Sequels are notoriously hard, perhaps even impossible, to pull off in a satisfying manner. Should you hew closely to the formula that resulted in your initial success? How much can you evolve your work while retaining as many fans as possible? Can anything really live up to the original?

Enter Dan Simmons and Endymion ( | Amazon), the 1996 follow up to the Nebula and Locus award winning Hyperion. Simmons’s approach to (hopefully) avoiding a sophomore slump was to write a 1,000-page book, split it in half, and publish it as two separate books. The Fall of Hyperion may technically be the sequel to Hyperion, but it is really the conclusion of the original story. Thus, Endymion—the third book of four in the Hyperion Cantos, followed by the finale, The Rise of Endymion—is the work that actually bears the burden of a traditional sequel.

Simmons chose to evolve his formula for Hyperion’s sequel as Endymion takes place in the same universe but is set hundreds of years after the events of the first two books. The events and characters of the original story have faded into legend since the fall of humanity’s intergalactic empire at the conclusion of The Fall of Hyperion, though they continue to haunt Endymion‘s story at various points. A resurgent Catholic Church, thanks to its mastery of the mysterious resurrection parasite called the cruciform, has filled the void left after the fall and has become the dominant political power in the universe in the form of a theocratic government called the Pax.

MORE: Don’t miss our review of Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

Even a Good Structure Can Collapse Under its Own Weight

The story uses a dual hunter/hunted point of view as its structure to tell the story of Raul Endymion and the messianic Aenea as they flee from Pax forces led by Father Captain Federico de Soya. The Pax believes that Aenea is a threat to the Church’s dominance in human affairs and has chosen de Soya to capture her. But Simmons tries the same trick with this book that he did with Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion—it turns out that the 600 pages of Endymion is just the first half of the story. An additional 800 pages in The Rise of Endymion is required to complete the story.

The hunter/hunted structure serves Endymion well as the cat-and-mouse game provides enough tension to push the book towards its end and give its characters (especially de Soya) room to develop. Unfortunately, this structure continues into The Rise of Endymion and begins to collapse under its own weight, resulting in a 1,400-page story that could easily be cut down by 400 pages. This is especially apparent when, at multiple points, Simmons resorts to 20-page sections of dialog to explain some mysteries and conclude an act of the story, separated by hundreds of pages describing planets and characters in immense detail despite the fact that they don’t have any significant impact on the story.

The original covers for Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.

Excellent Antagonists Chasing Flat Protagonists

The de Soya and the Pax plot lines are a highlight throughout both books. They are tight, full of mystery and intrigue, and driven by interesting characters. (I have no idea why the Pax point of view is unceremoniously abandoned halfway through The Rise of Endymion.) Raul, on the other hand, is both the protagonist and the flattest, must uninteresting character in the story. This makes it particularly difficult to make it through the more plodding sections of The Rise of Endymion, so feel free to skim as you see fit.

Aenea is more interesting as a quasi-messiah who can see potential futures. But her character falls prey to the lack of development that characters who can see the future often suffer from. Simmons (somehow) didn’t find the space in either book to deconstruct the ability to see the future and the impact that ability can have on a character (like Frank Herbert did with Paul Atreides in Dune and its sequels), leaving Aenea to conclude The Rise of Endymion as more or less in the same person as she was at the beginning of Endymion.

A Polarizing Sequel

The aforementioned issues help explain the polarized reception Endymion and The Rise of Endymion have received since their release in 1996 and 1998, respectively. The universe Simmons has created is still top-notch and worthy of additional stories set within it, but the story of Endymion and The Rise of Endymion is uneven and often boring. The antagonists—de Soya and his Pax allies—live up to the potential of the universe, while the protagonists fall far short as they meander their way towards the story’s climax.

And it really doesn’t help that Raul (in his late 20’s and early 30’s) and Aenea (a pre-teen and teenager) have the seeds of a romantic relationship throughout the first book and a half. Even when Aenea is of age, Simmons’s portrayal of their romance is clunky and the scenes depicting their more intimate moments are extremely cringeworthy.

In their more focused moments, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion are interested in deconstructing the ideas of religion and faith. In this story, the Catholic Church has achieved immortality for its adherents thanks to the cruciform parasite and Simmons uses that setup to explore the consequences of immortality on a religion and society. He also uses Aenea’s messianic arc to highlight the moral clarity of personal faith by contrasting it to the danger and amorality of organized religion-cum-theocracy. These themes are just as fertile as those in Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, but Simmons makes you work significantly harder to engage with them in Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.

Ultimately, both Endymion and The Rise of Endymion are let down by their length, wandering of focus, and lacking protagonists. Simmons’s writing style is easy to digest and lends itself to extended reading sessions, so both books are worth your time if you’d like answers to the most interesting questions Hyperion’s universe has to offer. Just don’t be afraid to start skimming when Raul’s narrative beings to drag. And it will—I’m looking at you, Book 2 of The Rise of Endymion. But the books don’t stand on their own, meaning your enjoyment of the final two installments of the Hyperion Cantos will likely hinge on how interested you are in the larger story and characters that span the entire series.

Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️  for Endymion and ⭐️⭐️ for The Rise of Endymion. Buy or rent ebook versions so that you can complete the saga.

You can buy Endymion or Amazon.


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