Dan Simmons is an extraordinarily talented writer. His Hyperion series of science-fiction novels combine poetry, drama, humor, and powerful ideas on a trans-cosmic scale. Simmons brings to mind the best works of Robert A. Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Alfred Bester, A. E. van Vogt, Richard Adams, Philip Pullman, J. R. R. Tolkien, and other top-line sf/fantasy authors ... but with a special touch, a precision of language, a nuance of character that makes his tales unique.

So why — like so many other modern novels, movies, TV shows, and video games — do Hyperion and its sequels have to focus so lovingly on torture? Has something shifted in our society in the past few decades, so that even the most sophisticated of storytellers now feel they must include graphic descriptions of deliberately-inflicted physical human suffering to keep their audiences awake? Are readers now so anesthetized, by repeated exposure to simple dismemberments and disembowelments, that writers have to come up with exotic new high-tech methods of sadism? Is there an arms-race among authors now in designing and depicting agony?

I don't know, but I speculate that there is. Perhaps the coarsening of standards will reverse in another generation or two. Meanwhile, what to do? Skip over the pages (or chapters) of pornographic violence and try to keep reading?

("To The Pain" alludes to a line in The Princess Bride, a fine movie marred by inappropriate torture scenes; the books in Simmons's series are titled Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion; cf. WritInWater (10 Nov 2003), DeepBrooder (4 Sep 2005), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicSociety - 2005-10-01

(correlates: ThanksAndAcknowledgements3, DesertTest, ...)