I think I mentioned that I saw a man perusing the Science Fiction section of Barnes and Noble so I went ahead and asked him what authors he recommended. Dan Simmons (and his Hyperion Cantos) was one of the first people he mentioned. I went through Simmons' books and decided that even though the cover of the book was really strange, I'd go ahead and give it a try. I am so glad I did. Both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are probably the best science fiction I have ever read (not that I'm that well-versed in science fiction). If there are any John Keats fans out there, then you'll probably know that Simmons based some of his characters on Keats and his poems (i.e., The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Lamia come to mind). I loved that he melded in classic British poetry into the books.
I don't remember exactly how the first book ends. I think it ended with the pilgrims walking toward the Time Tombs to confront the Shrike. I was so disappointed with the end! It was one of those moments where you feel like someone stole some pages from your book! I should have picked up The Fall of Hyperion right away, but of course I didn't. I felt a little lost through part of the book because I had read so many books in between. Eventually though, it all came back to me and I really got addicted. There are so many answers in this book. The fate of all the pilgrims is resolved as well as some lingering questions about the World Web and the Techno Core.
I highly recommend both books. I was so satisfied with the ending of The Fall of Hyperion that I immediately started reading the next book in the series, Endymion. If science fiction isn't something you normally read and you want to try it, this book will be sure to challenge you and suck you in. I am secretly hoping that the cliffhanger ending will encourage my book club members to pick up this book and read it as well. It's just as good as the first and has a very satisfying conclusion.