, the writers go into some detail on the structure of the ship and how it gets to the moon. It was pretty astounding to me how close the writers came to describing a mission to the moon that wouldn’t take place for over eight and a half years before the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon. Rhodan was in command of a three-staged vehicle that used chemical propellant for the first two stages, then used nuclear power to make the trip to the moon. So while not being totally accurate, the authors pretty well understood how things might be done.

I also enjoyed getting to know Perry Rhodan, hard-nosed commander but also a man with principles. He is smart and can make snap decisions. All around the perfect man for the job, whatever it may be. He makes me think of other characters such as Buck Rogers, Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and others that filled the same role as a flawless hero that never lets his friends down. Not only is Rhodan able to think his way out of situations, he is also a charmer to boot, as one might expect from a character from the early 60’s. He was able to get the captain of the alien vessel to go along with his ideas despite her better judgement. It would be interesting to read a more modern version of one of these stories to see if the women are made to be stronger as we move into this era.

Rhodan is accompanied by a few companions in these two novellas and they all look to his leadership and knowledge for guidance in nearly every situation. It is quite amusing how Rhodan remains in complete control of himself while everyone around him continually goes to pieces until the leader intervenes and brings everyone back to their senses.

The technology is quite far fetched all the way through, but that is one of the things that make the stories interesting. In the days of past sci-fi, the fantastic was what people wanted. The more over the top it was, the better. In today’s sci-fi, it seems that people want what is at least plausible. I suppose that is because what seemed out of reach fifty years ago has now become reality.
In any case, I had fun reading these stories and have several more that I can call upon between books to read for podcasts run out. The Facebook friend that suggested I read some of these books said that if I start I will get hooked and what to continue reading. I will continue reading the Perry Rhodan stories, but I think I will be interspersing them with other, more modern stories.

Well, there it is…


Qapla’!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Promise of Stars: A Great Collection Of Young Adult Fiction And On Meeting David Gerrold

A Promise of Stars by David Gerrold

Back on March 2-4, 2018, the Gage County (Nebraska) Historical Society held a celebration of the life and work of Gene Coon. The event was held in the city of Beatrice, Nebraska, the birthplace of Coon, whom many of us will know as a writer and producer for original series Star Trek. When I learned that David Gerrold was going to appear in person at this celebration, I knew that I had to go. David appeared at the public library at the and of the day for a meet-and-greet and a book signing session. So I waited my turn in line choosing to get two Tribbles (Chrissy would have never forgiven me if I hadn’t brought one home for her) and the book, A Promise Of Stars. As an addendum, I will discuss more about meeting Mr. Gerrold after the book discussion.

When I picked up this book, I thought I was purchasing a short story collection. While there are a couple of short stories contained therein, there are also what Gerrold calls short novels. In any case, A Promise Of Stars is a collection of stories that are young adult sci-fi, owing to the fact that the stories all focus on young people. There are five stories in the volume and each one is unique, but after reading, I found some common threads that connected the stories, mostly in some of the terminology used by the characters. In the seven stories are some interesting and appealing adventures, but it was the first one that I was very much able to relate to personally. I would imagine that many of us who are older, sci-fi fans can relate to it as well. That first story is called Nowhere Man.

Have you ever been that kid that constantly gets picked on? You read hard books for enjoyment, you do well in your classes, you might even be a little bored with school because things come easy for you. But instead of receiving admiration, you have to put up with some bully that constantly ridicules you, and may even cause you harm if you stand up for yourself. Yeah, I was that kid.

I wasn’t necessarily any smarter than anyone else, but I loved school and took learning very seriously. I studied my butt off all the time. I also enjoyed learning when I didn’t have to. I was a nerd before the word nerd even became common. Well, I always wanted to get back at those that made going to school torture outside the classroom and that is what Nowhere Man is about. A young man, a genius really, teams up with his uncle and devises something that allows him to get his revenge. I must say, I wish I had come up with the idea to avenge myself upon my antagonists in the way the hero does.

Other stories include:

  • A father attempting to kidnap his sons by taking them to the moon, but there is an interesting twist for this dysfunctional family. 
  • A group of young people are taken to the moon to work on a habitat, but as will happen with young people, hormones get in the way.
  • A young woman and her grandmother literally knit a starship after their lives are changed due to some shady business practices.

