Sir Francis Bacon would be the first to glimpse the incredible way-station, a link between worlds. This forbidden sight would spur the renowned 19th-century explorer to uncover the truth. Along with a remarkable group of compatriots, including Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the Victorian girl who was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland), an English-speaking Neanderthal, a WWII Holocaust survivor, and a wise extraterrestrial, Burton sets sail on the magnificent river. His mission: to confront humankind's mysterious benefactors, and learn the true purpose--innocent or evil--of the Riverworld . . .
About the Author
Philip José Farmer (1918-2009) was an award-winning science fiction author who wrote more than 70 novels. He is best known for the Riverworld series of books and the fan-favorite The World of Tiers series. Farmer often mixed real and fictional elements in his books, as epitomized by his Wold Newton series. In 2001, he was awarded the Grand Master Prize from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and won a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.
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His wife had held him in her arms as if she could keep death away from him.
He had cried out, "My God, I am a dead man!"
The door to the room had opened, and he had seen a giant, black,
one-humped camel outside and had heard the tinkle of the bells on its harness as the hot desert wind touched them. Then a huge black face topped by a great black turban had appeared in the doorway. The black eunuch had come in through the door, moving like a cloud, with a gigantic scimitar in his hand. Death, the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Society,
had arrived at last.
Blackness. Nothingness. He did not even know that his heart had given out forever. Nothingness.
Then his eyes opened. His heart was beating strongly. He was strong, very strong! All the pain of the gout in his feet, the agony in his liver, the torture in his heart, all were gone.
It was so quiet he could hear the blood moving in his head. He was alone in a world of soundlessness.
A bright light of equal intensity was everywhere. He could see, yet he did not understand what he was seeing. What were these things above, beside,
below him? Where was he?
He tried to sit up and felt, numbly, a panic. There was nothing to sit up upon because he was hanging in nothingness. The attempt sent him forward and over, very slowly, as if he were in a bath of thin treacle. A foot from his fingertips was a rod of bright red metal. The rod came from above, from infinity, and went on down to infinity. He tried to grasp it because it was the nearest solid object, but something invisible was resisting him. It was as if lines of some force were pushing against him,
Slowly, he turned over in a somersault. Then the resistance halted him with his fingertips about six inches from the rod. He straightened his body out and moved forward a fraction of an inch. At the same time, his body began to rotate on its longitudinal axis. He sucked in air with a loud sawing noise. Though he knew no hold existed for him, he could not help flailing his arms in panic to try to seize onto something.
Now he was face "down," or was it "up"? Whatever the direction, it was opposite to that toward which he had been looking when he had awakened.
Not that this mattered. "Above" him and "below" him the view was the same.
He was suspended in space, kept from falling by an invisible and unfelt cocoon. Six feet "below" him was the body of a woman with a very pale skin. She was naked and completely hairless. She seemed to be asleep. Her eyes were closed, and her breasts rose and fell gently. Her legs were together and straight out, and her arms were by her side. She turned slowly like a chicken on a spit.
The same force that was rotating her was also rotating him. He spun slowly away from her, saw other naked and hairless bodies, men, women, and children, opposite him in silent spinning rows. Above him was the rotating naked and hairless body of a Negro.
He lowered his head so that he could see along his own body. He was naked and hairless, too. His skin was smooth, and the muscles of his belly were ridged, and his thighs were packed with strong young muscles. The veins that had stood out like blue mole-ridges were gone. He no longer had the body of the enfeebled and sick sixty-nine-year-old man who had been dying only a moment ago. And the hundred or so scars were gone.
He realized then that there were no old men or women among the bodies surrounding him. All seemed to be about twenty-five years old, though it was difficult to determine the exact age, since the hairless heads and pubes made them seem older and younger at the same time.
He had boasted that he knew no fear. Now fear ripped away the cry forming in this throat. His fear pressed down on him and squeezed the new life from him.
He had been stunned at first because he was still living. Then his position in space and the arrangement of his new environment had frozen his senses. He was seeing and feeling through a thick semiopaque window.
After a few seconds something snapped inside him. He could almost hear it,
as if a window had suddenly been raised.
The world took a shape which he could grasp, though he could not comprehend it. Above him, on both sides, below him, as far as he could see, bodies floated. They were arranged in vertical and horizontal rows.
The up-and-down ranks were separated by red rods, slender as broomsticks,
one of which was twelve inches from the feet of the sleepers and the other twelve inches from their heads. Each body was spaced about six feet from the body above and below and on each side.
