The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Brawne Lamia is tired and aching and very irritable. The sound of Sol Weintraub’s baby crying sets her teeth on edge. She knows the others are also tired; none has slept more than a few hours in the past three nights, and the day just ending has been filled with tension and unresolved terrors. She sets the last piece of wood on the fire.

This won the 1991 BSFA Award for best Novel, beating Eternal Light by Paul J. McAuley, Raft by Stephen Baxter, The Architecture of Desire by Mary Gentle and Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. I’ve read all the others bar Eternal Light and have to admit I don’t remember enough about them to judge how sound the voters’ decision was; I will say that I enjoyed the Pratchett much more on recent rereading. The Fall of Hyperion also won the 1991 Locus Award and was on the final ballot for both Hugo and Nebula, beaten by The Vor Game and Tehanu respectively, and was also beaten by Synners for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (for which it was shortlisted together with Hyperion). It is the sequel to Hyperion which won the Hugo the previous year.

My previous notes (some of them linked above) indicate that I was impressed by this when I first read it, as I was by Hyperion. I was not so impressed this time, perhaps because my reading over three weeks was necessarily chopped around by the diversions of travel and the Christmas holidays and I lost concentration. I had forgotten a lot about the setting in the eight years since I re-read Hyperion, and in particular I failed to grasp the connection between the fates of the pilgrims and the overall interplanetary political picture. One or two of the characters remained interesting – the twist at the end about the nature of Moneta was well done – but I struggled to make out what was going on and why I should care. I ended up with the feeling that a 500-page sequel to a 500-page book will sometimes get voter support not because it has been done well, but because it has been done at all.

You can get The Fall of Hyperion here, or the Hyperion Cantos together here.

That concludes my write-up of the Tiptree, Clarke and BSFA winners of 1991. (I am struck looking back at how little I am impressed by the winners of that year; I think A Woman of the Iron People is the only one I’d unequivocally recommend.) For 1992, I have written up China Mountain Zhang (Tiptree) and Red Mars (BSFA) fairly recently, so next on this list is the Clarke winner Body of Glass, aka He, She and It, by Marge Piercy.

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