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The Dark Design [Paperback]

Philip Jose Farmer
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 28 1998 Riverworld Saga
Years have passed on Riverworld. Entire nations have risen, and savage wars have been fought--all since the dead of Earth found themselves resurrected in their magnificent new homeworld. Yet the truth about the Ethicals, the powerful engineers of this mysterious "afterlife," remains unknown. But a curious cross-section of humanity is determined to change that situation . . . at any cost.

Intrepid explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton leads the most remarkable voyage of discovery he has ever undertaken. Hot on his heels are Samuel Clemens, King John of England, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Spurred by the promise of ultimate answers, they chart a course across the vast polar sea--and toward the awesome tower that looms above it. But getting there will be more than half the battle. For death on Riverworld has become chillingly final . . .

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The Dark Design is the third book in the epic Riverworld saga, in which almost all of humanity has been resurrected on a strange planet along the shores of a river 22 million miles long. But why have humans been given another chance at life, and who is behind it all? That's what Sir Richard Francis Burton and Sam Clemens set out to discover in two earlier novels, one by riding the "suicide express" (if you die on Riverworld, you're resurrected again at a random point along the river) and the other steaming on the greatest riverboat ever seen. Now Milton Firebrass, Clemens's former enemy and now his No. 1 lieutenant, is planning to use the dwindling iron supply on the Riverworld to create a great airship, which can fly to the North Polar Sea far more quickly than any boat can travel. There he hopes to learn the secret of the mysterious tower thought to house the beings who created this planet.

Jill Gulbirra does not care as much about the mission as she wants the chance to captain the great airship, which in all likelihood will be the last airship ever constructed by humankind. But in landing the coveted role, she faces stiff competition--especially from the greatest swordsman of all time, Cyrano de Bergerac, who turns out to be a natural pilot. But even if Jill can win the command of the airship and even if the ship can reach the river's headwaters, there is no guarantee it can get through the mountain wall that surrounds the tower. And it's likely that one or more agents of the Ethicals--the creators of Riverworld--are on board the airship, plotting its downfall. Worse still, somewhere along the way the airship is sure to encounter the Rex Grandissimus, the steamboat stolen by Sam's archnemesis, King John Lackland. --Craig E. Engler

From the Back Cover


The Dark Design
"Its publication is an event with a capital E!"
--Parade of Books

"Charts a territory somewhere between Gulliver's Travels and The Lord of the Rings."
--Time

