The Halloween Countdown: 3 – The Shrike, from Dan Simmons’s Hyperion Cantos

Not as famous as other monsters, this Shrike from Dan Simmon's novels, but very, very scary. Number three!

“It stood at least three meters tall, the four arms seemed normal on the elegant torso, and the body was a sculpted mass of thorns, spikes, joints, and layers of ragged razorwire.  The thousand-faceted eyes burned with a light that might have been made by a ruby laser.  The long jaw and layers of teeth were the stuff of nightmare.” Dan Simmons, Hyperion Falls

I have no idea what the Shrike is. And when I talked to my brother about this (who had recommended this book to me), he assured me that nobody really knows what it is. On checking Google to do some research for this blog posts, one of the first posts read, “What the hell is the Shrike?” Clearly, it is supposed to remain unclear.

In a book that covers many large themes including science, religion, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy, language, and art, it is striking that the antagonist of the story remains such a mystery. Seven people are on a pilgrimage to the mythical world Hyperion, where the legendary Shrike dwells in the Time Tombs. All are connected to this creature, and all have their reasons for being on this pilgrimage, and all share their stories with the others while they’re sailing on the Sea of Grass, in order to find out what exactly the Shrike is, and how it can be defeated, or how people can gain wisdom from it.

The problem is, it has never been defeated; instead, the Shrike has always killed its victims. Well, kill is a rather kind term for the terrible agony he puts them through. Some are impaled on a tree, the Tree of Pain, where they have to suffer for all eternity, others are ripped apart, stabbed to death, or made to age backwards. Nobody has escaped the Shrike once he’s decided who to kill, and unfortunately the pilgrims are on a mission towards this monster. Knowing full well that they might never go back to their home planet, they face their fears in order to complete their goals. There will be more deaths, it will be painful, and it will be very, very bloody – and they have no idea if they’ll succeed. The stuff of nightmares, indeed…

Have you read the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons? What did you think of it? Should this monster be more famous in the literary world, or would it be a better idea to just let it be, just in case it will go after you? Share your opinion in the comments!

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