I read this book because the idea of historical figures returning to life and all meeting one another was intriguing. Several other writers also refer..Show More »red 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.
In this installment of the Riverworld series, Farmer goes for somewhat of a reboot. Instead of following Richard Burton, this book focuses on Samuel C..Show More »lemens 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.
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 th..Show More »ere 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.
Unfortunately as this series has progressed, the quality has continued to deteriorate. Much of the opening portion is largely concerned with vain atte..Show More »mpts 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.
The 5th installment of the Riverworld saga appears to have been an afterthought. Book 4 saw the entry into the tower with an explanation of its origin..Show More » and purpose. While the immediate problem of the impending computer failure (in this regard, Farmer should get credit for his prescience with a protein based computer given DNA counterparts today) had been averted, we were left with the ongoing resurrection failure due to prior irrevocable commands.
Most of the tale is engaged with our rag tag intrepoid band trying to figure out how to operate the whole complex. They possess limited resurrection capabilities (they can bring back specific individuals inside the tower) and this leads to ever growing unintended consequences. The final resolution is totally unsatisfying and question the underlying premise of the entire series with regards to "ethicalness" that is treated as a quantifiable, unambiguous property that people "train" to attain. Farmer's final twist allows him to even offer the possibility that good intentions of striving for a perfect ethicality may even engender psychosis.Burton's final rejection of the ultimate reward for being as close to "ethical" as he can reach strives to capture the essential human qualities of independence, but only comes across as a stubborn toddler.
As mentioned previously, the past generation's conception of computers constrains the credulity of the reader. The computer displays a Kafkaesque devotion to rigid ridiculousness that becomes quite tiresome. There are long discussions of whether to resurrect politicians and/or religious leaders, but at no time does anyone even consider resurrecting a scientist or computer specialist. As a result, the fumbling and bumbling has more of Keystone Cop sense than a group of focused individuals attempting to save the lives of 18 billion people. Strategies devolve to what if: they'll think that we think that they'll think that we'll think ad infinitum.