The Shrike

The Shrike

:"This article refers to a fictional creature, for other uses see Shrike (disambiguation)."

The Shrike is a character from Dan Simmons' Hyperion universe, set far in humanity's future.

The Shrike appears in all of the Hyperion books and is something of an enigma; its true purpose isn't 'revealed' until the second book, but even then it is left a malleable purpose. In fact, this explanation is changed significantly in the latter two books (The "Endymion" duology). The Shrike appears to act both autonomously and as a servant of some unknown force or entity, and in the first two Hyperion books, exists solely in the area around the Time Tombs on the planet Hyperion. In the latter two, it is effectively unfettered.

Physical Description

The Shrike stands roughly three meters in height and is described as being composed of razorwire, thorns, blades, and cutting edges, having fingers like scalpels and long, curved toe blades. It is basically a gigantic, bladed killing machine.

The Shrike weighs over a ton, though it is apparently capable of modifying its density as it sees fit.

Though metallic in appearance ("quicksilver over chrome"), the Shrike is also described as an 'organic' machine, humanoid in a general way, but with four 'oddly jointed' arms and intense, multi-faceted ruby eyes.

Upon suffering injury in combat, the Shrike is seen to lose a large amount of cabling likened to intestines, but in no way loses its abilities as a result.

Abilities

The Shrike communicates exclusively through pain and death. Throughout the books it is apparent that the Shrike can travel through time, appearing to move much faster than light and appearing to exist everywhere simultaneously if it desires. The Shrike was at one point assumed to be a prisoner of the Hyperion time tombs' anti-entropic fields (the 'time tides'), but as these began to degrade, the Shrike ranged farther and farther and eventually was observed on other planets elsewhere in the galaxy.

Preferring to perform vivisections on its victims, the Shrike generally 'appears' near its victims and blinks about them before killing them in a flash of opening flesh and gore; sometimes it leaves its victims alive and transports them to an eternity of impalement upon an enormous artificial 'tree of thorns' in Hyperion's distant future. The tree of thorns is described as unimaginably large, alive with the agonized writhing of countless human victims of all ages and races.

The Shrike proves to be more than competent at hand-to-hand combat; it is itself a gigantic cutting utensil capable of manipulating time itself.

Origin

Surrounded in complete mystery, the object of fear, hatred, and even worship (by members of the Church of the Final Atonement, AKA the 'Shrike Cult'), the Shrike's origins are as uncertain as are its purpose and its abilities.

It is suggested in the books that the Shrike was actually a creation of a distant-future computer god, the Ultimate Intelligence, or UI, which was the end-result of countless years of TechnoCore research and effort. The UI, however, was not the only 'god' to be created -- humanity and other conscious life eventually spawned its own god. The UI and the human god apparently strove with one another before the empathy part of the human god fled back in time.

The UI then created the Shrike and sent it back to create suffering by impaling people on its tree of thorns, in the hopes that when enough human suffering was harvested and sustained on the tree of thorns, the human god would emerge from hiding and respond to all the pain broadcast by the Shrike's tree.

The results of this are not discussed in-depth in the books.

In a somewhat different explanation offered in "The Rise of Endymion", The Shrike has a connection to a TechnoCore sect called the Reapers, the original programs designed to provide evolutionary pressure on the hyperlife Core entities. The Reapers' motivations are, again, unclear - though in the latter two books, when the connection to the Reapers is made clear, the Shrike acts as a protector of Aenea against the Core assassins.

The actual controlling persona of the Shrike is, in fact, taken from that of its nemesis Fedmahn Kassad, the warrior who ultimately defeats it. It is unclear whether this applies to the legions of Shrikes existing by the time of Kassad's final battle, some time in the distant future, or solely to the original Shrike.


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