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The Magic Labyrinth [Paperback]

Philip Jose Farmer
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 28 1998 Riverworld Saga
The answers behind the enigmatic origins of Riverworld lie at last within reach, as the remarkable gathering of Earthlings--including Sir Richard Francis Burton, Samuel Clemens, Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the real-life Alice in Wonderland), Cyrano de Bergerac, Ulysses S. Grant, and Baron Von Richtoven--finally breaches the stronghold of Riverworld's extraordinary super-race.

But answers would lead to more enigmatic questions . . .

Who is the Mysterious Stranger who taunted the Riverworld resurrectees with hints of the truth? What is the key to the gargantuan computer that wields the power of life and death? The astonishing secrets lie within the Dark Tower--but only for those brave enough to seek them and wise enough to decipher them . . .

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At the end of The Fabulous Riverboat, Sam Clemens finally set out in the great iron riverboat Not for Hire to reach the headwaters of the massive river on whose shores humanity has been resurrected. After 33 years on the river, Clemens and his crew--including the giant subhuman Joe Miller--are finally near the end of their journey, and only one obstacle remains: the evil Earthly king, John Lackland. John is waiting just upriver in the Rex Grandissimus, the first riverboat that Sam constructed and the one that John and his crew hijacked, and he's hell-bent on sinking Sam's boat (and vice versa). Complicating the battle is the fact that both ships likely contain agents of the Ethicals, the group of advanced beings who created Riverworld for reasons unknown. One or more of the Ethicals themselves may even be on board, as are various humans that the rebel Ethical, known as the Mysterious Stranger (but known to Clemens simply as X), enlisted in his cause, which may or may not lead to humanity's salvation.

The battle is set to take place along the shores populated by members of the Church of the Second Chance, a group that believes they must attain ethical perfection in order to proceed to the next phase of existence. The Second Chancers are not violent, but their charismatic leader, La Viro, may attempt to sink one or both of the iron ships in order to prevent the battle. Among the Second Chancers is former Nazi officer Hermann Goring, who had a run-in with Sir Richard Francis Burton in the first Riverworld novel, To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Burton and his companions--among them several people who were contacted by the Mysterious Stranger--are reluctantly serving on John's boat in order to reach the headwaters of the river. But will any of the humans working for X survive the coming battle? And if so, how can they possibly hope to penetrate the tower in the North Sea where the Ethicals are thought to reside? And what could lowly humans hope to do against a race so advanced that they can reshape entire planets and resurrect all of humanity? --Craig E. Engler


“Farmer's blend of intellectual daring and pulp-fiction prose found a worldwide audience…. Sprawling, episodic works gave him room to explore the nuances of a provocative premise while indulging his taste for lurid, violent action.”
--The New York Times

“The greatest science fiction writer ever.”
--Leslie A. Fiedler, author of Love and Death in the American Novel

“An excellent science fiction writer, far more skillful than I am.”
--Isaac Asimov
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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3.0 out of 5 stars ok, but needs lots of editing June 15 2004
By A Customer
both book 3 and 4 should have 100 pages ripped out of them. Much higher quality product then. And really very little would be lost.
"explanation" at end is a bit goofy, but ok. The war and the tower were pretty decent overall.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ends with a whimper March 13 2004
This is the final novel of Farmer's original Riverworld cycle. Like the rest of the series, it is audacious, often fascinating, but also very problematic. "Labyrinth" is often long-winded and unwieldy, particularly in the beginning. But everything comes together as the rival riverboats commanded by archenemies Sam Clemens and John Lackland meet for their final confrontation, after which the survivors struggle on to gain entrance to the mysterious tower in the North Sea. The battle and the final leg of the journey are well-written and full of adventure and mystery. However, once they gain entrance to the tower, the story becomes dull and stagnant. The nature of the Ethicals, their struggle, and the truth about the human soul are presented in a series of interminable conversations. It is very unsatisfying, after having made the commitment to reading over a thousand pages of this series, to have it resolved with the introduction of a character who simply explains away all of the mysteries. Also, by the time the series ends, Farmer has killed off the majority of his most interesting characters, often in rather off-handed ways that are at odds with all the attention, detail, and craft that went into developing them in the first place. Of the final band that reaches the tower, most are relatively minor characters that I really didn't care about and whose personalities had not been well-developed.
In my opinion, the Riverworld series has turned out to be quite a disappointment. It does not live up to the high reputation that it has garnered within the SF community.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Coasting to the finish July 30 2003
I read this conclusion (more or less) to the series when it first came out in 1980. Now that I'm 23 years older, it just doesn't work as well for me as it did then. I still give Farmer an A+ for the audacity of the whole Riverworld concept, but the writing is just plain clunky. I'd also dispute his assertion that all loose ends are neatly tied up. But it's an acceptable end to a remarkable SF series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Please Read This Review Dec 7 2002
By Sophie
Excuse me. Riverworld is one of the greatest series SF has to offer, not only because of the sheer scope of the novels, but mostly because of its MYSTERY, the big questions of why the ressurection happened and who is responsible for it. This is an extremely provoking idea. Don't try to tell me that you were BORED during sections of this book or others. Don't even think about saying that certain parts could have been skipped over. If you want to skip over parts, you shouldn't have read the series at all. If you cared an ounce about the questions the Riverworld saga is asking, about any of the bigger ideas, then you wouldn't skip over a word. Every part is important and relevant. If it wasn't, Philip Jose Farmer woudn't have written it. This is a fast-paced, novel, my friends, and don't try to say otherwise. But every novel needs background, even the fast-paced ones. If it didn't have any background, any explanation of character or character development, then the books would end up like those terrible action movies they put on TV. Besides, the characters are an important part of the series. They are (or were) famous people, and one interesting theme is how they interact with one another.
Basically, every part of a book is important if you are to understand parts later on in the book or in following books. As in all mystery novels, there are clues along the way to the solution. The clues keep you determined to solve the puzzle.
But I do agree that sometimes the journey can be more important than the destination. The fourth book seemed sort of a let down, in more ways than one. I thoroughly enjoyed the third book and was anticipating the fourth, in which the great quest would be completed and the answers at long last found. But the ending didn't satisfy me in the least.
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This is the 4th book in the Riverworld series.
These main characters are Burton and Clemens. The plot is that of the two Riverboats continuing their journeys up river and finally meeting and have a huge battle.
There are a lot of boring parts to this book. Especially in the beginning where there are two many dream sequences. So you may be skipping a bit in the beginning. After about the middle though, things get quite a bit more interesting and towards the end they are extremely exciting.
As stated before the discrepancies in this novel and the next one are enormous. The author leaves quite a few issues unanswered. Such as the fate of Kazz, Loghu, Tom Mix, Jack London, and Johnston, the crow killer.
One of the things I found most irritating about this book was that it seemed like the author had plenty of time to put in boring dream sequences but no time to clear up said issues for the sake of storyline completeness. Characters were literally there one chapter and gone the next. Without any written reference to them or why they were no longer in the main travelling party.
Still worth it for the great Riverboat battle at the end, but it's irritating how many main characters are killed off wantonly.
I gave this book 3 stars because once you get to the Riverboat Battle between Clemens and Prince John it's all exceptionally good with lots of action centering around your favorite characters.
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