An all-in-one reading experience -- brilliant!,
This review is from: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Paperback)Philip José Farmer picked up his third Hugo Award for this 1972 book, his first win for Best Novel. He deserved it. Packing the story into a mere 215 pages, a slender volume compared to doorstops most science fiction and fantasy writers churn out today, Farmer managed to create a science-fiction novel of grand scope that wears many different masks: it's an adventure story, an examination of the development of cultures, an amusing literary exercise, a satire on human tendencies, and a character study. Every reader will find something here to enjoy, and because Farmer knits it all into a seamless whole, even the most discerning and picky reader will find him or herself enjoying every dimension of the book.
This novel introduces the setting of "Riverworld," a mysterious planet where the entire human race from all time periods is suddenly a inexplicably 'resurrected.' Constructs known as grails provide food and other items for the billions of humans. Who or what created the Riverworld, and why did it reconstruct the whole of the human race? That question hangs over the entire story, as our hero, the legendary Victorian adventurer, Orientalist, anthropoligist, writer, and swordsman Richard Francis Burton, sets out on a quest to locate the masters of Riverworld. He has some interesting companions: a 20th century American, an alien visitor from the last days of Earth, a Neanderthal, the woman who inspired the character of Alice in Wonderland, and...well, Nazi leader Hermann Göring. Burton want to uncover the secrets of Riverworld, but the entities responsible for it want to find him as well, for he holds a secret that they desperately need.
"Riverworld" moves at a rapid page-turning. Farmer lets you explore the wonder of this collision of ALL Earth cultures in one place, and you never quite know what will happen next. Sometimes Farmer grabs you with a tense fight scene, the next he amuses you with watching the developing cultures and colliding civilizations of this stew-pot world. The emergence of many famous individuals in the story is one of the novel's best features. Farmer is one of the first authors to exploit the dramatic potential of slamming together many different legendary figures into one story. (Today this is commonplace, such as in "Van Helsing" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," although in "Riverworld" the famous people are all strictly historical instead of fictional). In Richard Francis Burton, Farmer picked the perfect hero. Burton is strong, brilliant, driven, and completely egotistical, just as he was in the real world. He's the sort of hero you can't stop reading about because you enjoy watching him overcome obstacles and constantly rankle the other characters. Burton is larger than life, the ideal hero for this larger than life setting.
"Riverworld" will leave you with plenty to ponder, and fingers itching to pick up the next novel in the series, "The Fabulous Riverboat."