Reviews of To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971)
Review by clong (2006-09-02)
This is the fifty-second Hugo winner I have read, and I would have to say it is without a doubt the most disappointing so far.
The book starts with a very cool concept (every human who has ever lived--plus one alien who killed most of humanity in self-defense--finds themselves mysteriously resurrected on a mysterious planet by mysterious beings). But where Farmer takes the story from there left me very unimpressed.
You've just been resurrected and it's not really what you expected. What are you going to do? Why find a complete stranger (as in, lived hundreds of years before or after you, and doesn't speak anything remotely like the same language you do) to have sex with. And if you can't find a willing partner, don't worry . . . Just find a 10 year old to rape. And it doesn't really get much better from there.
It was definitely one of those books where the more you think about it the less it holds together.
Previously I had read several of Farmer's shorter works, and found his style quite appropriate to the subject matter (often surreal, at times humorous, at times almost naive). But this book felt far too episodic and choppy for the subject matter; it needed much more of a sense of wonder and vastness.
The characters were not well developed, especially the women. Indeed, there is an underlying sexism to this book that I find appalling. Every human woman who has ever lived is resurrected weak and needing a male protector. And every woman (all 16 billion of them, I suspect), deep down inside, very much wants to have sex with the protagonist.
The premise is fascinating and imaginative. Farmer has everyone who ever lived one day wake up naked and bald on the shores of a river winding its way around the world continously from the the South pole to the North.
There is alot that can be done with a premise like that and Farmer hits many of them in the series of books that follow with 'To Your Scattered Bodies Go' the first.
The Riverworld series passes all the tests of major science fiction. Intriguing world. Check. Interesting characterization. Check. Cohesive and well thought out plot. Check. A trilogy that keeps on growing past the first 3 books. Check.
It's a well written and addictive story. Plenty of meat for people who like to read double meanings into things and plenty of french fries for those who just like to escape.