The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to science-fiction, but in the case of Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion”, there’s simply no better description. The 1989 multiple award-winning novel, the first in Simmons’ “Hyperion Cantos”, is a true masterpiece of the genre, incorporating everything from massive space opera ideas to classical English poetry to heavy ruminations on the role of religion in society. Also a massive four armed alien creature that looks like the steely love child of a Ginzu knife set and several rolls of barbed wire.
And now that epic tale is coming SyFy.
Variety reports that Oscar-winning actor Bradley Cooper, his Hangover writer-director Todd Phillips and British producer Graham King are busy developing an event series adaptation of “Hyperion” for the cable network, who in the last year have made a tremendous push to get back to the sci-fi roots they had before they forgot how to spell their own name. Regular Boardwalk Empire scribe Itamar Moses will be penning the event series as well as co-producing, while it’s uncertain if Cooper and Phillips will take on more than just their executive producing roles (Cooper could certainly fit a number of roles in the story).
Variety’s rather trite synopsis describes Hyperion as being “set on the eve of Armageddon with the entire galaxy at war, [it] follows seven pilgrims who set forth on a voyage to seek the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope and a terrible secret — and one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.” Which is really about as poor a description as I’ve seen in ages, and not necessarily giving justification to why I love the story so much. So here’s the long-story version:
Hyperion is set in the far-future where mankind has spread throughout the stars, mainly through the technology of “farcasters”, portals that facilitate instantaneous travel between unfathomable distances and which are the financial and cultural backbone of this decadent future society known as the Hegemony of Man. The farcaster network, known as the WorldWeb, as well as all the highly advanced technology of the Hegemony, are run by the TechnoCore, a conglomeration of the millions of AI’s that inhabit just about everything (a distinction that has led to the remote Ousters, a society living on the fringes of habitable space that eschew the Hegemony and its technological dependencies). The TechnoCore also serve the rulers of the Hegemony in an advisory capacity, using their incredible combined intellect to predict and extrapolate on everything, including future events.
On a remote colony world named Hyperion though, there exists the mysterious alien structures known as the Time Tombs that are somehow interfering with the TechnoCore’s precognitive abilities. Even more enticing, the Time Tombs are protected by the Shrike, the aforementioned steely creature of death and destruction that can seemingly control the flow of time. As with all weird, mysterious objects, the Time Tombs and the Shrike are worshiped by a cult known as the Church of Final Atonement. The Church controls traffic to Hyperion and occasionally sends a group of pilgrims – their count always being a prime number – to the Time Tombs, as legend has it all but one of these group members will die, with the remaining person being granted a single wish by the Shrike.
The book follows one such pilgrimage of seven travelers, who all awaken from cryogenic sleep aboard their gigantic treeship – yes, a spaceship that is a massive tree – and decide to pass the time by each recounting their story of why they came to be there, and why they would risk death at the hands of the Shrike. Spanning everything from star-crossed romance to noir-ish detective tales to explosive sci-fi war stories to mind bending time travel adventures and more, the pilgrims’ seven tales span genres with ease, and also help to each get one step closer to the incredible, universe altering mystery behind the origin of the Shrike and the Time Tombs.
Now wasn’t that a much better description? Well, at least it was a much longer one. And that really is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the epic – there’s that word again! – tale that Simmons crafted, which is why I’m hoping that SyFy don’t half-arse this and instead give it a big enough budget and enough room to develop properly. The fact that Hollywood A-listers like Cooper and Phillips are involved already tell me that they’re not looking to shortchange this at all.
That being said, this entire story – which was followed up by a second book “The Fall of Hyperion”, and then by two sequels collectively known as the “Endymion Cantos” – is so sprawling and takes place across so many years and has so many characters that there’s simply no way that everything can be adapted without SyFy committing to putting this thing on air for years and years. If they do though, this would essentially be their Game of Thrones and it would be, well, epic.
Last Updated: June 11, 2015