And there are more, including a very short and very interesting list of what future travelers to the moon might comment after they return.

One of the things I appreciate most in an author is that person’s ability to write in such a way that I can visualize the people, places, and things that they are communicating in their stories. If I cannot get pictures in my mind’s eye of what I am reading, then I usually give up on the book. Mr. Gerrold is a master at painting pictures with his words.  I hold his work up there with Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, and Ellison in that regard. I have not read as much of David’s work as I should, but what I have read fits the bill brilliantly. I will absolutely include the collection, A Promise of Stars as one of those that fit the bill because the writing flowed off the page and the internal visuals I got were stunning.

There’s also a lot of emotional content in A Promise that runs from the feeling of triumph to deep despair. There is also fear, apprehension, and a lot of love. And perhaps that is what sets David apart from more common writers, he loves what he does and it is obvious. I especially enjoy what I call David’s lists. He will take a commonly used phrase and find every synonym to that phrase and then even  make up a few more. Some are quite humorous, some are irreverent, and some will even make the reader blush, but they are never boring. I catch myself reading David’s lists a couple of times to be sure I don’t miss something before I go on with the story.

In any case, I highly recommend A Promise of Stars as a collection of great stories that are well told. One might even read this volume as an introduction to the authors brilliant work without investing in a full novel.

So, with the book review part of the post done, I will continue with my experience meeting and talking, however all too briefly, with David Gerrold. Just a quick note here, I am calling what came before this a book review, which I know David would disagree. A while back, David posted on Facebook what a review is, and there is way too much about myself in what I have written; a book review should be about the book and not about the reviewer (See sir, I am paying attention). So, there is the reason that I am writing reviews on a blog as opposed to writing professionally.

I have known the name David Gerrold for most of my life, ever since I first saw his name as the writer of The Trouble with Tribbles. After that, I began seeing his name on a number of television shows that I enjoyed; Babylon 5, Land of the Lost, and Twilight Zone to name a few. I found him on Facebook and clicked the “Friend” button and waited. And I waited and waited.  And I waited some more. I kind of felt bad that he hadn’t responded to my Friend request until I learned that his cue was completely full, and there was no more room for friends and that I was on a waiting list. So I continued waiting. One day, I was surprised that I had been accepted as a friend.

Since that time, and before, when I was a follower, I have enjoyed reading David’s Facebook posts and have learned a lot from them. David is a self proclaimed curmudgeon, and describes himself as an old grouch and not a nice man. He posts on many subjects and if one takes the time to read his posts, one can gain some insight on humor, politics, and a number of other subects. He is outstanding at expressing himself, as I have already mentioned. He will even accept argument and disagreement, but be warned, your argument better be well researched and based on evidence, otherwise you may find yourself getting launched on his famous “Trebuchet.” In other words, off the friends list. So needless to say, I was not sure about who I was going to meet when I went to the event in Beatrice.

I found out about the celebration for one of Beatrice’s native sons, Gene L. Coon, quite by accident on Facebook from a friend who was planning to go and was spreading the word. I thought it would be fun to take a drive and spend the day at a place I have heard about, but have never been. Then I learned that David Gerrold was going to be a guest speaker and signing books there and that pretty much made it a must go for me.

Although it was touted as a three-day event, I was only able to attend on Saturday. I had brought my Klingon costume and had intended to wear it for most of the day while at the event, but when I arrived, I saw immediately that it was not that kind of event, so my Klingon persona remained in the trunk. At any rate, there was a speaker who talked about Gene Coon’s roots in Beatrice, his time in the military, and how he came to be in Hollywood as a writer/producer for television. I was not aware that Coon had done so much in television and that he had penned episodes for many of my favorite television shows. Following the talk, the audience was treated to an episode each of Wagon Train and Bonanza, both written by Gene Coon. At noon, we were sent to lunch and I finally got to see David Gerrold in the flesh who was the guest of honor at a Q. & A. session at the local Valentino's (I will just add here that the food was excellent, and if you are in Beatrice, consider stopping at Valentino's!). I raised my hand to ask a question, and knowing that David was good friends with Harlan Ellison, I thought to ask after him. It was almost three and a half years since Ellison had had a stroke, and I wondered how he was doing and if he was working again. David’s answer was that Harlan was still Harlan and that he would pass along well wishes to him (in case you weren’t aware, Harlan Ellison, a man that I admired as a champion for what is right, recently passed away).

