1Q84 Vol 2 by Haruki Murakami.
1Q84 Vol 3 by Haruki Murakami.
I never wrote up stuff about the second section of this giant book, so here's the full thing all together.
I talked in my review of Vol 1 about how slow moving the story was and how well it served the characters. Well, that kinda ran its course. These second two volumes (again, the whole shebang is usually sold in the US as one big book) feel way too long for the amount of things that actually happen. For every exciting event - and there certainly are a few here - there are endless pages of characters thinking to themselves about what happened three chapters ago, or planning what's going to happen three chapters from now. While there's something to be said for getting very deep into a character's mind (and the third volume expands the POV characters out to three, which provides something new and interesting in the late stages of the story), these particular characters just don't have quite enough going on, internally, to support such a page count. It's too bad, because what events do happen are among Murakami's most cleverly devised. The story also builds to a climax that never happens, and the characters have spent so much time contemplating the eventualities that when they actually happen it is neither exciting nor revelatory. Murakami often builds to a certain kind of epiphany and here is just feels perfunctory, which is about the opposite of what you want from him. It's an interesting exercise and what it has to say about religions and cults is pretty interesting, it just lacks the pizzazz for which I usually love Murakami.
Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
This is one of the greats of modern-ish sci-fi and for good reason. Dan Simmons crafts an updated version of the Canterbury Tales and allows each of seven traveling pilgrims to tell his or her story, each of which indulges in a different kind of storytelling, though not quite to the spectacular degree of those found in Cloud Atlas. But then, what book is quite as great as Cloud Atlas? Anyways, the main sticking point here is the titular world of Hyperion, a planet soon to be inducted into the Hegemony of Man, the diaspora of humans who abandoned Old Earth as it ate itself and became a network of teleporter-connected worlds and peoples. But Hyperion is a little different, it is home to the Shrike of legend, the manifestation of death shrouded in blades upon blades and with the ability to kill a person in an instant. Its lives among the Time Tombs, a bunch of vaguely Egyptian monuments which seem to be traveling backwards through time, and it is to him (it?) that the characters are traveling, hoping to finally gain an audience with him so he can grant them a wish, basically. So there are a lot of big ideas happening here, but it's not the inventive universe Simmons created which kept me reading raptly, its the characters.
For the majority of the story, the character we follow closest is referred to only as the Consul, and basically all we know about him is that he's big into the piano. The other characters start just as sketched in, but as each tells his or her story, they quickly become fully fleshed out people. There's a religious man who takes on the suffering of others, a PI whose noir story involves artificial intelligences and romance, and a father whose daughter is suffering from a terrible affliction, among others. Rarely does a character's backstory overstay its welcome, a feat accomplished in part thanks to the focus on Hyperion. John Keats is a big player here, too, and his voice echoes through the other characters often. Simmons rewards a well-rounded reader as he references Romantic poets and the deep-thoughts sci-fi of Blade Runner and Star Trek. But his universe is not one glued piecemeal together, it is its own thing, full of fascinating technology and ideas and, most importantly, people.