The Rise of Endymion brings to a close the four book sequence that began with Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion and continued, five years later, with Endymion and finally, this book. The good news about this hefty future history is that you donít have to begin at the beginning. The two sets of two volumes begin and end quite satisfactorily by themselves. What you need to know about the Hyperion books is recapped in the Endymion set. I caution you, though, if you read the last two books you will want to go back and read the others.
Raul Endymion is an ex-soldier, sometime outfitter, shepherd and convicted murderer when we first meet him. In Endymion he is recruited to be the bodyguard of Aenea, a orphan of time, the unlikely union of a human woman and the android clone of John Keats (yes, the poet). Aenea has been wafted through one of the long defunct star gates that used to connect the far-flung worlds of humanity, snatched up and sent 274 years into her future, where she is viewed by some as the agent of prophecy, some as a kind of messiah, and some (mostly the organized Church) see her as a demon.
It is the Church, though its military arm of the Pax, that is waiting when Aenea emerges from the Time Tombs on the planet for which Raul is named. It is Raul who spirits her away while the Shrike, the terrible spiked automaton who follows her as a protector, wreaks havoc amongst the ships of the Pax, sowing the first seeds of doubt in the mind of Father-Captain De Soya.
When we left Endymion we knew that Raul would eventually be captured, for we knew that he was dictating these memoirs from his tiny orbiting prison. We also knew that, somehow, Aenea had been able to read his writings and had left him a message. So we ended on a note of hope.
Rise picks up the story years before Raul was imprisoned, after a period of relative calm when he and Aenea lived quietly on Earth, an Earth that everyone believed to have been destroyed centuries before during the great war between humanity and its machines. The time has come for Aenea, now a young woman, to begin her ministry to humanity.
The human race has been given immortality, you see. Intimate communion with an alien parasite known as the cruciform guarantees immortality for any human with the cross shaped implant on his or her chest. Unless the body is vaporized it can be restored, with memories and soul intact. It is a miracle controlled by the Church, which uses it as a powerful incentive to religious conversion. Those who donít convert are left to the military arm. Humans who have adapted to life on other planets or in space by evolving their physical forms have been classified as demons and are sought out by the ships of the Pax Command, manned by soldiers who know that they will die from the killing force of the acceleration on each mission only to be brought back at their destinations.
What no one knows is that the human race has been manipulated into assisting the Artificial Intelligences against whom once they warred. A secret pact between the Vatican (relocated, of course) and the AIs has all cruciform bearing humans wired into place as components in a massive galactic computer which taps the primal forces of creation. As the number of adherents grows to a critical mass, there is a danger of universal destruction.
That, it seems, is where Aenea comes in. I canít tell you how, though. Iíve tried to find a way to write around her purpose without giving it all away, and I havenít had any luck at it. Itís all part of how Raul manages his Monte Cristo-like escape from his prison, how he managed to narrate parts of the novel from other peoplesí points of view, the secret of where Aenea spent the two years that he wasnít with her, who the ďlions, the tigers and the bearsĒ are, and even a little bit about the role of the enigmatic Shrike.
It was a very satisfying conclusion to the saga and, according to Simmons in a recent Locus interview, his last novel-length word on the subject. The books have sold well and heís already been offered, and rejected, a large advance for another pair of novels. For now, he seems to have turned in another direction completely, having turned in two thrillers and two private eye novels since he finished with Raulís adventures. My son refers to him as the guy who can write anything. So far, thatís turned out to be true.