©1971 Philip José Farmer; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
In this installment of the Riverworld series, Farmer goes for somewhat of a reboot. Instead of following Richard Burton, this book focuses on Samuel Clemens and his struggle to also reach the head of the world-spanning river. The motivation for this comes from another (or the same?) "Ethical", who tells Sam that he is one of twelve that must reach the river's head in order to unravel the mystery of the Riverworld.
The "Ethical" points Sam to an area where the materials to build a riverboat can be found, and here lies the bulk of the book- the struggle to build the Riverboat. This means dealing with some of histories baddies and the ills of society while overcoming the shortcomings of the world in which they are placed.
The book is a little slow in the beginning as it needs to build relationships set up the plot. However, once it becomes engrossing--and it does--the sense of adventure that was prevalent in the first book comes back in force. Part of this is due to another great reading by Paul Hecht, who uses just the right smattering of accents for the characters. In fact, the book finishes on such a high note, I again find myself wishing the third book were available for download.
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 loved the first book and was excited to read the followup. Everything that made book one a exciting, original, and thought provoking was replaced with boring character endless battles. After about four or five hours and repetition I had to give up. Maybe eventually something actually started to happen, but for me it wasn't worth the effort to listen to and was retroactively ruining the original story. It started reminding me of Dune. The first book was a masterpiece, after that it became a generic cash cow.
Great story, great narrator.
strange place we've landed. Stranger places we are heading for. What a long strange trip.
This book had potential, but the author became just as enamored with this impossible riverboat as his protagonist did. And when you see how pointless that all was by the end, it leaves you feeling as though you wasted a credit on a story that did not advance the larger Riverworld narrative. I wish I'd skipped this one entirely.
Specific issues: The riverboat's assets and amenities make no sense without a large, industrial civilization. Samuel Clemens is not used to any great effect, his character seems to be little more than a cheap method for the author to make constant quips. The smartest character in the story is a protohuman. This book lessened the larger mystery by placing it in such an ungrounded context. The only major developments dealing with the "Ethicals" bring nothing that wasn't already given at the end of the first novel.
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