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A Sci-fi Classic from 1971
To Our Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
© 2012 James LaFond
To Our Scattered Bodies Go
Philip Jose Farmer
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1971
Reprinted by Science Fiction Book Club, 2004, 184 pages
I had wanted to read this book since 1978, and finally took the time to get my hands on a reprint in 2004, not actually reading it until 2009. I am so very glad that I finally put this Hugo Award winning novel in my reading rotation. I have read it three times since, an annual cover-to-cover pilgrimage into another man’s darkly lit imagination.
Farmer specialized in ‘alternative history’ stories, like Two Hawks from Earth, about a U.S. Army Air Force bomber pilot who gets sucked into an alternative earth when he and a German fighter pilot with whom he is locked in combat plunge through a rift in Space-Time. He is at his best when describing human nature. He did not write about gadgets and technology, but about people.
For this, the first in the successful Riverworld series, which I do intend to read ASAP, he chose for his protagonist a man that I and at least one other current author have chosen for our own work, Richard F. Burton; towering Victorian intellectual, intrepid explorer, duelist, drug addict, unmatched linguist, brooding alcoholic, apostate, British spy, and many other things. Farmer’s version of Burton rings true as a ‘warts-and-all’ ‘what if’ journey into the Human Equation.
What if an unthinkably advanced civilization resurrected every human who had ever lived ostensibly so that they would have a chance at redemption? In this novel every person who has lived is brought to life hairless and naked, on the banks of a seemingly endless river hemmed in by soaring mountain ranges. Demographically the river valley is dominated by ‘20th Centurians’. Burton, of course, speaker of 29 languages, immediately becomes a person of importance along this winding Tower of Babel; and apostate that he is, cannot help but delve into the mystery behind this improbable afterlife.
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