Philip Jos? Farmer is a master of creating worlds, and Riverworld's probing of history and religion, mixed with a world of seemingly endless life is a..Show More » perfect example. The only drawback is the other books in the series haven't been released yet- Let alone The World of Tiers series.
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.