• Ian

What I am Reading (# 1)

Disclaimer: These blog posts are intended as brief conversations concerning what I am reading. Creativity is not only the production of creative works, but also their consumption. I believe it is important to think about other's works, and see how they might inspire or influence mine. These posts are also not intended as book reviews. Fact of the matter is, if I do not like a book I am reading, I won't take the time to discuss it. Lastly, I do not care how long something has been out in the world, I will not include any spoilers, in the event someone also wants to read these books.

Enjoy!

HYPERION by Dan Simmons (1989, Bantam Spectra)

I think this might be one of those instances that, mentioning I am just now reading Hyperion is a form of sci-fi blasphemy. I won't deny it, I am traditionally a fantasy reader, so I will fully admit I am late to the party.

Some of the best advice for buying a new bicycle is to try it out to see how it feels. Make sure you take it for a ride, feel how it turns, feel the saddle beneath you. Does it feel good to shift gears or does it seem difficult? How does your body feel? The point being; the longer you ride on a bike, small annoying problems become greater hindrances.

So too with books. The story is the ride. As you read, the characters, plot, events, climax, and conclusion are all the scenery, hills, and weather of the ride. The way the author writes is the bike. Just as an ill-fitting bike can ruin a ride on a gorgeous summer morning, a great story isn't a great story if it is poorly written.

As mentioned last week, the e-reader is a new wonderful tool that allows me to test-drive books. Perusing through chapter samples and previews I had read story after story that intrigued, but the writing was clunky or felt too conversational. Hyperion by Dan Simmons won me over within the first paragraph of the prologue.

The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmanioff''s Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below. A thunderstorm was brewing to the north. Bruise-black clouds silhouetted a forest of giant gymnosperms while stratocumulus towered nine kilometers high in a violent sky.

The atmosphere, the description, the mystery....I'm in.

The rest that followed set up a story that I immediately wanted to finish. Now here is the thing that Dan Simmons does that I think is brilliant. The book itself, (keep in mind I am 68% complete) is actually a compilation of stories told by the main characters as they take a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs. Really it is stories within the story. The connection of these stories, while all very different, is the mystery that Simmons creates. What he is able to do here, is write the different stories in a way that not only expresses and represents the personality of each character, but keeps the writing similar enough so that the jump for character to character isn't jarring.

Reading this book is a lesson for me in understanding the power of writing in story-telling. I'll admit, this may be a "no duh" for more avid readers and writers, but dissecting the craft is a way of understanding the craft. The words are the bicycle, and how I put them together dictates how pleasant the ride.

To quote the Martin Silenus, poet and pilgrim in Hyperion:

In the beginning was the Word. In the end...past honor, past life, past caring... In the end will be the Word.

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