Seems like just last week I was mentioning how I wouldn’t mind seeing Jane Campion’s upcoming movie about John Keats materialize instead as an adaptation of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion novels. Today my desire comes one teeny tiny step closer to being fulfilled, as the Hollywood Reporter says that Graham King has set up the four book series at Warner Brothers, where screenwriter Trevor Sands will adapt the first two novels into one feature.
That said, I’m not at all sure how this is going to work. Hyperion alone is a sprawling, multi-threaded tale. Structured like The Canterbury Tales, it presents six individual stories told by characters who are en route to an unusual destination on the planet Hyperion. The Fall of Hyperion, the second novel, follows are a more straightforward narrative. Together they make one very massive story.
I’ve tried a couple times to condense the basic plot into a paragraph, but it’s a difficult task; I can’t imagine creating a two or three-hour movie that works from the material. King has held the rights to the novels for some time; no wonder getting a studio to bite hasn’t been the easiest task.
The universe is one where the original Earth has been lost and a galactic Hegemony has been created by faster than light ‘Hawking’ ships and a network of teleporter-like Farcasters that allows near-instantaneous travel between points in space. The six storytellers are en route to a spot on Hyperion that is traveling backwards in time and guarded by the Shrike, an armored monster with a penchant for impaling people on a massive tree of thorns.
Sounds ridiculous. But Simmons fuses literary and poetic inspiration with sharp plotting that involves evolved AIs, a massive post-internet network and real-time political maneuvering. These two novels are smart and engrossing, if a bit too overloaded with pathos and eagerness to cover all bases. Regardless, they’ve stood up to repeated reads in the many years since I bought Hyperion shortly after it was published in 1989.
Some elements lend themselves quite well to visual adaptation, like the Shrike and the cross-shaped parasite that regenerates its host. Others, like the story of an android loaded with a perfect recreation of the poet John Keats, not so much. ‘Ambitious’ is the word that comes to mind, and that’s just for the first two books. If Mssrs King and/or Sands are reading this, get in touch. I’d love to hear where this adaptation is going.