By Phillip Jose Farmer (New York: Tom Doherty Assoc.,LLC, 2010, 443 pages, including two books: “To Your Scattered Bodies Go” and “The Fabulous Riverboat”)
The first half of the book follows Sir Richard Francis Burton who along with everyone who ever lived from early Neanderthals up to 2200 AD were resurrected at the same time into a new world along a nearly endless river.
Everyone starts off nude and without hair and It takes a while for folks to get use to their new circumstances and the parameters of the new world that they find themselves in. First they discover that many of their basic needs are taken care of each day provided by mushroom-shaped towers called "grailstones" found along the river at regular intervals.
Every person has been provided with their own personal mess kits commonly called ‘grails’ which they can place into the grail towers 3 times a day for food, drink, and other items like liquor, tobacco, drugs, and candy. The weather is perfect and there doesn’t seem to be any diseases but people can still get hurt by accident or on purpose. The resurrected folks can also die by accident or be killed but later they find themselves ‘resurrected’ again at another location along the river. Some even commit suicide hoping for a better location next time along the river.
Soon the newly resurrected people are forming protective groups that later become governments over areas of land along the river. They build homes, towns and new nations.
The old earthly religions are now rejected by most folks since this new ‘River World’ doesn’t seem to relate in any way to any of the old religious teachings. Both the ‘evil’ and the ‘good’ and everyone between from the former life has been resurrected together in this new world with total recall and no distinctions from the previous life.
A new religion started up with the idea that this new world was an opportunity to start over and become better people and make a better world without making the same old mistakes that were made in the former world and life. The new religionists are pacifists.
The first story revolves around English explorer Sir Richard Burton who is driven to find out who is behind the ‘resurrection’ and what it is all about. He comes to the conclusion that a super race of beings resurrected everyone who ever lived on Earth as some kind of experiment. In fact one of the super beings appears to him from time top time to help him along the way with important info. Former Nazi leader Hermann Goring is one character that keeps on showing up, first as an opponent to Burton, then later sometimes as a friend, and finally as a new resurrection religionist.
The second story revolves around Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and his efforts to produce a new magnificent Riverboat like he use to captain down the Mississippi. His major allies and opponent is the former King John of Robin Hood fame. The story is delicious in its many twists and turns right to the end. Twain does finally build his boat but it quickly ends up far different than he planned.
The two stories merely wet ones appetite for more and there is more. Tor (Tom Doherty Assoc.) is in the midst of republishing the series and this is only the first with more to come. Can’t wait. *Top