Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So is the Shrike dead or what?

Back in June I read a book entitled Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It was required reading by the program just as the romance book Bet Me is required this time around. Hyperion is pretty hard science fiction reading, something that actually surprised me because I enjoyed it so much. Up until that point I'd been pretty convinced that I wasn't a fan of hard SF. Now I think it's just like any other genre; some books have it, some don't. I guess I never should have thought anything in the first place because I'd never really read any hard SF, so technically, I had nothing to go by.

Anywho, that book ended on a "to be continued" note, so naturally I decided I had to read the next book. How could I not? I mean, come on, you're talking to the girl who reviewed over 50 volumes of Inuyasha and a ton of Fushigi Yuugi like a loser. Basically I finish what I start, and besides, since I enjoyed Hyperion so much, I figured I'd probably enjoy the next installement.

Good times.

Granted, sometimes Simmons will ramble on with tidbits of information we really don't need, which I'm sure could pare the book down by...probably a decent number of pages, but oh well. To me, it never really gets excessive. Mostly because somehow he manages to make it seem relevant and it doesn't get too boring or repetitive. Compare that to Jane Eyre and the entire page dedicated to how blue the sky is. Ok, I get it, move on please. Yikes. The techno-babble never bothered me because it settled in so nicely to the rest of the text. There were a few places where I thought, "What?" but not many and they didn't seem to major so that if I didn't fully understand it wasn't any big deal.

For a brief moment in time, when I read that the AI's "God" was at war with a human developed "God" I almost laughed in an "Aaaah, you've got to be kidding me" way. Something like that meant that after hundreds of pages, everything boiled down to a hyper-detailed and elaborate version of humankind vs. artificial intelligence (that we created...yet again. Why are we always doing this? You'd think humankind would know by now). But there's way too much going on for it really to be trimmed down to just that. Even if it sort of still is. If any of that makes sense. Mostly because it's not so much "robot vs. human" like in Terminator or The Matrix, but that on a higher plane of existence. Strange, but that's the best I can describe it.

It was a wild ride, though I have to say, I was getting a little....maybe not annoyed, so much as "Get on with it!" Monty Python style with the whole John Keats thing. Is Dan Simmons obsessed with John Keats? Did he write some graduate dissertation on the man or something? Having poetry laced throughout this kind of SF book was a little weird, occasionally annoying, and sometimes fitting. For example, the giant AI personality speaks in verse at several points which was both annoying and yet in some ways fitting. I know a lot of people would roll their eyes and think, "Lame. Why is an advanced AI rambling in poetic verse?" Yeah, I tend to agree. However, the simple fact that I've never heard of or encountered any other AI doing so gives this an interesting twist. Then again, as I've said before, I've not read much in terms of hard SF, or anything that's ever had AI in it either.

There are still plenty of questions to be asked. What happened to all those poor bastards on the Shrike's thorn three? How many Shrikes are there? What was up with Brawne's air-walking and Shrike killing? And the whole time traveling thing makes me feel like I was just in the middle of some really bizarre episode of Doctor Who. But concerning all the weird stuff that went down in this book, I tend to agree, or at least apply the Doctor's concept of time as being just a big ball of wobbly...stuff. Certainly seems that way here.

Of course, I'll have to read the next book. Yes, that's right. The craziness keeps on going. There's Endymion and The Rise of Endymion to go through. With this thing going through crazy AI, humans, semi-humans, non-humans, portals, time travel, Gods, and other totally off the chart I-don't-even-know-what, how can I not read the next couple of books? Besides, I want to know who wins the war, that the real deal is with the Shrike, and what this supposed message is that is so universe-shattering. ...I'll bet I'm the only one out of the whole residency group that plans to read all four books.

Hey, I told you I finish what I start.

And by the way, the cover art for this book sucks. That Shrike is not scary and dammit, the thing has four arms, not two! Does no one tell the artists of this? Becuase I don't think it had four arms on the first cover either, but that one looked a little freakier at least...

Currently: BLEH!

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