The rods came up from an abyss without bottom and soared into an abyss without ceiling. That grayness into which the rods and the bodies, up and down, right and left, disappeared was neither the sky nor the earth. There was nothing in the distance except the lackluster of infinity.
On one side was a dark man with Tuscan features. On his other side was an Asiatic Indian and beyond her a large Nordic-looking man. Not until the third revolution was he able to determine what was so odd about the man.
The right arm, from a point just below the elbow, was red. It seemed to lack the outer layer of skin.
A few seconds later, several rows away, he saw a male adult body lacking the skin and all the muscles of the face.
There were other bodies that were not quite complete. Far away, glimpsed unclearly, was a skeleton and a jumble of organs inside it.
He continued turning and observing while his heart slammed against his chest with terror. By then he understood that he was in some colossal chamber and that the metal rods were radiating some force that somehow supported and revolved millions--maybe billions--of human beings.
Where was this place?
Certainly, it was not the city of Trieste of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of 1890.
It was like no hell or heaven of which he had ever heard or read, and he had thought that he was acquainted with every theory of the afterlife.
He had died. Now he was alive. He had scoffed all his life at a life-after-death. For once, he could not deny that he had been wrong. But there was no one present to say, "I told you so, you damned infidel!"
Of all the millions, he alone was awake.
As he turned at an estimated rate of one complete revolution per ten seconds, he saw something else that caused him to gasp with amazement.
Five rows away was a body that seemed, at first glance, to be human. But no member of Homo sapiens had three fingers and a thumb on each hand and four toes on each foot. Nor a nose and thin black leathery lips like a dog's. Nor a scrotum with many small knobs. Nor ears with such strange convolutions.
Terror faded away. His heart quit beating so swiftly, though it did not return to normal. His brain unfroze. He must get out of this situation where he was as helpless as a hog on a turnspit. He would get to somebody who could tell him what he was doing here, how he had come here, why he was here.
To decide was to act.
He drew up his legs and kicked and found that the action, the reaction,
rather, drove him forward a half-inch. Again, he kicked and moved against the resistance. But, as he paused, he was slowly moved back toward his original location. And his legs and arms were gently pushed toward their original rigid position.
In a frenzy, kicking his legs and moving his arms in a swimmer's breaststroke, he managed to fight toward the rod. The closer he got to it,
the stronger the web of force became. He did not give up. If he did, he would be back where he had been and without enough strength to begin fighting again. It was not his nature to give up until all his strength had been expended.
He was breathing hoarsely, his body was coated with sweat, his arms and legs moved as if in a thick jelly, and his progress was imperceptible.
Then, the fingertips of his left hand touched the rod. It felt warm and hard.
Suddenly, he knew which way was "down." He fell.
The touch had broken the spell. The webs of air around him snapped soundlessly, and he was plunging.
He was close enough to the rod to seize it with one hand. The sudden checking of his fall brought his hip up against the rod with a painful impact. The skin of his hand burned as he slid down the rod, and then his other hand clutched the rod, and he had stopped.
In front of him, on the other side of the rod, the bodies had started to fall. They descended with the velocity of a falling body on Earth, and each maintained its stretched-out position and the original distance between the body above and below. They even continued to revolve.
It was then that the puffs of air on his naked sweating back made him twist around on the rod. Behind him, in the vertical row of bodies that he had just occupied, the sleepers were also falling. One after the other, as if methodically dropped through a trapdoor, spinning slowly, they hurtled by him. Their heads missed him by a few inches. He was fortunate not to have been knocked off the rod and sent plunging into the abyss along with them.
In stately procession, they fell. Body after body shooting down on both sides of the rod, while the other rows of millions upon millions slept on.
For a while, he stared. Then he began counting bodies; he had always been a devoted enumerator. But when he had counted 3,001, he quit. After that he gazed at the cataract of flesh. How far up, how immeasurably far up,
were they stacked? And how far down could they fall? Unwittingly, he had precipitated them when his touch had disrupted the force emanating from the rod.
He could not climb up the rod, but he could climb down it. He began to let himself down, and then he looked upward and he forgot about the bodies hurtling by him. Somewhere overhead, a humming was overriding the whooshing sound of the falling bodies.
A narrow craft, of some bright green substance and shaped like a canoe,
was sinking between the column of the fallers and the neighboring column of suspended. The aerial canoe had no visible means of support, he thought, and it was a measure of his terror that he did not even think about his pun. No visible means of support. Like a magical vessel out of The Thousand and One Nights.
