I’ve always been somewhat neutral on Dan Simmons. Hyperion impressed me, as it did a lot of other readers, but the sequels left me cold and nothing else I read by him ever managed to make me feel much of anything. He’s not a writer I hate or like, and that may be because his grandiose mythic space operas never really seem to connect.
Worlds Enough and Time takes five Simmons stories, some novella length, some not, and combines them with a heap of introductions and leaves me liking Simmons, but not his fiction.
Usually I hate excess introductions, and Worlds Enough and Time, which has two introductions, an introduction to the collection and an introduction to the first story, should have tripped some alarms, but the introductions read better than the story, a potentially promising concept that turned out to be an update on the little boy who can do anything, except with a troubled teenage girl. The same experience repeated itself with the next story, an update on the Hyperion universe that started as a Voyager pitch and sort of stays as one.
What I found was that Simmons may be a better essayist than a writer. As an essayist he has an immediate tone and wraps together disparate concepts into an organic whole. As a story writer, he takes good writing, combines it with a mediocre plot and ties the whole thing together with a last minute transcendent event which takes the characters and the human race to a whole new level of enlightenment.
In Looking for Kelly Dahl, there’s a bonding moment with shared memories. In Orphans of the Helix, a character suddenly displays telepathy and allows a lost branch of humanity a chance at joining the new evolution of humanity. On K2 with Kanakredes, a mountain climbing expedition with an alien ends with the main character and the human race suddenly being able to hear the song of the world. The Ninth of Av is a dark inverse version of the same. The End of Gravity is more confusing, but again some revelation appears at a crucial moment. And it’s really the only worthwhile story in the bunch.
But I didn’t leave Worlds Enough and Time resenting Simmons for wasting my time, just wishing that he had brought the authorial voice in his essays to his characters and the originality in them to his plots.