Bren's Reviews > To Your Scattered Bodies Go

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
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Jun 26, 09

bookshelves: favourites, thrift-store-finds
Read in June, 2009

"Purgatory is hell with hope."

So says John Collop, one of the few remaining spiritual (read: religious) people left reincarnated in the Riverworld. Although his appearance is rather as brief as a cameo within the novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go, he represents a variety of hope otherwise greatly unseen.

The protagonist of this series is the reborn adventurer Sir Richard Francis Burton. Having awakened in a void-of-sorts, surrounded by countless other hairless immobile humanoid bodies slowly spinning in space, Burton finds himself alive once again after his fatal 1890 heart attack.

Riverworld, as its residents have dubbed it, is a land bisected by an enormous river, perhaps a mile wide in places, which stretches beyond the lengths of all the Earth's rivers combined. Bordered by a stretch of grassy land, wooded areas, and impenetrable mountains, the reborn citizens of Riverworld find themselves thrust into a foreign new world, much like Earth with a few noted exceptions: There is no insect life, save for a few worms upon which the river's aquatic life lives; Food comes from a large mushroom-like structure of metal, within which are numerous indentations intended to hold each person's individual "grail" (or, metal canister unique to each person; The citizens are comprised solely of former inhabitants of Earth - every single one of them who have lived since the dawn of time, including the Neanderthals (numbering, according to the supreme beings of Riverworld, some 36,600,009,637 souls).

A series of coincidences affect the plot. In ordinary fiction, fortunate coincidences hinder a plot more than resolve it - a lazy way of resolving tension and conflict for the benefit of the characters -- and subsequent sequels. However, rest assured that the late Philip Jose Farmer does provide explanations for each "fortunate coincidence" before the story ends.

...With the exception of a few unanswered questions, of course. But then, it would be unfortunate to have everything resolved all at once within the maiden installment of a 5-novel series.

A thoughtful science fiction/adventure read, To Your Scattered Bodies Go begins with a strong offering, and leads one to look forward to the vast, surreal expanse of Gardner's created world.
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