This sequel to Hyperion (reviewed on this blog on 28 March 08) continues where the first volume left off. The pilgrims are still in the valley of the Time Tombs on Hyperion (where most of them remain, more or less, for the duration of the tale), and one of the two main plot threads follows their stories as they try to solve the mystery of the Tombs while constantly threatened by the deadly Shrike. Interleaved with this is the first-person viewpoint of a new character, a second reincarnation of the poet John Keats created by one of the Artificial Intelligences of the TechnoCore. He is attached to the staff of Meina Gladstone, CEO of the human Hegemony of the Web, whose worlds are linked by the Core-run farcaster system; effectively teleportation gates. Gladstone is trying to cope with the crisis of an unexpectedly strong Ouster attack on the Hyperion system, which deepens when simultaneous attacks are reported on other Web worlds.
The plot switches locations between various Web worlds, what appears to be a recreation of the long-destroyed Earth, and different futures on Hyperion as the Time Tombs, travelling back from the future, begin to open. All (or, at least, most) is eventually revealed in a series of dramatic conclusions in which much of what had previously been understood is turned on its head.
The Fall of Hyperion sustains the remarkable inventive energy of the first volume, the constant references to Keats and his poetry, and the very high quality of the writing. This last reminds me most of Iain M Banks, although without the wry sense of humour. It also sustains the same leisurely pacing of the plot, which robs it what should have been an increasing sense of urgency as the climaxes are approached; only in the final pages is there any real sense of drama.
The first two Hyperion books are an impressive achievement which deserve the praise lavished on them. For me, the plot was too drawn-out and the writing too dispassionate to generate the kind of excitement which would have made them a great read rather than an admirable one. I have the two Endymion novels, which are distant sequels to the Hyperion ones, on my "to be read" shelf, but I think I'll have a break from Simmons before I get stuck into those…