The first in a series of 4 books (the others being The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion), Hyperion is a science fiction novel set in the far future. The Earth had been destroyed centuries earlier and mankind lives in a federation of many planets called the Web (note that this book is from 1989; I bet if he wrote the book a few years later, he would’ve chosen a different nomenclature to avoid confusion). The Web consists of many planets linked together by farcasters (teleportation devices) and is ruled by a government called The Hegemony of Man, or The Hegemony for short (which is not as dictatorial and repressive as it sounds). Hyperion is a colonial world that is the center of much activity. There is much folklore about the mysterious Time Tombs and a nightmarish metallic thorned creature called The Shrike, worshipped by some and feared by all. At the same time, the spaceships of a barbarian horde called The Ousters are descending on the Hyperion system and a war is brewing between The Hegemony and The Ousters. A third party, a huge artificial intelligence called The TechnoCore also seems to be interested in Hyperion for unknown reasons. With war on the horizon, The Hegemony sends out a group of pilgrims to go to the Time Tombs on Hyperion and visit The Shrike. Why The Hegemony is sponsoring this pilgrimage is unclear, but each of the pilgrims has their own reasons for wanting to confront The Shrike. As they travel together, a Catholic priest, a soldier, a Jewish scholar and his child, a poet, a private detective, a diplomat, and a ship captain tell each other their stories of how they came to be on this dangerous mission. With all these travelers telling tales, it is reminiscent of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and that is not the only reference to English literature. Hyperion is also the title of an unfinished epic poem by 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats and the book has many other overt references to Keats.
It’s a fascinating book and very hard to put down, once you get started.