Dan Simmons pays homage to The Canterbury Tales in Hyperion, his sweeping science fiction classic, by tracing a group of pilgrims who journey to confront the mysterious and godlike entity known as the Shrike. As they travel each one tells his or her tale of why they are compelled to go on this dangerous journey. We even find these long short stories or novellas entitled “The Priest’s Tale,” “The Poet’s Tale,” “The Soldier’s Tale” and so on.
While the novel
is full of galactic conflicts, “The Scholar’s Tale” is the emotional center of gravity of the book. In contrast to the interstellar intrigues, sexual pyrotechnics and inventive technological advances that pepper the book, here is the very intimate, moving story of a father and sick daughter. Sol Weintraub is mystified by, then grieves over, then travels the stars to find a cure for the illness.
Here too we find deep theological reflection on the story of Abraham called to sacrifice his son Isaac. Weintraub, a non-practicing Jew, often finds himself in an internal argument with the God he doesn’t even believe in. Nonetheless, Weintraub’s conversation partner always seems to win each interchange.
While we are left to read the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, to resolve these multiple storylines, it is worth the journey.