Monday, October 4, 2010

The Hugos: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

If you're still alive...

...Congratulations!  You missed the cut-off date (2008) to be resurrected after your death on the planet Riverworld.  Sorry.

I, for one, breathe a sigh of relief.  Wherever I'm going, including oblivion, I'm glad it's not Riverworld.  Probably.

From Ringworld on to Riverworld: the 1972 Hugo winner was 'To Your Scattered Bodies Go' the first of five books by Philip Jose Farmer set on a mysterious planet which (as you may have guessed) is virtually all river and riverbank, providing plenty of surface area for every human being who has ever lived & died to live again forever.

So these billions of poor slobs all wake up naked one day on a riverbank where mechanical mushrooms provide regular nourishment, and where if you get killed you are revived again, possibly not in the same spot as before, but somewhere along the winding planet-spanning river in a healthy youngish body with all your memories of life on Earth and Riverworld intact.

Discovering there REALLY IS an afterlife AND it's catered doesn't stop people from wigging out, wandering around, and raping and/or pillaging.  Killing also continues, possibly with more vigor than before since it's become less permanent.

Our main characters in this first book are actual deceased  historical figures such as explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton 
(bearded, above), nutbar thug Hermann Goering (dandling child, left), and ordinary Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice, of Wonderland fame).  Also some poor schmo alien being who happened to have died on Earth in the period specified.  And everybody else.  If there's a moral judgement involved in this resurrection it treats Alice in Wonderland as exactly equal to Nazi scumwads, while essentially trapping them on nude beaches together, so GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

I gave it 3 stars out of 5. It's an exciting and curious adventure, with a mystery to which I still want the answers, so I'll keep reading the series one day. Who the hell set all this up?  WHEN is all this?  WHY did this seem like a good plan?

I remember wondering afterward, and maybe the book proposed these possibilities within itself: is this one of many such worlds?  Is this supposed to be a reward or a punishment? Is this the human races' descendants' idea of a retirement colony?  Or a nursery for backward, vicious children?

Whatever it turned out to be (assuming Farmer ever told us, and if YOU know then don't tell me yet) it's a cinch PJF missed out, too. He died in 2009.  Hope he went somewhere better than Riverworld.

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