From the back cover of the trade paperback
All those who ever lived on Earth
have found themselves resurrected -- healthy, young, and naked as newborns -- on
the grassy banks of a mighty river, in a world unknown. Miraculously provided
with food, but with no clues to the meaning of their strange new afterlife,
billions of people from every period of Earth's history -- and prehistory --
must start again.
Sir Richard Francis Burton would be
the first to glimpse the incredible way-station, a link between worlds. This
forbidden sight would spur the renowned nineteenth century explorer to uncover
the truth. Along with a remarkable group of compatriots, including Alice Liddell
Hargreaves (the Victorian girl who was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland),
an English-speaking Neanderthal, a WWII Holocaust survivor, and a wise
extraterrestrial, Burton sets sail on the magnificent river. His mission: to
confront humankind's mysterious benefactors, and learn the true purpose --
innocent or evil -- of the Riverworld...
From the back cover of 1970s paperback
It is not like our world -- or any
world that can be imagined by anyone but Philip Jose Farmer. It is huge and
mysterious. It has a central river, rimmed by mountains, with a hidden source
and an unknown end. Reborn there is every last soul who ever lived on Earth --
from prehistoric apemen to moondwelling future civilizations.
Reborn there is Sir Richard Francis
Burton, translator of "The Arabian Nights," explorer, brawler, scholar,
womanizer -- adventurer. His quest to discover the end of the river, the meaning
of this world's existence...
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
Philip José Farmer - To Your Scattered Bodies Go
This novel has one of the greatest premises
in all of literature: every person who has ever lived wakes up
simultaneously on the shores of an immense river circling a clearly
artificially designed world. It's an idea perfectly suited to Farmer,
who loves to use characters from history or from other authors' fiction.
It even gives him an excuse to include himself, in the guise of a
character with the initials PJF, as he is wont to do. Farmer's delight
at constructing a story around figures like Sir Richard Francis Burton
and Hermann Göring is infectious.
It's interesting to see the mores
that develop in Riverworld's strange and diverse society, and how
someone like Alice Hargreaves of the Victorian era responds. The petty
feuds and cruelties that come to dominate Riverworld nicely illustrate
Farmer's view of how pointless the violence and territorialism of our
own world are.
Finally, the intrigue of who
built Riverworld and why is handled effectively (even if those who have
gone on to read the rest of the series know that Farmer fails to
complete this aspect of the story successfully in the sequels).
José Farmer (1918-2009) was a US writer.
1953 Hugo Award for New SF Author or Artist
1968 Hugo Award for best novella "Riders of the Purple Wage"
1972 Hugo Award for best novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go
The Riverworld series
-- To Your Scattered Bodies Go (fixup 1971)
-- The Fabulous Riverboat (fixup 1971)
-- The Dark Design (1977)
-- The Magic Labyrinth (1980)
-- The Gods of Riverworld (1983)
While Philip Jose Farmer's popularity reached its high point in the 1970's
with the introduction of the Riverworld series, he first gained attention two
decades earlier. In 1952, Farmer's first science fiction story, "The Lovers,"
garnered him a Hugo award for Most Promising New Author. His first novel,
The Green Odyssey (1957), a planetary romance, was also
Farmer is often credited with introducing mature sexual themes to the
field of science fiction. "The Lovers" was noteworthy for its frank treatment of
sex at a time when SF was nearly always PG-rated. The story was published in
Startling Stories, having been rejected by the leading editors of the time, John
W. Campbell, Jr. of Astounding and Horace L. Gold of Galaxy, presumably due to
its adult themes. In 1961, Farmer published an expanded version of The Lovers as
his fourth novel. The stories in Farmer's collection
Strange Relations (1960) and his later novel Dare (1965)
similarly feature situations of sexual encounters between humans and aliens.
Many of Farmer's other early works also handled sexual situations quite
explicitly. Farmer's second and third novels,
Flesh (1960) and A Woman a Day (1960) (retitled The
Day of Timestop, and retitled again Timestop!) were originally
published as part of the Beacon Galaxy series of risqué SF novels.
Flesh follows an astronaut who has spent 800 years in space,
mostly in suspended animation, returning to an earth now populated only by
women, who have very high expectations of him.
Later on, Farmer penned several novels for Essex House, a publisher
targeting the market (?) for science fiction pornography. These novels included
Image of the Beast (1968), a fantastic mystery, its sequel
(1969), and A Feast Unknown (1969). All three books were later
reprinted by Playboy Press.
Traitor to the Living (1973), published after Essex House went
out of business, was identified as a sequel to
Image of the Beast and Blown.
Farmer has also written mainstream novels featuring surprising sexual
situations. These include
Fire and the Night (1962), about an attraction between a white man
and his married black coworker, and
Love Song (1970), in which a man has sexual encounters with a
beautiful young woman and her mother, which prove hazardous to his health.
(There is no truth to the rumor that Al Gore was the inspiration for
After a few stand-alone SF adventures - Cache from Outer Space
(1962, revised as
The Cache (1981)), Inside Outside (1964), and Tongues
of the Moon (1964).
In 1965 Farmer embarked on his first major series, the World of Tiers.
These are fast-paced adventures set in a series of linked pocket universes. The
World of Tiers books include
The Maker of Universes (1965), The Gates of Creation
A Private Cosmos (1968), Behind the Walls of Terra (1970),
The Lavalite World (1977), Red Orc's Rage (1991), and
More Than Fire (1993).
