DON’T PANIC – (Endymion/Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy)

Twenty-two books down on audiobook alone since October last year! Hot damn, that seems like a lot…

I was intending to write up Dan Simmons’ ENDYMION last night as I finished around halfway through the work shift, but alas I managed to be under a wall of boxes when it came down and took a solid thump to the head so spent the rest of the night in a mild, headachey daze, and really didn’t have the brain function to cobble a sentence together. Tonight, my phone mysteriously erased the sequel, RISE OF ENDYMION, from my library so instead I had to look into my backup supply of audiobooks and managed to get through the entirety of the first HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY in its place, so now it’s a double-up!

Curiously enough there was a bit of a connecting theme to the two, though they couldn’t be more radically different in tone and tale – both are journeying stories taking place across numerous worlds, hopping across the galaxy in futuristic quest style. Birds of an on-the-road feather. That’s about where the similarities end.

ENDYMION (1996) picks up some 274 years from the events that closed off the first HYPERION CANTOS book pair, with a much more traditional, Campbellian hero front and centre. Raul Endymion (named for the shepherd in both Greek mythology and the John Keats poem) writes a kind of memoir to himself as he sits within his Schrödinger’s catbox prison cell that is his penance for an as-yet-undisclosed act. He recants events his life and numerous deaths, beginning as a simple hunting guide on a remote planet and eventually coming to snatch a mythically prophesised young girl from the past who is stepping 200+ years into the future from danger and becoming her escort across the galaxy as they travel towards a distant world where she will receive instruction to become… it’s not entirely certain yet what she is to become. ENDYMION shares the trait of the first two books in the series, being part of a paired whole, though ties its story up at a satisfactorily digestible point rather than dragging the entire tale into a single 900 page monster. Its connection to the original HYPERION and its sequel are many and various, but it is its own story still – much of what transpired in the first two has fallen to myth and legend within the scattered societies, but familiar faces, places, names and objects show up in unexpected places with a few extra centuries of wear and tear. It feels very natural and organic for the universe, which has always held a tenuous grip on time and relativity. And of course The Shrike, the creature beyond time and space returns. As of yet, the timeline has not caught up to the glimpsed future in the first series to when the creature was first sent backwards through time, so I guessing that’s going to come into it at some point. Or perhaps not? Simmons has a deft hand for knowing just how much information to reveal and how to reveal it, without detracting from much of the mystique and grandeur he generates and populates his universe with. Again unlike the first two books, Raul is very much on a traditional Hero’s Journey with all the tropes – refusal of the call, trials, fall to darkness, quasi-supernatural mentor, a girl who I suppose qualifies as some form of mythic royalty… the list goes on. Again, the worlds are rich and imaginative, deep with poetry and beauty, violence and horror, contemplative honesty and grand sci-fi concepts. You may have noticed that I’ve very fast become a huge fan of the HYPERION series, and ENDYMION is no exception.

Douglas Adams’ legendary HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (#4 on the Top 100, FYI) is also in itself a staggering work of imaginative genius, but for completely different reasons. Do I even need to explain? I feel like most-everyone has had exposure to it in some form or adaptation in their lifetime, because it’s not only a brilliant piece of science fiction, but because it’s a comedy that simply outclasses almost all of its competition in its willingness to be as absolutely absurd and ironic as a story can be. Listening back to it tonight I was tempted to post up any number of quotes but it became impossible. Every single line of the damned book has some sharp twist to it, every passage contradicting itself and then again to level out. Every joke dropped (I have the version read by Adams himself for added effect) lands without even a hint of pretension or mean-spiritedness while at the same time conveying extraordinarily biting criticism of the completely baffling, hilarious illogic that is existence. I’m half-tempted to drop the remaining four books in the “trilogy”, as Adams calls it, right into the queue and re-read them again after this. Part of the problems with trying to adapt them for television/film is that so much of the humour comes from the omnipresent narrator’s gleefully chipper descriptions of tiny, ridiculous details and rationale. If your only experience with THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE is the film (which I still love) or the older BBC TV series (arguably much better, plus there’s more of it) then you really ought to do yourself a favour and read the books. Or have Douglas Adams read them to you.

Next up I’ve actually re-checked that RISE OF ENDYMION is functioning as it should, so I’ll finally be able to, sadly, close off the HYPERION universe. I’m also past the halfway mark of arting chapter three of A Storm in a Teacup, and ought to have the completed chapter loaded up with the other two (so far) in the COMICS tab there.

Peace and love and towels.
— Thom

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