Reviews - Shrek 2, Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion
Right, so I was out for the most of yesterday. Woke up late, had lunch, then went to the movies to see Shrek. Then I holed myself up in Barnes & Nobles until their closing time before dragging myself back home again. A good day, all in all. ^_-
I loved it; it was hilarious. I think I'm one of the group of people who didn't compare it to Shrek 1 and found it wanting. That's probably 'cause I don't remember much of Shrek 1 to begin with. Yes, yes, we all know what my memory capacity is like. :p
I loved Far Far Away. Loved how the fairy godmother becomes the villain of the story. Makes you wonder what the "evil sorcerer/ess" and "wicked witches" of the land were *really* like, eh? Or maybe the fairy godmother has taken up "roles" in order to expand her legitimate business? A bit (okay, a lot) of dirty dealing on the side, maybe? It's worth a thought.
Puss 'n Boots is my favorite character. Dangit, I *want* one of those. ^_- Such a cute l'il kitty cat with such lethal moves... and looks. OMG those big cute eyes when he does the kitty-eyes thing made me do the same thing the characters on screen did - go all gooey and "AWWW!!". *squeee* And even when he's not doing the cutsy-eyes thing, the kitty eyes were still just gorgeous. The accent was glorious too, and the mannerisms just *scream* CAT... or KITTY! ^_^
I also loved the songs from the song. I'm almost tempted to install Morpheus or something and go look for the soundtracks. Though most likely I'll wait until after school starts and I get my new (or not so new) computer. 'Cause right now my CD burner isn't working, so I have no way to back up mp3's in case my computer crashes... again. But who knows, I might not have the patience to wait. :p
I did notice the large amounts of crossdressing going on, but I think that might've only been because I had on my mind this one thread from the TV/Film board at CBR. Someone linked to some nut who wrote an article ranting about how Shrek 2 has exposed little kids to the evils of transgenderism and crossdressing yaddayaddayadda. Whatever. I'm too lazy to link to the thread right now.
The epilogue did throw me off though. What with the donkey and his lady love the dragon... and their hybrid donkey/dragon children. I know most kids are going to take that as face value. But I think anyone who has the basic biological knowledge of where kids come from are gonna go "BAD MENTAL IMAGE!!" Yeah. I really don't wanna know either. :p
Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons:
I've heard a lot of good stuff about the Hyperion series, especially the first two books. So I figured why not give it a try? It's been a while since I started a new sci-fi or fantasy series anyhow. I also looked for Ilium, the book that ossian's been reading. But B&N didn't have it, so oh well.
I really enjoyed reading Hyperion. It reads more like a mystery set in a sci-fi background than a straight sci-fi though. Each of the major characters tell their story and how/why it brought them onto this journey... pilgrimage... that they're making into the valley of death, so to speak. With each story, we the audience get a few more pieces of the puzzle about the chessboard and game on which these pawns (or higher valued chess pieces) are moving.
Perhaps the only part I didn't like was that some of the colloquial jargon weren't immediately explained as the reader encounters them, leaving some of the concepts that the storytellers in the story was talking about somewhat vague until the reader becomes more familiar with the setting and figures it out. The book requires a larger degree of intelligence and attention than the run-of-the-mill for-the-masses pop books. Which might be a good thing or a bad thing, I guess. Or perhaps a mark of hard sci-fi as opposed to "soft" space opera calling itself sci-fi. :p
All those people who have compared Hyperion to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is right. Except for the fact that the tales told by the pilgrims in Hyperion have a common root to them, they are for the most part, entirely separate stories that do not seem to have any real connection between them, and are just simply different tales told by vastly different people from different walks of life, backgrounds, and so forth. And also like Canterbury, Hyperion is "unfinished". The book ends with the end of the tales, when the reader has been drawn deeply into the mystery - that may or may not be the same mystery for the different pilgrims - but before they have reached their ultimate destination and the answer to their riddles. It's a cliffhanger of an ending, a total cliffhanger - something that's rare in books, even those of a series.
In many ways, Fall of Hyperion is a straight on continuation of the plot we are left dangling with in Hyperion. In terms of plot, the two books may as well have been put together as one book. However, in terms of writing and style, and even the resolution of the Mystery, I can see why it should be put as a separate book.
The writing style changes in that it goes from the somewhat ordered form of stories in the story (or sometimes, stories in a story in the story) of Hyperion), to the widely erratic and break-neck fast speed of jumping between different groups of people in different threads of the plot in different places, and perhaps even in slightly different timeframes. In terms of plot, Fall of Hyperion take many of the expectations that the readers might form from the snippets of story-telling in Hyperion and turn them 180 degrees when met with the actual truth.
