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The adventure in Rise of Endymion lives up to the standard established by earlier books in the series. Thrilling combat and exotic locales keep the book within space opera conventions. Fedmahn Kassad at least deserves a spot amongst science fiction's toughest warriors, if the not the title itself. In this volume he appears a battle-scarred veteran and consummate tactician, master at every martial discipline. Every fan of the genre should be familiar with Kassad.
As always, the mysterious Shrike takes an important role, advancing the plot as explicit deus ex machina. Its extraordinary conflicts with beings of similar power are unforgettable. Simmons shows us truly majestic and awe-inspiring technology at work, technological wizardry that surpasses most conceptions of magic. The loose basis in known science somehow heightens the fantastic effect, giving us a firm scale of reference for the mind-boggling feats.
Though I find the relationship between Raul, the anchor, and Aenea more functional than inspiring, other character interactions leap off the page. A mature Aenea's conversations with the aging Kassad are particularly memorable. She has many fascinating relationships with the various characters interested in her message. Captain de Soya continues his attempts to deal with his religion and its hierarchy.
At one point in the novel, Aenea sits down and explains her philosophy to her followers in an extended conversion. At the same time, she goes various bits of history, giving the reader more understanding of the fictional universe. Other parts of the speech seem to address questions and continuity issues from earlier in the series, as if Simmons wanted to get it all out there and resolve confusion. A rather heavy-handed approach, but less awkward in print than it sounds in this review.
I have mixed feelings about Aenea's exposition, but I feel the book succeeds regardless. Some will love this universal theory of everything. Others will hate it. Either way, The Rise of Endymion provides amazing action, solid character development, and philosophical theorizing that should be thought-provoking at a minimum. It concludes a marvelous science fiction series that too few people have read.
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