Hyperion was the first book mentioned to me by a coworker when I asked him for a science fiction recommendation. I hadn't read much science fiction previously, so wanted to make sure I started in with something that at least one person I know could vouch for.
I bought the book, and read the premise. There was some kind of pilgrimage - would there be too much world-building for me to really enjoy this? (Answer - no, there is not 'too much' world-building.) I also learned that it was book one of a 4-part series - would this feel incomplete? And that the book itself was meant to be the first half of a larger book (which is now the second book in the series).
The name 'Hyperion' threw me off a bit. But later when I tried to look up a Wikipedia article about it, I learned through the Wikipedia disambiguation feature that there is an actual tree called 'Hyperion' (world's tallest living tree!), and there is also a Keats poem called 'Hyperion' - knowledge of both gives much deeper appreciation of the story, since 'tree ships' and Keats both play a heavy role in the series.
The book is told as a collection of stories from each of the pilgrims that are on their journey to visit the Shrike. After finishing the first story of the priest, it was such an engrossing tale, and one that bordered on a horror story, that I wondered how the rest of the backstories of the characters could live up to it.
But I was just as engaged with each one. I kept wondering, 'Am I really going to care about the next character's story as much as the one I just read?'. The answer each time: yes! The weaving in of how the story plays with time in different ways is something I'm always a sucker for, and this book definitely delivers on that.
I enjoy the mystery of the Shrike, the exploration of the Time Tombs, the way Artificial Intelligence is handled throughout the story. Some parts reminded me of Merlin in Once and Future King, and other parts of Game of Thrones, and others of Blade Runner. It's a captivating story, and I hope to find a new way to appreciate it one day (movie? series? graphic novel? just re-read it?).
The right answer is to read the next book in the series, called The Fall of Hyperon. The first book ends with the remaining pilgrims singing 'We're Off to See the Wizard' as they continue charging towards their destination. (This is something I assume was worked in after Dan Simmons was encouraged to split the book into two.). From what I gather, the other books are quite different from the first, and have mixed reviews from other readers, but this first book is well regarded by all.