It's interesting that the story in the previous book which seemed the most irrelevant - the Priest's story - becomes quite relevant to the plot of the resolution. While the story that seems the most relevant and the most clear - the Consul's story - becomes the biggest red herring (well, that's what you get for believing in a double/triple agent). Meanwhile, some of the other roles - the Scholar and the Detective - become pretty much vaguely what I expected - though never certain - them to be.
Now, I didn't have the time to read all of Fall of Hyperion - only skim the overall story. But what I got from the Big Ideas behind the story was quite interesting. The Hyperion books deal mainly with the concept of Time, and the concept of evolution, higher consciousness, and God. Of course, their concept of God would be considered heretic in terms of actual real world religion, but that's pretty par for the course when it comes to such endeavours in sci-fi. The issue of time, especially when it comes to manipulation of it and time travel, is a much more difficult concept to handle well and logically, avoiding such thorny issues such as paradox and logical inconsistencies, or even over-complexity and confusion, which might solve your problem with logic, but which would also lose your audience.
Basic Idea (SPOILERS here): The present as we read of it in Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion, there is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the vast main civilization of mankind and the vast AI civilization of the TechnoCore. However, after centuries (millenia?) of the same old, it has become both a stagnant co-civilization, and a parasitic one, both on each other and on the galaxy at large.
Mankind is jealous and fearful of the unknown and for their place in existence. Unknown to most of the population, the government has been systematically exterminating all possible (future) competitors for sentience on the worlds it has discovered and colonized. Also unknown to most of the population, there has been a dangerous game of intrigue played in the upper echeleons of goverment between the leaders of human civilization and the Core.
Of course, the Core is not innocent of all this either. The AI's that make up the TechnoCore are split onto 3 factions themselves. One faction, the Volatiles, are much like the humans; they've decided that humans are now more of a danger to the Core and lived beyond their usefullness; and therefore, should be wholly exterminated as man have exterminated their lesser competitors. Another faction, the Stables, have fallen on the side of humanity - not because of any sense of loyalty or altruism - but out of self preservation (more on this later). The third faction are the Ultimates, who have long been the moderating force between the other two factions, focused on their own agenda - but as the crucial moment in time draws closer, they have begun to lean toward the Volatiles.
Now, the goal of the Ultimates is, essentially, to create God. Their god. The next step of AI evolution, just as man created AI's as what they hold to be the next step of *man's* sentience. Of course, scarcely had they embarked on their quest some centuries (millenia?) ago, to their chagrin, they got a confirmation message from the incomprehensibly distant future (we're beyond even geologic timescales here, we're talking astronomical time scales - lifetime of stars here). The message? "There is another."
So we're talking about two *possible* futures here, possibly many more than just two, but basically winding down to two eventual 'God's... UI's (Ultimate Intelligences). One is the UI that will be created by... created from the AI's of the Core. This UI will actually *replace* its predeccessor AI's - a fact that might not phase the zealous Ultimate faction or the self-important Volatile faction, but which is the main reason that caused the Stables faction to betray their own. The chose the unknown future for themselves rather than certain destruction, even if for a "higher cause". The other UI apparently evolved from human consciousness (or unconsciousness, perhaps). For this to eventually occur, humanity must break away from the stagnant symbiosis with the Core, at a catastrophic price.
Now, apparently, the future isn't big enough for two UI's, and they have been engaged in warfare over the span of entire worlds...galaxies...universes. Moreso, they have been warring in the battleground that is their past, and the present of Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion. The Core's UI have been dropping hints and help to the Core, while the human's UI has been meddling around with people and events in its own manner (the book implies that this may well include the life and death of a certain Jewish carpenter in ancient Earth history).
The thing/event that the pilgrims of Hyperion were marching to was not in and of itself a major strike by either of the UI's. Rather, it's more of a tool and catalyst for a turning point in the timeline, one that would lead to a greater possibility to one or the other UI. The opening of the Time Tombs and the release of the Shrike on Hyperion was the sound of a starting gun, or a battle trumpet...or the last step of a ten-step-draw. Each of the pilgrims were chosen for a part, large or small, to play in the upcoming chaos. And too they are the vessels by which the truth will eventually come to light.
But the final decision that this all culminates to is made not by any of the pilgrims, but by the human leader of the human government which represents the humanity that is on the cusp of change (or death). It is the decision to choose between the death of millions and billions of innocent lives, followed by a complete uncertainty of the future... and the certainty of the eventual extinction of the human race. A clear choice, to be sure, but still a damnably hard one for any thinking, feeling human being to be forced to make.
All in all, the Hyperion duology is a pretty good read. A nicely complex and tightly-woven plot with some ideas that prompt a lot of philosophical insight and thought, with intriguing characters and one plot twist after another. I'd highly recommend it, both as a sci-fi book, and as a general fiction novel with some big ideas in it.