The World of Tiers books and, beginning in 1971, the Riverworld novels have
been very successful commercially and are often regarded as the cornerstones of
Farmer's career, even if most of his fans agree that much of Farmer's best
writing is to be found outside of either series.
Another of Farmer's series of related stories are the Father Carmody
stories, assembled in
Night of Light (1966) and Father to the Stars (1981).
Night of Light contains the phrase "purple haze" and is said to have
inspired Jimi Hendrix.
Farmer delights in using famous characters by other authors in his
fiction. The main characters of
A Feast Unknown, mentioned above, are Lord Grandrith of the Jungle
and Doc Caliban, clearly stand-ins for Tarzan of the Apes and Doc Savage. Their
bizarre adventures may be seen as a satire of the heroic fiction genre. The same
characters reappear in
Lord of the Trees (1970) and The Mad Goblin (1970,
Keepers of the Secrets). Farmer's fascination with Tarzan is also
Lord Tyger (1970), where a rich madman tries to create his own
Tarzan Alive (1972), which purports to be the true biography of
The Adventures of the Peerless Peer (1974), in which Sherlock
Holmes and Watson encounter Tarzan; and
Time's Last Gift (1972), Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974), and
Flight to Opar (1976), which show us the past of the Opar
civilization Tarzan encountered in one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books.
Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973) claims to be a true
biography of Doc Savage (who it turns out is related to Tarzan). Farmer has also
written "straight" Doc Savage and Tarzan adventures,
Escape from Loki: Doc Savage's First Adventure (1991) and The
Dark Heart of Time: A Tarzan Novel (1999). In a related vein, Farmer edited
Mother Was a Lovely Beast: A Feral Man Anthology of Fiction and Fact
about Humans Raised by Animals (1974).
Farmer has borrowed many other characters from literature in addition to
Tarzan and Doc Savage.
The Wind Whales of Ishmael (1971) features the narrator from
Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973) tells the whole story that
Jules Verne only gave us a glimpse of in Around the World in Eighty Days.
A Barnstormer in Oz (1982) sends Dorothy's son back to the land
created by L. Frank Baum.
Ironcastle (1976) is supposedly only a translation of L'etonnant
Voyage de Hareton Ironcastle by J.H. Rosny (1922), but some familiar with the
French edition say Farmer added much to the original.
Perhaps Farmer's most outrageous use of another author's character was
Venus on the Half-Shell (1975), which was published as by Kilgore Trout, a
science fiction writer mentioned frequently in the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Vonnegut authorized Farmer's use of his fictional writer, but later became
annoyed with the situation. He expressed concern that confusion over the book
could hurt his literary reputation, prompting Farmer to retort that the book
could hardly do more damage to his reputation than several of Vonnegut's own
Returning to his entirely original work, Farmer's most recent series was
the Dayworld trilogy -
Dayworld (1985), Dayworld Rebel (1987), and Dayworld
Breakup (1990) - in which overpopulation has resulted in everyone being
allowed to live only one day per week while spending the rest in suspended
animation. The story follows a group of "daybreakers," who defy the system and
live seven different lives.
Of course, Farmer's best-known original works remain the Riverworld series
of novels. In addition to the five Riverworld novels, the Riverworld setting is
River of Eternity (1983), an attempt by Farmer to recreate the
original Riverworld story, I Owe for the Flesh, which won a contest in the 50's
but was lost before it could be published;
Riverworld and Other Stories (1979), a collection of Farmer's
short fiction that includes the novella "Riverworld," which does not appear in
the Riverworld novels;
Riverworld War: The Suppressed Fiction of Philip Jose Farmer
(1980), which contains a chapter edited out of one of the Riverworld novels
along with an abridged version of Farmer's novel
Jesus on Mars (neither of which was really "suppressed"); and
Tales of Riverworld (1992) and
Quest for Riverworld (1993), collections of Riverworld stories by
various authors, including two per volume contributed by Farmer.
Other Farmer SF novels include The Gate of Time (1966, revised as
Two Hawks from Earth (1979)),
The Stone God Awakens (1970), Dark is the Sun (1979),
Jesus on Mars (1979),
The Unreasoning Mask (1981), and The Caterpillar's Question,
with Piers Anthony (1992).
The Purple Book (1982) collects stories all with the word "purple"
in the title, including the outstanding (and again sexually explicit)
Hugo-winning novella "Riders of the Purple Wage."
Greatheart Silver (1982) and Stations of the Nightmare
(1982) are collections of linked stories. Farmer's other collections of short
The Alley God (1962), The Celestial Blueprint (1962),
Down in the Black Gang (1971),
The Book of Philip Jose Farmer (1973), The Classic Philip Jose
(1984), The Grand Adventure (1984), and Riders of the
Purple Wage (1992).
Farmer also recently wrote a mystery novel, Nothing Burns in Hell
(1998), and was one of the contributors to
Naked Came the Farmer (1998), a mystery novel in which each
chapter was written by a different Central Illinois author.
Finally, Farmer is credited with creating the premise for and editing
The Dungeon, a series of six related novels by other authors published
between 1988 and 1990.
Thanks to Aaron
for researching and writing this thorough bibliography