This is the most important news story I’ll report on this week, because one of the most incredible pieces of modern science fiction literature is being adapted into a feature film. No, not just one of the most incredible; the most incredible, amazing, and whatever other hyperbole you can think of to stick on it. The work in question is the multiple award winning Hyperion Cantos, written by Dan Simmons. The Cantos is composed of four novels, though the first two are the most critical and the two that most obviously fit together. It’s those first two books, “Hyperion” and The Fall of Hyperion, which Warner Bros. has had the good sense to scoop up for movie making.
The Hyperion Cantos is set in an extremely distant future in which man has spread out far into the galaxy and conquered it with technology. The first two books follow a group of travelers on a pilgrimage of sorts, to a planet called Hyperion and one of the few mysteries left in the universe: artifacts called the Time Tombs which can travel through time and are guarded by a horrific, monstrous, metallic, thorny, unstoppable creature called the Shrike, which impales supplicants on the thorns of a metal tree of pain.
As grand and mucked up with strange fantastical concepts as that may sound, the books are not about crazy science fiction technology. Instead the focus is on telling the deeply moving, soul shaking stories of the small group of travelers journeying to this impossible place. The first time I read “Hyperion” I wept like a small child as I read the story of the Wandering Jew. I was left inconsolable for days after reading of The Man Who Cried God. My heart tried to beat right out of my chest as I was moved by the story of the Scholar, the Detective, and the soldier’s mad love. Hyperion in book form is unlike anything you’ve ever read before, and if you haven’t read it yet… you have to. I'd beg if I thought it would do any good. Read it.
It’s more than simply moving, it’s also incredibly relevant to the world we live in. The book was written in 1989, well before the internet was on anyone’s radar, but the modern problems of global connectivity and technology figure prominently into the issues of the story and the struggle of the people within it. It’s an inspiring, moving, epic with important things both big and small to say about religion, science, humanity, who we are, and where we’re going.
By now, if any of you are even still with me, you’re probably sick of hearing about how much I love these books, and have forgotten that the point of this is that they’re turning this into a movie. But the folks at Warners are. HR says a writer named Trevor Sands has been hired to adapt the first two books into a single script. And right off the bat they’ve already made their first blundering error. There’s no way both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion can be adequately squeezed into a single movie. Granted, they both tell a single story, but it’s a huge story. One that cannot possibly be told in two hours. As for Sands, he’s never written anything that anyone has actually seen. That may or may not be a bad thing, for all we know he’s a genius, unfortunately even a genius will need more than the page space provided by a single movie to do justice to Dan Simmons’ epic, important masterpiece. I'm getting worried.
Dan Simmons however does not seem to be. He indicates that this is being done up top notch all the way. Not only is a major studio producing it, Simmons says a major Hollywood name is starring in it. On his official site he says, "It has been optioned by a top-notch studio, is slated to be directed by a top-name director, and already has the involvement of a top-flight movie star. Screenwriters have been attached to the project and a first draft screenplay is expected soon." If Simmons thinks everything is top-notch, then I'll hold off on the worrying.