By universal critical and popular acclaim, Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld novels form one of the most original, majestically conceived science-fiction works of all time. In this fourth entry in the saga, a great battle is brewing as extraordinary characters - including Samuel Clemens, U.S. Grant, and Cyrano de Bergerac - find themselves on the verge of discovering the origins of Riverworld.
Sir Richard Francis Burton and Clemens, who have traveled for more than 30 years on two great ships, are about to reach the end of the River. But there is a religion, The Church of the Second Chance, that has grown up along the River and its adherents, possibly inspired by aliens, are determined to destroy the riverboats. A coming battle may destroy Burton and Clemens, but even if they survive, how can they penetrate the alien tower of the Ethicals, who created this astonishing world? What can humans do against a race capable of creating a world and resurrecting the entire human race on it?
Listen to more of the Riverworld Saga.
©1980 Philip José Farmer (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
“An excellent science fiction writer, far more skillful than I am.” (Isaac Asimov)
Unfortunately as this series has progressed, the quality has continued to deteriorate. Much of the opening portion is largely concerned with vain attempts to list every human that was ever born and studiously report their birth year and death. Sam Clemens has been reduced to a paranoid, psychotic mess merely seeking revenge (he should have been sent to Gardenworld). Most of the middle portion involves a naval battle that could probably have been outlined with as much detail as found in 3rd grade textbook renditions of the Merrimack and the Monitor in terms of what it actually contributes to the overall story.Also, Heman Gohring as a new age spiritual pacficist is also a bit of a stretch and his final appearance just comes out of nowhere. He appear to be inserted whenever the plot bogs down.
The final resolution of what began as a promising conceptual series consumes only about the last 2.5 hours and arrives after a detailed trek that is remarkable for only it unremarkable quantity of cliche. Even more unsettling is the notion that "ethicalness" which is major theme throughout the series has actually been somehow quantified and made measureable such that machines can exclude individuals who don't measure up. The "trick" at the end to finish is totally derivative from a Star Trek episode that displays the quaint 60's concept for dealing with uncooperative computers.
Unfortunately, the whole tale is trapped in a time warp of post-Vietnam pacificism combined with a new age "Zardoz" type spiritualism that doesn't resonate well today with a more complex and nuanced worldview. The "watan" origin was probably most interesting, but was rushed only to drag along after that. What was launched as a grand concept has floundered from a lack of imagination.
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