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I recently read Hyperion by Dan Simmons on the Masterworks label, and although I enjoyed most of it I was bitterly disappointed by the ending.

I don't really have a problem with 'cliffhanger' endings (although I wouldn't call this one a cliffhanger as such - more like a dead stop).

After a little investigating I discovered that Hyperion and its sequel, Fall of Hyperion, were written as one book by the author (and that was how he intended it to be read) and the publisher decided to split it into two.

Why was this decision made?

  • Profit?
  • Would a complete book have been considered too long? (compared to other similar books I don't think this is the case)
  • Did the change in writing styles prompt this decision?
  • Was it to make the authors contract easier to fulfill?

I'm particularly annoyed because there is absolutely no mention in the blurb of the book that if I wanted ANY kind of answers to the story I'd have to invest in the sequel, or even that the book is a two parter.

For those of you unfamiliar with the books, imagine going to the cinema to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey and the film abruptly ends with the scientists staring at the monolith on the moon, or Rocky ends with his training and you'll have to go back to watch the fight.

Now I appreciate that part of the strength of great storytelling is how a tale is told as much as where the story takes us but that's not really my point.

I would appreciate it if any answers were supported by evidence rather than supposition.

  • How dare he try to maximise the financial reward of his writing. What a b*stard. – Valorum Nov 11 '14 at 15:51
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    I don't mind that it's split into two (I'm more curious as to why), it's the manner in which it's done I dislike. It could have been entitled 'a bunch of unresolved mysteries on a common theme'. But then the unresolved part would be an epic spoiler. – queeg Nov 11 '14 at 16:07
  • See my answer. It was written as a single novel, then split for financial reasons. – Valorum Nov 11 '14 at 16:14
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    Why the downvote? This is a perfectly reasonable question, and it even has an answer. I bet anyone who has read Hyperion wondered about the abrupt ending. – Andres F. Nov 11 '14 at 20:45
  • Aww, not Borderlands... – Keavon Nov 11 '14 at 21:57
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$£€$£€$£€$£€$£€$£€$£$£€$£
$$ He did it for the money $$
$£€$£€$£€$£€$£€$£$$€$£€$£

In an interview with writerswrite.com he explicitly stated that it was his publisher's idea to split the book into two sections, that the two books are indeed a single novel (in two volumes) and that the decision was largely motivated by his desire to make a down-payment on a mortgage.

Q. "I'd like to first talk about your award-winning Hyperion series. When you first started writing Hyperion, did you realize at the time that it would span so many books, and so long a time period? Or did you write Hyperion originally as a stand-alone novel?"

Simmons - "I wrote Hyperion and its second-volume The Fall of Hyperion because my wife and I wanted to buy an old house and my agent said that if I wrote two SF novels (I was finishing two other books at the time), he could get me the $25,000 advance I needed for the down payment." 

In truth, the structure served my deeper purpose of celebrating SF as a genre, writing in different styles from cyberpunk to Jack Vancian space opera. I could do this because the two Hyperion books are actually one large novel in two volumes.

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    This post by SF author Charles Stross goes into some detail on the factors affecting book length. Mostly it's economics; but also, the standard printing technology in the USA means that hardcovers of >424 pages are much more expensive to produce. So as a general rule, publishers strongly encourage authors to keep their books under that length. – Royal Canadian Bandit Nov 11 '14 at 16:03
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit - Yes. Combined, the omnibus edition is over 900 pages long including nearly 10 pages of Keats poetry and a further 100(ish) pages of exposition to remind you of the events of the previous novel. – Valorum Nov 11 '14 at 16:07
  • I can't blame him for making the most of it for himself, but a few words somewhere to inform the reader wouldn't have been amiss. Thanks for the info – queeg Nov 11 '14 at 16:28
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Charles Stross has written a detailed blog post that explains why fiction novels are the length they are. In the case of Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion it seems most likely that book binding limitations of hardback books were the reason the novel was split into two pieces. Quoting Stross:

In particular, I am told by my editors at more than one publisher that if the page count in a US hardcover goes over roughly 424 pages, this causes no end of problems: they have to outsource the binding to a bindery that uses a more expensive technique, disproportionately raising the production cost of the book. You can work around this to some extent by typesetting with smaller margins, less leading, and a smaller typeface ... but that'll only take you so far.

As massmarket paperbacks the two Hyperion books are around one thousand pages total, which equates to an 800+ page hardback... far too large.

  • For the record, the Hyperion books were released as a single edition omnibus. – Valorum Nov 11 '14 at 16:12
  • Although I find this answer interesting, I'm not sure how true it is, e. g. I have the U.S. version (I'm from the UK) of George R.R Martins 'Storm of Swords' which is over 1150 pages, I bought this because the UK version was split into two volumes (which, incidentally, are still bigger than the American version). – queeg Nov 11 '14 at 16:23
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    @queeg - I think there's a big difference between the sort of cheap pulp "mass-market" paperbacks that fill the shelves at the back of most book stores and the kinds of special editions that publishers are willing to create for their top selling authors. – Valorum Nov 11 '14 at 16:26
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    Different rules apply for A-list authors; if the publisher can be confident of selling a mountain of the books, they can afford to splurge on special bindings. Stross is writing from the point of view of a mid-list author. – Kyle Jones Nov 11 '14 at 16:27

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