After lunch, it was back to the theater for David Gerrold’s keynote speech and another Q&A session with the audience. David talked for nearly ninety minutes about his relationship with Gene Coon who turned out to be a mentor. Next up were two episodes of Star Trek by Gene Coon, one was Devil in the Dark and the second was A Taste of Armageddon.

Following an hour dinner break, I headed over to the public library where David was having a book signing session. I finally had my chance and when I got my turn in line, and after purchasing the Tribbles and the book, I asked David if he would mind if I had a photo with him, to which he heartily agreed. So, online, he may be a curmudgeon, but in person, he is a very nice man and friendly with fans. I handed my camera to a friend and took my place behind the table with David. When the picture was snapped, he announced to those gathered, “This is our engagement picture!” everyone, including me, cracked up and it was great fun.  I thanked him for the photo opportunity and told him that I appreciated his writings on Facebook and that I had learned a lot from him. I further mentioned that because of what I do, and the political climate locally, that I was unfortunately unable to interact on Facebook with him. He turned to me, and whispered in my ear some advice. He said, “Keep reading and vote.” Four words that say a lot. To David, I promise you that I will do as you suggest.

It is my hope that one day, I will have the opportunity to see David again and maybe even get him to autograph that engagement picture.

Well, there it is…


Qapla'!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Cabal By Michael Jan Friedman - A Collection Of Stories That Just Didn't Want To Be Novels

Cabal And Other Unlikely Invocations Of The Muse by Michael Jan Friedman

I cannot remember when I received my autographed copy of Cabal, but I am pretty sure that I was in the middle of some thousand-page fantasy story that I had to read for the podcast I am on called The Orbital Sword. So, since my reading time is very limited during the school year, Cabal was, unfortunately set aside until I could get to it. Well, summer vacation arrived and I finally picked it up and read it, and in a word, wow!

Mike Friedman has, for the last few years, gone to self-publishing his books because the big publishers believe that some writer’s stuff is too niche to have a wide appeal and that the books won’t sell. I don’t know, maybe they’re right, or maybe they are just overlooking some really good stories. At any rate, Cabal and Other Unlikely Invocations of the Muse, or just Cabal to make it easier to type, is a collection of seven short stories that are each unique, fascinating, and very entertaining. Now, Mike is not generally known for being a short story writer, rather he is known for novels and comic books. He explains in the foreword to Cabal that he wanted to write a novel about a superhero who is not popular with a small segment of the population, and a few in that small segment decide that the superhero has to be taken out of the picture. But he goes on to say that this story didn’t want to be a novel, it wanted to be something shorter, more like a novella. So, quite “flummoxed” as Mike puts it, he just gave in and made the story a novella. Apparently there were other stories running through his mind that also didn’t want to be novels, so Mike decided to take these stories and put them into a single book.

What is inside the cover are seven stories that are about various people in some situations that are from Mike’s vivid imagination. The stories are…


  • Aztlan: Speaker of Verse: A short prequel to Mike’s Aztlan novels, we enter a world in which the Aztecs have survived into modern times. The main character, Max Colhua, has just become a newly minted detective and while standing in a food vendor’s line, gets a call to work his first murder case. A very high profile case and his future will depend on getting it right.



  • Behind Every Great Enhanced Being: We get to peak at the mail between the moms of a some superbeings. Things get a bit heated in this one.


  • Floaters: An unscrupulous old curmudgeon gets a common condition where he sees spots, the reason he gets them is uncommon as he learns from a source that he consults out of desperation. Only a change will help him.


  • Flame’s Hole: A man on a quest to destroy a ring that could cause a lot of problems finds that there are more problems beyond his mission.


  • The Wall: “Yeah, that Wall” is about a look at things from another point of view. You’ll just have to read it to get it. Quite thought provoking.


