Hyperion by Dan Simmons (1989) and The Fall of Hyperion (1990). Strange, large-scale space opera – part Canterbury’s Tale, part His Dark Material – involving AI’s conspiring to cause the downfall of humanity, a Satan-like creature called “The Shrike” who spears people and keeps them indefinitely alive on a “Tree of Pain”, a motley crew of seven pilgrims who might save the universe, Time Tombs, a child who ages backwards, the digital resurrected poet John Keats, a separate species of people who threaten humanity’s stellar empire encompassing a few hundred planetary systems, space warfare, Marines and battleship cruisers, the remnants of the Catholic church, a Jesuit priest – an archeologist and acolyte of Teilhard de Chardin – who is crucified and more. The ambitious sweep of the two novels is grandiose, constructing a sort of machine theology, but the result – while often compelling – is unsatisfactory. Too much is unexplained and appears supernatural; this unnatural mixture, this Gemisch is much less believable than the distant future described in Ian Banks’ Culture novels.