I read the first book in the Hyperion Cantos, Hyperion, in 2009 and simply gushed, I loved it! So I read the next book, The Fall of Hyperion for the Sci-Fi Experience in 2010 and was sadly disappointed. Well, my review made it sound like I was disappointed (it was nominated for a Hugo so it couldn't be all bad) but I actually hated it and in fact was angry with it that it didn't live up to Hyperion. So three years later, I finally decided to try Endymion which has been on my ipod since I read Hyperion.
The verdict? I really enjoyed it. It didn't wow me, like Hyperion, but it was good. It takes place almost 300 years after The Fall of Hyperion so there are new main characters and yet there are constant references to the characters and events that took place in the prior two works. This is definitely not a stand alone story.
A lot has changed in those 300 years. The technological advances provided by the TechnoCore, such as the far casters and WorldWeb which allowed such a diverse and wide ranging Hegemony, have been destroyed. Communications and travel between the vast reaches of space which previously took seconds, now take years, even hundreds of years. And it is the Catholic Church, which has found a way to provide literal eternal life by using the cruciforms found on Hyperion, which is the controlling political and military power.
The story is of a young child, Aenea who emerges from the Time Tombs and her protector, Raul Endymion, as they try to escape from the Catholic Church in an antique space ship with an outlawed android to search for something on the now destroyed River Tethys.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the characters, as the author makes you care about all of them. Clearly we are supposed to be rooting for Aenea and her little troupe but I also really liked the Catholic priest charged with capturing her, Father de Soya. It was odd, as the story alternated between Aenea and Father de Soya to one minute be glad that Aenea had escaped again and feel bad the next minute that Father de Soya had failed again.
The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was, as in Hyperion, the vast array of incredible, richly imagined worlds that the travelers visit. Dan Simmons is masterful at creating fully realized worlds and describing them in such vivid detail that you feel like you are there. I loved Mare Infinitus, the water world with the gigantic and terrifying Lamp Mouth Leviathans. And I will not soon forget Sol Draconi Septem, the ice planet with the prime number obsessed indigenous Chitchatuk and the wraiths, their sole source of food and materials. And there being no other animals on the frozen planet other than humans and wraiths, the wraith's sole source of food is the Chitchatuk, plus they have a penchant for collecting human skulls.
Like Hyperion, this one clearly ended in the middle and we have to read The Rise of Endymion to see what happens next. But this was still a satisfying story. Not only did I enjoy getting to know the new characters and the action and adventure but we learn enough new things that drive the larger Hyperion Cantos story forward. I will definitely be reading the last book in the Cantos, The Rise of Endymion.