I just finished the first two books of the Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer. The basic premise is that all of humanity – ranging from people who lived in 100,000 BC to 2000 AD all are resurrected on a terraformed planet criss-crossed by an enormous twenty million mile long river. Many people are resurrected near people they know, but many more are resurrected randomly. Every time someone dies on this world, they are reincarnated the next day next to a Grailstone. Grailstones are huge rocks that provide food and supplies for people every day all along the river. People no longer have to work for food.
I think this is one of the most fantastic world ideas, but isn’t that well executed (though Farmer won a Hugo). The author has character options ranging from Julius Caesar to Einstein to Shakespeare. The author chose to follow Sam Clemens (who’s pen name is Mark Twain)… I think this could have been a good choice had the author been better able to mimic Clemens style. “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court” was one of the best books ever written – dark, and bitter funny. I don’t think Farmer was able to capture Clemens sense of humor properly though.
I was happy to hear that Farmer opened up the world and invited other authors to write books inside his universe. I might actually have a little fun trying my hand at fan fiction once I finish the series and write a short story here on my blog.
The next book was written seven years after the first – my hope is that Farmer has improved his style over time. We will see.