  • The Scales of Justice: A young, but very intelligent female lawyer argues a case to try to right an old wrong during a time when women aren’t supposed to be that smart.


  • Cabal: A small contingent of people work to put an end to the life of a superhero that they see as a super-menace.

What Mike demonstrates in Cabal is the masterful ability to take one through a story while at the same time, develop fascinating characters as the story is in progress. By the time one gets to the and of a tale, one knows the character well enough to have some feelings for them, and it isn’t always positive feelings. I loved the “soccer-mom” like exchange between the characters in Behind Every Great Enhanced Being. You can feel the tension rising between the moms of the superbeings as accusations and counter accusations fly back and forth. Even in this format, we get to know the moms, and the children they are discussing in some pretty fine detail.

Another aspect that I enjoy in Cabal are the emotional outcomes that I felt as I read each story. In Floaters for instance, I did not like the main character very much. He is not a very nice man, he is very self centered and not at all caring about the important position he holds, other than what he can get out of it for himself. I felt some satisfaction knowing that he might get what he has coming to him, and I laughed when I read what had happened to others in his situation. In Flame’s Hole, I truly felt bad for the main character because all he wanted to do was finish his task and go home. Things just kept getting in the way and I wonder if he will ever be allowed to go.

I have to say though, that my favorite story in the book was Aztlan: Speaker of Verse. I have read both of the Aztlan books that are available and have enjoyed reading about the exploits of Max Colhua in the 20th Century Aztec world that Mike created. While there is some background on Max in the novels, Speaker of Verse gives us a glimpse of the character before he was allowed to work on his own. Max is a relentless gumshoe detective who plods along until he solves the case. He is right out of a film noir, and is fun to read. Perhaps it is because it is familiar ground that I enjoyed this story, only just slightly, above the others. But don’t misunderstand, everything in this volume is of the highest quality as far as stories and characters are concerned.

Along with that, I gotta say that I sailed through this book wanting to read on and on. One thing I noted as I read was how the text flowed so easily along. It is seldom I read something where there is a point that I have to stop, reread, and comprehend before I move on to the next idea. There were no such places in Cabal. It is a smooth read.

I will tell you that I did contribute to the KickStarter for this book and that when Mike announces his next project, I will be on board. So Mike, what’s next?

Well, there it is…

Qapla’!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Time Off By John Shoberg - A Vacation Through The Galaxy Is Not All The Hero Is In For!

Time Off by John Shoberg

Looking at the cover of Time Off doesn’t reflect what is inside the book itself. On the cover we see someone in a spacesuit floating above a planet. Everything looks tranquil and happy which is the way it is supposed to be when one takes an interstellar vacation aboard a space going cruise ship, right? Well, it is not so for the main character of this novel, one Mr. Ed Tanner, a stressed out veteran of the SEALs. Ed works as a consultant for a company related to the military and when his boss notices that his stress level is rising beyond healthy levels, he sends Ed on vacation. Ed decides that he has enough stashed away to take a jaunt aboard a luxury liner where he expects to travel around the galaxy relax, enjoy being waited upon, and visit some exotic places. Further, Ed is plagued with something that might be taken for PTSD as he has bad dreams that wake him in the middle of the night. He dreams of a mistake he made as a sniper in the SEALs. What he doesn’t know is that the dreams and memories are false.

Ed’s cruise is anything but peaceful; even before he boards the ship, an attempt is made on his life and this is where the nonstop action begins in Time Off. Another thing that he doesn’t know is that there is a sinister plot to develop a device that is supposed to be beneficial to everyone but can also be perverted into a weapon of mass destruction that will end everything.

When our hero is finally allowed to settle down aboard the ship, he meets new people, and even friends that he has known for a while, just like one is supposed to when on board a ship. But it seems that someone is determined to ruin his time off and they do manage to make things quite uncomfortable as his cabin is broken into, bugged and his belongings disappear. Not to mention that equipment he is to use for EVA excursions is sabotaged. As he confronts people that he finds responsible for these acts, he seems to be debilitated because everytime he confronts someone, he becomes violently ill and is unable to act, so he can barely defend himself.