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewards the patient Aug. 5 2002
Format:Paperback
"The Dark Design" is a lot like "The Godfather, Part II" -- when you first read it, you don't care much for it. But then as time passes and you think about it and/or re-read it, you realize that not only does it not stink, but it's probably the best in the series.
There's not much plot advancement in terms of the overall series, but what we DO have is an overall look at the Riverworld, Farmer's greatest creation. Think about it: you've been resurrected on a world where all your physical needs are taken care of, but there are almost no metal resources and the nearest answers are millions of miles of sailing away. What would everyday life be like in such a place? What would become of humanity? And what kind of person would seek those answers? This is why the various characterizations in the book fascinate me -- with dozens of characters in the book (and billions on the Riverworld), it's easy to forget what's so fascinating about the premise of Riverworld: every single inhabitant has at least one full lifetime behind them. (And to those who disagree, you at least have to admit that the Welsh poetry thesis defense story is priceless. :o) To those who complain that nothing interesting happens, I say that PLENTY of interesting things happen -- they simply happen to be subtle.
I'll admit to being biased -- I like subtlety and characterization in my novels. If you are a purely casual/surface level reader, or are simply impatient to see how things turn out, then you can safely skip this book and pick up "The Magic Labyrinth." You can pick up most of what plot development you missed, and you can always come back to this one later. But if you're patient, thoughtful, and want to find the real Riverworld, then this book is a must-read. ~DH
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Format:Paperback
3rd book, and the worst.
The main character for a lot of the book though not all is a woman named Jill Guilbirra. She is an ex-dirigible pilot. The main plot of this story is that after Clemens leaves the town where the metal ore is, (there is still some left after he built his boat.) the people left there decide to build a Dirigible to get to the headwaters of the river which would be much faster.
As noted by other reviewers this novel is the first time the Author doesn't stay focused on one person the whole time. Even though Jill is for the most part the main character towards the middle and end the book skips to the viewpoint of others, this in itself isn't bad. After awhile the story becomes split up pretty evenly between Jill, Burton, and Clemens. This is nice because Jill is especially irritating with her whiny feminism that could only be an enjoyable read to a like-minded feminist. But it's nice to see Burton again and it's interesting to see how Clemens is doing.
The plot itself is pretty boring. The Author states in the preface that "The Dark Design" and the following book "The Magic Labyrinth" were meant to be one book, but it was too long so he split it up into two. Well it shows because "The Dark Design" is where everything interesting is being set up to happen, or waiting to happen and "The Magic Labyrinth" is where everything interesting finally happens.
Another folly of "The Dark Design" is that as stated in many other reviews there start to appear some discrepancies in the story line. The example of the height of the cliffs in the valleys has been used. The author accounts for the change as a matter of false perception on the part of people. Of course these little slips aren't anything compared to the ridiculous ones in the next two books.
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1.0 out of 5 stars I Just Gave Up on this Series Feb. 20 2002
Format:Paperback
Having read the first two books of this series, I'm now more than halfway through the third. I only rate items as 1 star when I find myself compelled to discard the book during reading. I've read other bad reviews and agree with them. Here's a few items I can add to the list:
1. The author constantly provides both metric and English equivalents when numbers are called for. For example, he mentions the height of a character as "6 feet or 1.8 meters in height." He does this for distances as well--and does it so frequently that one can only imagine that he had a calculator next to his typewriter. Is he trying to teach us the metric system or revive the English system (depending on your point of view)?
2. The irritations continue with colorless biographical data on the characters from history that serves no useful part to creating interest in those characters. While the trick of using characters from history is an interesting technique to provide some connection between our real lives and fiction, and one that helps us get over the hesitation to jump into something totally alien to our experiences, this technique should have been used less once the story line got developed. The focus should have been on the story line and things that would have engaged our emotional interests.
3. For me, the poor continuity, the pulp infusion of dream sequences, and the waiting for action were but three reasons I decided to come to Amazon.com to look at the reviews of the last two books. I sighed on reading the third book would not be improved on by the last two books....
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars P.J. Farmer at his best...
Great product, delivery on time, excellent service and price. Couldn't be more happier. Everything was in order. Thanks for everything! Concerning the book, it's P.J. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Luc Durocher
1.0 out of 5 stars A Fairly Decent But Annoying Read
The part 3 of the Riverwold series. It's nowhere near as good as either of the first 2 books of the series were (To Your Scattered Bodies Go & The Fabulous Riverboat). Read more
Published on June 18 2004 by D Capley
3.0 out of 5 stars overwritten, careless
severe and brutal editing would have greatly improved flow and quality. Frankly the Frigate character should have been left out of books 3 and 4- reducing page count,... Read more
Published on June 15 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy novel would benefit from heavy editing
The Riverworld saga continues as various characters attempt the journey to the mysterious tower at the source of the river on whose shores all of humanity has been resurrected. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by David Bonesteel
2.0 out of 5 stars A let down after the first two volumes
The prose is remarkably bad -- remarkably because the first two volumes in this series, while not likely to win an award for style, were written in a solid, brisk and workmanlike... Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars My return to Riverworld
I first read the Riverworld series more than 20 years ago, and have just now completed a second reading. Read more
Published on July 30 2003 by Mithradates
3.0 out of 5 stars Was great in the beginning then the end.......
This book was great in the beginning then it just lagged on in the end. I like the part where there was this girl they introduced. She was gay so it was neat but shocking. Read more
Published on July 3 2003 by XanthNovels
5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked it...
Unlike most readers of his novel, I came across The Dark Design by accident. I had no idea about who Philip Farmer was, and had never read any of the other Riverworld books. Read more
Published on March 16 2003 by S. Flower
1.0 out of 5 stars Going Steadily Downhill
I just finished reading The Dark Design. What a chore. I kept hoping for something like the first book in the series, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, but no luck. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate Continuation to the Series
This book differs in a couple of ways from the earlier books in the RIVERWORLD series. Instead of focusing on a single character, this book shifts between several points of view. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2001 by M. Broderick
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