A face appeared over the edge of the vessel. The craft stopped, and the humming noise ceased. Another face was by the first. Both had long, dark,
and straight hair. Presently, the faces withdrew, the humming was renewed,
and the canoe again descended toward him. When it was about five feet above him it halted. There was a single small symbol on the green bow: a white spiral that exploded to the right. One of the canoe's occupants spoke in a language with many vowels and a distinct and frequently recurring glottal stop. It sounded like Polynesian.
Abruptly, the invisible cocoon around him reasserted itself. The falling bodies began to slow in their rate of descent and then stopped. The man on the rod felt the retaining force close in on him and lift him up. Though he clung desperately to the rod, his legs were moved up and then away and his body followed it. Soon he was looking downward. His hands were torn loose; he felt as if his grip on life, on sanity, on the world, had also been torn away. He began to drift upward and to revolve. He went by the aerial canoe and rose above it. The two men in the canoe were naked,
dark-skinned as Yemenite Arabs, and handsome. Their features were Nordic,
resembling those of some Icelanders he had known.
One of them lifted a hand which held a pencil-sized metal object. The man sighted along it as if he were going to shoot something from it.
The man floating in the air shouted with rage and hate and frustration and flailed his arms to swim toward the machine.
"I'll kill!" he screamed. "Kill! Kill!"
Oblivion came again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For me, the appeal of Speculative Fiction is the breadth and depth of its scope. An author is free to explore the most difficult questions and imagine worlds vastly different from anything we have ever experienced. I often find myself questioning what it means to be human, what it means to be capable of thought and self-knowledge. Though all literature tries to tackle this issue, few outside of Sci Fi go to such lengths to address these fundamentally human questions.However, there is a drawback. Often, authors succumb to the temptation to create a world so new, so different, so complex, and so vast that it becomes almost impossible to write it. Farmer has selected too vast a canvas, too great a scene, and so the small (if engaging) story he paints upon it seems a far cry from the overarching premise.Farmer creates an artificial afterlife, one containing every human being ever born. By using the old Sci Fi trick of 'science did it', he avoids the knee-jerk response many people would have to a book about an actual afterlife. Since everyone was just recreated by aliens, Farmer is not automatically a blasphemer.Everyone is there; even, as the book jacket likes to point out, 'you!'. Farmer has the grandest possible cast of characters, and does not waste it. His protagonists, their friends, and their enemies are plucked from the greatest and most notorious men in history, as well as Farmer himself. However, we are struck with an immediate difficulty: namely, that Farmer is trying to write some of the most remarkable people in history.Unfortunately for Farmer, many of his characters' real-life counterparts were brilliant, eccentric men. Since they are more brilliant and eccentric than Farmer himself, we come to feel that he is simply writing fairly standard protagonists and attaching famous names to them.For example, he chooses one of the most remarkable men of a remarkable period, Sir Richard Burton. In a time of colonial adventurers, he was one of the greatest and most notorious. He was one of the greatest swordfighters of his day and braved and escaped death numerous times over his remarkably long career.He was also a polyglot who knew some thirty languages, making him an extremely convenient hero for a book taking place on a world where every culture was rubbing elbows with every other. He also nearly discovered the source of the Nile, giving him a thematic connection to this 'Riverworld'.In short he was a real-life hero, straight out of an adventure story. However, he was also a refined and educated man who made a full and unabridged translation of the 1,001 Arabian Nights. Though Farmer's version of Burton is as capable and impressive as we might expect, he does not have Burton's singular and remarkable personality.Perhaps it was wise of Farmer to pick a man so clearly suited to play the role of the adventure hero. Many authors have tried to create adventure heroes out of small and inexperienced men. However, in this case, Farmer has thrown his net too far, and caught too large a fish for his dinner.Farmer experiences a similar problem with all of the myriad cultures he writes. Since he is not a historical expert on any of these cultures, their portrayal tends to be rather unremarkable, such that as we travel along the river, we find Victorian Gentlemen, Dakota Indians, and Chinese Marauders are more or less interchangeable.Beyond this, their interaction with one another becomes likewise simplified. It would be a remarkable feat for any author to be able to write such interactions as might occur between Sumerians and Olmecs, but this hardly excuses Farmer. After all, he was the one who chose to write this book.Farmer took his inspiration from Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also had a mysterious and mystical river in his John Carter of Mars series. However, Farmer might have taken another lesson from Burroughs. When Burroughs wrote of strange Martian cultures, he could create as he liked without any need for research or knowledge. Ho