I know John Shoberg, the author of this story, and it reflects the kind of person that he is. One thing about John is that he never seems to sit idle, and Time Off definitely does not slow down. The action in the book is ongoing from the beginning to then end and I found that I was engaged all the way through. Every now and then, as I read this book, I found that I needed to take a break for a short time because it moves so fast. Another thing I will share about John is that he appreciates when an author shows the reader a story as opposed to just telling a story. In this, John has succeeded in this his first published novel. His descriptions of the action, people, places, and things unfold much as a movie would on the screen.

What appealed to me most about Time Off is the cast of supporting characters that the author included in this volume. I absolutely loved the holographic detective that appeared, and disappeared as time went on because he was a very noir-like relentless gumshoe type who may not have said much, but spoke volumes by what wasn’t said. The ship’s captain was also an interesting character as he tended to be another antagonist to Ed, blaming him for everything that was happening on board his liner, not realizing that Ed was actually being made a victim. It made for a very ironic situation.

What is also interesting in this book is how it shifts from taking place on a cruise ship and turns into a military operation designed to shutdown the big antagonist of the story. John has never served in the military, but one gets an impression that he is well read in the military story genre. The ending of the story picks up the pace even more than the matter before and paints a picture of something far more serious.

In any case, Time Off is a fun romp and a roller coaster ride set in a future that John makes seem plausible as his characters move comfortably through it. It is a fast read that never strays from the plot. I wouldn't tag Time Off as hard sci-fi, but it is easy to read and moves at a pace with will hold a reader’s attention.

As I mentioned above, John Shoberg is not one to stand idle and let grass grow under his feet. He is active on the convention circuit as a panelist and teacher, quite knowledgeable in the area of costume building and how to organize activities. He is an active member of the Klingon Assault Group, and the 501st Legion.  If you are in Florida where he lives you may see him as a stormtrooper, or even as Darth Vader in parades and perhaps elsewhere. John is also one of three hosts (I am another) on Bound By Honor: The Klingon Book Review Podcast available at KAG.org/podcast, and he also has appeared on many other podcasts discussing various aspects of Klingon Culture, activities, and costuming.

Well, there it is…


Qapla’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hyperion By Dan Simmons - Must Read Sci-Fi In A Story Within A Story Format

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

So, it finally happened. I ran out of stuff I had to read for the podcasts I am involved with and finally find that I have time to read things that I want to read, or at least look for books I want to read. I began a Google search for some ideas of sci-fi that might be considered essential for any fan to look into. I found Hyperion on many of the lists in my search. I downloaded it and almost immediately found myself hooked. This is the first book in a series called Hyperion Cantos, which I might translate as meaning “the song of Hyperion.” It is a Hugo and Locus award winner and I can certainly understand why.

One of the things one can expect a lot of in Hyperion is worldbuilding. Up until now, books I have read that contain as much about the setting of the story as this one does have been in the Fantasy genre. The known universe of Hyperion is somewhat complicated. There is no more Earth and people have moved out to live among the stars. There are numerous planets in the human organization known as the Hegemony. All of the planets of the Hegemony are connected by the “WorldWeb,” which is a network that allows people to travel instantaneously between worlds by “farcaster.” There are also planets that are not connected to the WorldWeb that can only be reached by spaceship, of which the planet Hyperion is one. Planets that are not connected are thought to be of little economic interest. A group of “interstellar barbarians” known as Ousters are headed toward Hyperion for some unknown purpose.

On Hyperion itself resides a being called the “Shrike.” It is a brutal killer that seems to permeate every part of human history and society.  At this point, I would have to call it an interstellar boogeyman, but it seems to be a very real threat. The Shrike is based on Hyperion but can travel through space and time at will. It is further described as having a metal shell that has spikes all over its body. It is named after a bird that impales its prey on the thorns of trees. At over nine feet tall and having four arms, it isn’t surprising that it terrifies the characters in the book as it would terrify children in nightmares. Apparently, the Shrike is associated with a place on Hyperion called the “Time Tombs.”

It is believed that the Time Tombs, a group of six structures in a remote valley on Hyperion, were built in the far future and are moving backwards in time. With the Ousters approaching Hyperion as well as some apparent activity at the site of the Time Tombs, a group of six pilgrims are sent there to investigate what is happening on Hyperion as a large part of the population is disappearing.

