Four Nagging Doubts We Have About Syfy's Hyperion Adaptation

Friday, 12 June 2015 - 1:42PM
Sci-Fi Books
Friday, 12 June 2015 - 1:42PM
Four Nagging Doubts We Have About Syfy's Hyperion Adaptation
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Dan Simmons' Hyperion is widely regarded as one of the greatest achievements in modern science fiction... and potentially one of the most difficult to adapt on screen. So when we heard the news that the novel will soon be adapted for television on Syfy, our initial burst of excitement was soon quelled by a number of nagging doubts. Tackling Hyperion is no easy feat, and unless several steps are taken, the show may end up disappointing fans of Simmons' work. Here are our biggest worries about the upcoming adaptation that we hope are addressed.

No Budget Can Be Big Enough

Hyperion is a major undertaking. It depicts a society that spans galaxies, takes place on numerous planets with extraordinary features, and even features a spaceship that's a giant tree. The novel's main antagonist, the Shrike, is a four-armed monster covered in razor-like blades who is capable of controlling time and moving at lightning speed. All of this is very expensive to produce, and would be considered a risky venture, even for a network known for throwing money around like HBO, let alone Syfy? Does the network that gave us Sharknado 2: The Second One really have the financial means to do the work justice without it coming away looking cheap and cheesy? We have our doubts.

Its Complicated Structure

Hyperion uses a type of framing story structure that is notoriously difficult to adapt to television. The book tells the story of seven pilgrims who travel to the mysterious world of Hyperion, in an attempt to stop an impending crisis. The pilgrims each tell their own stories of past experiences on Hyperion, and these stories are intercut with what's happening in the present. Not only will the constant flashing back and forth be tough to pull off without confusing the viewer, but since Hyperion is said to be a "television event" and not a series, we may not have nearly enough time for all of the characters' stories. We're concerned the show will chop up the structure so much that it will end up bearing very little resemblance to its source material.

Will it be Dumbed Down?

In addition to changing the story's structure, there's a concern that Hyperion's story will end up being dumbed down for the TV audience. Hyperion is complicated. There's a lot going on with multiple timelines, lots of characters, and several different variables at work. The book has some big ideas and it regularly references everything from philosophers to poets to scientists, which means that unless SyFy are willing to show some serious faith in their audience, many of Hyperion's themes may get cut. Hyperion's complexity has the ability to make even Game of Thrones look simple, and that's why we're betting the show simplifies it to the point of being empty.

The Whole Story Won't Be Told

So far, we've only heard that Hyperion is being adapted for television. But Hyperion only tells half the story and ends very anticlimactically in what could be called a cliffhanger. So without its sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, we're left with something very incomplete. While Fall of Hyperion abandons the time-hopping framing structure of the first novel for a more linear one, it still moves the story along via a cyborg's dreams, which adds even more complexity for a potential adaptation. If the show really is omitting The Fall of Hyperion, they'll be doing fans of the work, as well as the viewers, a serious disservice.

Of course, there is always the chance that the concerns of Hyperion fans will be addressed. After all, SyFy is making a noble commitment to giving fans of the genre what they want. The list of adaptations the network is planning is impressive. Hyperion joins the likes of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and John Scalzi's Old Man's War on the list of Science Fiction classics being adapted by the network. So, if they really are taking this seriously, you have to think that SyFy and the likes of Bradley Cooper will do their very best to make some truly faithful adaptations. In the case of Hyperion, one surefire way of allaying many of these aforementioned concerns would be to get Dan Simmons on board to help with the show's creation, but we admit that, that may be wishful thinking.  


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