In a strange landscape of plains and hills, along the banks of a seemingly endless river, every person who has ever lived on Earth has been mysteriously resurrected in a new, young, and healthy body. It's an afterlife of some kind, but not one that any religion ever anticipated.Out of all the human beings who have ever lived, the novel chooses to focus on Richard Burton, a nineteenth century Englishman known, among other things, for his extensive travels and his language skills. And Burton is determined to find out what the secrets behind this place are if he has to sail all the way to the end of the river to do it.It's a fantastic, mind-blowing, absolutely compelling premise. So I can sort of understand why this is so highly regarded. But I find what Farmer does with it incredibly frustrating. There's just really not much development of anything. I want a really close-up look at how people react to and adapt to this weird new reality, how their societies and their philosophies and their ways of relating to each other slowly evolve, but that's all dealt with very shallowly, if at all. Mostly we're told things rather than being shown them, and that's true on every scale, from human relationships to the rise and fall of mini-civilizations. We're shown a very little bit of the first few days after the resurrection, then there's a month-long time jump while Burton and his new friends build a boat, then there's a jump of well over a year while they explore the river, an expedition we get to see almost none of. Farmer seems way, way more interested in the details of Burton's life than in this amazing new setting he's created, and, while I'm sure Burton is a very interesting guy, given the choice between debates over whether he was or wasn't an anti-Semite vs. a travelog featuring a trip down a million-mile river with all of human history colliding and mutating along its banks, I know which one I'd rather hear about.In the end, there aren't any definite answers to the question of what the heck is going on here, just partial explanations and hints, which I'm sure are more fully explored in later volumes. But, while this one certainly piqued my interest, I doubt I'm going to continue on with the series unless someone can convince me that it changes its focus enough to be less frustrating for me.
I wasn't able to summon the enthusiasm for this book that so many other people seemed to find. I was never able to get into the flow, finding it choppy and awkward. The plot premise (every person who ever lived resurrected simultaneously on a different planet) allowed quite a bit scope. There was a huge opportunity to make all kinds of comparisons between different cultures and times, but it never really happened.To this day, I find it astonishing that this beat Zelazny's Jack of Shadows...a book I'd recommend to any science fiction or fantasy fan...for the Hugo.
A fast, exciting read, with a clever premise. It's remarkably similar to the TV show Lost (right down to the lack of a satisfactory conclusion), except that instead of a handful of people finding themselves on a mysterious island, it's billions of people finding themselves on a mysterious planet.
This is a very good book that I put off reading for a long time because my copy has a terrible kitschy "genre" cover. If yours does too, please disregard it; this is such a better book than that.To Your Scattered Bodies Go is speculative fiction about the resurrection and afterlife. Our protagonist is the 19th century explorer (/writer/linguist/extremely educated and curious generally) Richard Francis Burton; he is joined by other historical figures like Hermann Göring and Alice Pleasance Liddell. Earth has evidently been destroyed by an inter-galactic war, and at least a portion of its population, spanning from every time and culture, has been resurrected in Riverworld. Of course, everyone brings his or her pre-conceived notions of the afterlife to this world and an explanation of it. But Burton the explorer needs to *know* for certain what Riverworld is, who is running it, and whether this creator/force is benevolent or malignant.It's a unique book, and an interesting commentary on science-religion interaction. The book was written with the entire series already in mind, so it does not wrap up as satisfyingly as a stand-alone novel. But still a good and engrossing read.
First, a word of warning: do NOT expect to know the answers to the questions you're going to have by the end of this book. They aren't there. So if you read this book, get to the end of it and say "this stinks! There's no resolution! I hate this book," don't say I didn't warn you! The book isn't about finding the answers...it's the journey that counts. And if by the end of the book you don't have any questions, you need to go back and read it again because your curiousity should be absolutely on fire!Second, if you are a hardcore Christian, this book just might bother you enough because of the subjects it deals with. Remember: it's Fiction!This novel is the first of the Riverworld Series, in which the reader is introduced to the Riverworld, so called because its main feature is a continuous river that doesn't seem to end. The main character is a real character, here in his fictional garb, the explorer Sir Richard Burton. One moment, he's laying in the arms of his wife, dying; the next moment, he's floating among countless numbers of sleeping people, the only one awake until he sees a canoe with strange markings floating toward him, carrying humans in it, who put him back to sleep. Shortly thereafter, he wakes up, buck naked, his mustache (his pride and joy) gone, along with all of his hair in fact, with only a cylinder attached to him. As he awakens, he realizes there are others there as well, all in the same condition. Eventually he comes to realize that they have all at some point, died, either before him or after him. All told, every single human being that ever lived on the Earth at any moment in its history are there in the Riverworld, resurrected, it seems. At first the main problems are seeking shelter and safety; afterwards, Burton is not content to simply accept his fate, but the explorer in him wants to get a boat onto the river and follow it wherever it leads and to see what lies beyond. What he finds is not pretty: it seems that people are just repeating their old bad human-nature habits. His real quest, however, is to find the who, the how and the why behind this massive resurrection.I guess what amazed me about this book was the idea that humans are humans no matter what the situation, time, place, whatever. And while I didn't always like Burton's character, the author did an amazing job with the creation of this guy. I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in the series, although I've heard that none of them can top this one. I have to say that this is probably true, considering how well done this book was.I would recommend it to sci-fi readers who aren't in to all the techno aspects of sf; this is more like a fantasy type thing. Also, if you are a reader interested in the questions of the soul as spirit or physical entity, you might also be interested.