As the pilgrims approach Hyperion on a spaceship, they contemplate why the Ousters are approaching the planet. Knowing that it is going to be some time before they actually arrive at the Tombs, and because they don’t know why they have been selected for the pilgrimage, they decide to tell stories. They believe that by doing this, each will contribute to a piece of a puzzle of what is expected from them once they reach their goal.

Each of the main characters, save one, tells their story within the story as they travel to the Temples on Hyperion:

Father Lenar Hoyt is a young priest of the Catholic Church, which is apparently quite a challenge in the future. His tale is of events that actually are more about his mentor and friend, Fr. Paul Dure, and his time on Hyperion in a sort of archaeological expedition that goes wrong.

Colonel Fedmahn Kassad is an officer of the Force, this universe'smilitary. He is also known as the “Butcher of Bressia.” Beginning in his training days, Kassad is visited by a mysterious woman calling herself Moneta. These meetings take place over his entire career as a Force officer as he fights against the Ousters.

Martin Silenius is an old, foulmouthed, drunken poet that was highly respected by the higher-ups on Hyperion. He has been working on an epic poem called the Hyperion Cantos and needs to return to the Tombs to write an ending to his lifelong work.

Sol Weintraub is a well known scholar who is traveling with an infant. The story he tells is of his daughter, Rachel, who falls victim to an accident while studying in the Tombs. The accident drastically changes not only Rachel’s life, but also that of her family.

Brawne Lamia is a hardboiled, noir-like private detective from Lusia. She is hired by a Cybrid (an artificial intelligence in control of a human body) to investigate a murder. Her actions and findings may have profound effects on future events.

The Consul is a high government official who has been involved with politics all his life. He tells the tale of his planned rebellion against the Hegemony.

Het Masteen is the only one that does not tell a tale, but he is identified as the seventh pilgrim. He was supposed to tell his tale, but before his turn came around, he disappeared on the trip to the Tombs.

In its entirety, Hyperion is a book that is completely expository as it introduces the reader to what appears to be a very complicated universe. The real appeal for me in this book is in the tales that are told by the characters. Between the stories that are told by each character, and what takes place before, after, and in between each tale we get a good picture of what the main players are about, and what motivates them. Each one is appealing and is written so that they bring something to the entire group that will contribute to the whole, even though each one also has a private agenda. Each has a skill set that gives them a unique perspective on what will happen as the story continues to unfold in later books. I have given some thought as to who my favorite character is and am having a hard time deciding. All of the characters have appeal; even the snarky poet, Silenius, has a certain cynical outlook that is humorous, while at the same time somewhat pragmatic. While the individual stories not only reveal what the main characters are, they also help to develop the antagonist of the story - the Shrike.

Along with its imposing appearance, the Shrike has the ability to travel freely, and quickly, through time and space. It can attack so quickly that it’s victims sometimes don’t even see it. The Shrike’s body is covered with thorns and blades that will allow it to easily eviscerate its victims, but it does so in cruel, painful ways. It is also impervious to damage by conventional weapons and can survive after being submerged in molten lava. The Shrike is the stuff of childhood nightmares.

What appeals to me most about Hyperion is the craft with which the author can put words together. In the main character’s individual stories, Simmons tells the tale as his character might. In other words, the scholar’s language is well thought out and precise, the detective’s is much as one would expect from a hardboiled noir figure. His ability to capture and communicate each voice makes the novel even more engaging beyond the story. The story that takes place between the character’s stories is where he really shows his ability. For me, it was Simmon’s descriptions of people, places, and things that came off the page and flowed so smoothly, I would almost have to call it poetic.

I enjoy the story-within-a-story format of this book and I read it very quickly, mostly because I didn’t want to be away from it for long. It is a great story and an excellent introduction to the rest of the series of which there are three more books. I guarantee that I will be picking up those in the future. Hyperion is not something that one can read casually, it requires a reader’s full attention in order to savor the content and enjoy it to its fullest. I think that this is a must-read for fans of sci-fi.

Well, there it is…


Qapla’!

Edited By Benjamin Arrowood