Every human who ever was or will be, is resurrected after death around a mysterious ever-stretching river. They do not know the where, how, or why, but a group of historical figures come together to discover those answers. Along the way, they become embroiled in a rebellion of a slave-state led by an ex-Nazi, learn tidbits about the mysterious figures ruling this world, suspect someone close to them may be a traitor, and encounter death, yet again.
This novel really stands out to me as one of the most original and exciting sci-fi stories that I’ve read. Yes, it can be a tedious read at times, sometimes feeling more like a history text book and the documentation of a sociological experiment than a fiction novel, but the pros far outweigh the cons.
One of those pros is in-fact that the reader does get to see a well-thought out sociological experiment play out in this fictional universe. Despite the prose getting a little boring at times, this is still very interesting. Farmer takes many real historical figures such as our lead character, Sir Richard Francis Bacon (19th century explorer, writer, soldier, and more), Hermann Göring (Nazi leader), Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Monat Grrautut, an alien who died on Earth.
The mythology of the world is intriguing and continues to expand and reveal itself, compelling you to read on. Someone only referred to as The Mysterious Stranger urges Burton on a quest that will take him to the ruling figures of this world and which may save or upset the balance of the Riverworld. But the Stranger’s motives are unclear, and the reader never knows how much they can trust this individual.
I found book one to be the most exciting because the newness of the high-concepts introduced to the reader combat any slow, tedious prose, which there is a lot of. Also, I found this book the most streamlined, fast-paced, and tight of all the books, as the plot of the later ones tend to drag at times. I definitely recommend them all though.
If you’re looking for something new and original to read, seek out the oft-overlooked forty-two-year-old epic science-fiction novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go.