Clearly Philip Jose Farmer wasn’t thinking about a series of books when he named this one To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It’s a title I’ve heard from time to time and it’s made a few best Sci Fi Books lists here and there. It’s one I recently got around to reading.
To Your Scattered Bodies Go is the first of the Riverworld novels. These are stories about a world that has been terraformed into an unending river and populated with everyone who ever lived on Earth. It’s a concept that has some appeal, as a writer can plop down any person who has ever lived into the story.
Which makes it kind of odd that the famous people who are the heroes of our story are not all that famous. Our main character is Richard Burton-and not the actor but some explorer I’ve never heard of. The main woman is Alice Liddell, who inspired Alice in Wonderland. The only other name I recognized was Hermann Göring of Nazi fame. Countless other characters are seen, some are named, and few have any lasting parts to play.
The real star of the show is the River World and the exploration of its rules and how it works. The bulk of the opening sequences deal with everyone being naked and restored to an approximate age of 25. They also have Grails, which are sort of empty lunch pails which fit into Grailstones, which are lined along the river and give people food and supplies. There is a lot of talk about the Resurrection and how this world is not exactly what anyone expected from the Afterlife.
To Your Scattered Bodies Go has a pretty low opinion of humanity. Right off the bat people start killing each other, fighting over what should be endless free resources, and spend most of their time figuring out how to enslave everyone else.
Women are to be fought over and had sex with. Our heroes all meet women from the Victorian era and earlier. No women from the 1960s forward seem to have made the trip.
Sir Burton doesn’t find enough fun killing and being killed by other humans, so he has to fight with the people who built the Riverworld. Dying on Riverworld just means being reborn elsewhere on Riverworld. Richard Burton is a man of his age and thinks there is nothing he can’t do. In the end, he isn’t defeated, but he doesn’t exactly win either.
There wasn’t much of a story here, it was just following around Richard Burton and watching him battle bad guys, pick up women, and inspire every man he meets to be a Real Man like himself.
Not being twelve years old anymore, I wasn’t as impressed with this first Riverworld book with its nudity and violence as I might have been. It was an OK book, but I really can’t believe it won the Hugo by beating out The Lathe of Heaven, Dragonquest, and The World Inside. But then, it’s been a while since I read those three books, so I might not be that impressed with them now either.