The concept for the Riverworld series was good: An alien world were the people who died on earth are brought back to life in youthful bodies; where there is a single monumental river and "grail stones" that provide for people's needs.
Unfortunately the series tends to drag on. The author concentrates too much on introducing far too many characters and trying ot define their psychological make up. The book even has a plot device: "dream gum" which is a hallucinogenic that actually makes them confront their fears and neuroses. Because of this, the plot drags on as we pause far too long, for the characters to "psychoanalyse" themselves or one another.
There are also many plot holes: Technology that appears from nowhere and extremely unlikely coincidences, are just two. For example the author goes into fine detail explaining how in such a large planet with billions of people, it is very unlikely that one person will come across specific people from their past life, and yet that's exactly what happens when the author needs it.
Finally, each book ends in a very unsatisfying way. At the beginning of each book you feel like you should have gotten much farther than you actually do. Also, for what actually happens in terms of plot, the author could have covered most of the events up to book 3 in just one book.
I enjoyed this book. Good story, very imaginative. A world that is truly multidimensional and fully lfeshed out. The reader, however was not the greatest. Half the voices can only be described as "sufer dude" and don't seem to fit very well. I understand what he is trying to do in terms of the characters personality but this is one of those readers who over-acts the voice. In audiobooks I believe its necessary to differentiate voices - to act- them but there are too many that go overboard and this is one of those readers. I have read Brandon Sanderson's books before and found that is they had one shortcoming it is sometimes cheesy dialogue. In this case I don't know if its the reader.
For those of you who are familiar with the Vertigo Comic "Fables" then you are familiar with this world. Peter and Max is part of that world. For those who are unfamiliar, Peter and Max takes place in a realm where hundred of years ago a magical people immigrated into our mudane world fleeing from a great adversary who was conquering all their magical lands. These beigns where so magical that their very precence seemed to inspire people to write stories about them (although the "mundys" never got the stories quite right). Peter and Max is about Peter Piper and his brother Max and their eventual and almost deadly reunion since both left the Old Lands.
Bill Wllingham is a very imaginative author. His is a great Comics writer and this foray into prose narrative is well done. I have problems with some of his dialogue, its a little trite. Especially the dialogue between Peter and his wife (Bo Peep). And some of the events in the book seem pulled from other stories. Still it works well. And one of the thigs I love about the Fables series is the reimagining of papular characters like Bo Peep, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and the Black Forest Witch. If you liked Wicked, you'll probably like this.
I wrote a review of the frist part of this series, "To Your Scattered Bodies Go". In a nutshell I found the book to have a great idea but to be too long and full of dated attitudes towards people and the world. Thsi second part has all of the same but is even longer - unnecessarily so.
The concept is that a world was created by a group of aliens that have been observing and recording mankind. Not the history but the very consciousnesses of the people of Earth. When people die they are reborn in new young bodies. There is no disease, people don't seem to age but they can be killed only to be reborn in 24 hours in another part of hte planet. The main feature of the planet is a monumental river that seems to encirle the whole world. But something is wrong. People question why the aliens do this and a rebel alien is helping a select group find out.
The main character here is Mark Twain. The parsonality is well written, he seems like mark twain. The other characters a re interesting as well. But, the events of the book tend to drone on one cataclysm after another, one rebuild after another while you are waiting for something else to happen. You get a sense of the goal of the book at the biginning: that Samuel Clemens (mark Twain) wants to build a Riverboat to explore the river. Well the book does not get to that. One problem arises after another as the characters build and rebuild a society for the sole purpose of building this riverboat. The author's main goal may be to show the character's frustration with this but he is also frustrating the reader.
Also as I mentioned about the frist book, there are no strong female characters. The only important women in this book are there as a love interest or source of frustration for the male characters. Samuel Clemen's wife appears but she is with another man and Clemen's can't let her go. This seems to be the only reason she is there.
I read this book because the idea of historical figures returning to life and all meeting one another was intriguing. Several other writers also referred to this author and series as having inspired their work. Since I liked their work, I thought I might like this. The idea is good but I don't care too much for the writing. Farmer's pacing is off, it often duels on or returns to a certain theme too often. Events happen that make it seem as though the story will go into a certain direction but it doesn't. It goes back to where it was and stays there for several more chapters. When it ended, I just felt that it could have ended a lot faster.
Also, though this is a symptom of the time in which the book was written, it has no strong female characters. It also objectifies women too much. This is a world in which all people who died return to life young and vigorous. There is no disease, and no pregnancy. But this seems only to be a licence for women to become even more of an object of sexual and emotional desire than in the "real" world. Furthermore, we never see the situation from a woman's point of view. The story starts with an interesting female character in the form of Alice Liddle Hargreaves (the girl who inspires Alice in Wonderland) but she never develops as a character and literally disappears for the last third of the book. She's just there as a sort of mental torture for the lead (male) character Richard Burton. Interestingly enough, I also read the second book in this series, "The Fabulous Riverboat", and there is a female character there who seems to be there only to be out of reach of that book's main character Mark Twain.
I read the second part of the series because I found the idea so strong. But it was hard to relate to the events and characters in either book. I am going to read the third part only because I want to see where the story should already have gotten.
I am not a big fan of Kevin J. Anderson but I have not read much of his work and what I did read was created by others (Star Wars books and such). This book had an interesting description and it was something new so I tried it.
The world the Author creates is lush and detailed. It shows off the wonderful imagination of Anderson and his fine attnetion to detail. What I don't like about his writing is that in many cases its self-conscious or articficial. A lot of Science Fiction and fantasy has this problem nowadays. For example at times the names of objects don't seem even remotely realistic or sound more descriptive than a real name would be. I can't quote a specific instance but it would be like saying "Patagonian Cow Meat" instead of "steak". Read through the book and you would find these instances.
Another problem is the dialogue. It is not very good either. The characters, although psychologically interesting don't come accross as real. However, all in all its not too bad.
The worst problem, though, has nothing to do with the author. Scott Brick (a featurer narrator by the way) is a terrible reader. He reads everything with the same sarcastic sing-song. I listened to "Blade Runner" which was read by Brick and in that book, it sort of worked, but it is totally out of place in this work.
If you like Kevin J. Anderson, buy the book and read it yourself because whatever problems I may have had with it, I probably would have enjoyed "The Edge of the World" much better without Scott Brick.
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