I thought this novel was a bit more creative when I first read it, before I know about "Bangsian fantasy" as a genre, but it's still a fun concept fairly well-executed.
Great book and a great idea. I read this in one night. I believe there is a sequel as well. Can't wait to check that out.
Interesting concepts of what would happen if different cultures where suddenly thrown together. Plot revolves around a flawed character and his attempt to understand it all.
What a wonderful and creative storyline! I really enjoyed the imaginative way Farmer brought together notables from Earth's history in the creation of a new world.
Not so much of a good story as it is a good science fiction story. What I mean is that the character development is slightly weak, but the world in which every earthling who has ever lived has been simultaneously resurrected and the main character's search to understand what has happened, is fascinating. Read this book if you like the premise, as I did. If not, you might be better off skipping this one entirely. But if the premise does strike your fancy, you are in for an astounding read.
This was the fifty-second Hugo winner for me to read, and I would have to say it was without a doubt the most disappointing. The book starts with a very cool concept (every human who has ever lived--plus one alien who killed most of humanity in self-defense--finds themselves mysteriously resurrected on a mysterious planet by mysterious beings). But where Farmer takes the story from there left me very unimpressed. You've just been resurrected and it's not really what you expected. What are you going to do? Why find a complete stranger (as in, lived hundreds of years before or after you, and doesn't speak anything remotely like the same language you do) to have sex with. And if you can't find a willing partner, don't worry . . . Just find a 10 year old to rape. And it doesn't really get much better from there. It was definitely one of those books where the more you think about it the less it holds together. Previously I had read several of Farmer's shorter works, and found his style quite appropriate to the subject matter (often surreal, at times humorous, at times almost naive). But this book felt far too episodic and choppy for the subject matter; it needed much more of a sense of wonder and vastness. The characters were not well developed, especially the women. Indeed, there is an underlying sexism to this book that I find appalling. Every human woman who has ever lived is resurrected weak and needing a male protector. And every woman (all 16 billion of them, I suspect), deep down inside, very much wants to have sex with the protagonist. Not recommended.
The Riverworld series is one of the best around. Like the whole of humanity this book encompasses many different elements: sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, history, morality, brutality, spirituality, survival, friendships, betrayals, love, power, and ultimately the quest to the end of the river. Read it, then pick up the rest in the series.
I was in high school when I first read this book, and I'm 30 now and I still re-read this book at least every 2 years. It's fasinating how Farmer has taken the afterlife and resurection of life (as a fiction writer)into full depth and discription, you feel like your there with everyone and experiencing for the first time everything about life a second time.
This is a great book and high concept. I first read To Your Scattered Bodies Go in the mid seventies and have returned not only to it, but to the entire series as well. Farmer creates a heroic and believable character in Sir Richard Francis Burton. The concept of a world in which all the people who ever lived are resurrected is fascinating. Coupled with the idea of a world that is in essence a river and mysterious being controlling the destiny of those people is superb fiction at its best. I recommend this book as well as the rest in the series.
This is the first book in the Riverworld series and a great read. Contrary to the publishers info, the main character is Sir Richard Francis Burton, not Sir Francis Bacon. This book is a great adventure for anyone with an imagination. It's premise seems a precursor of The Matrix. It also reads as a good mystery as Burton strives to find the secret of why all humanity has been reborn on a new world and what the motives of the Ethicals (the creators) are. This was a great science fiction work and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
i am 14 and i loved this book. i am currently finishing the series and recommend it to buy for teens or kids who complain they dont get enough out of the books they read.