To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Philip Josť Farmer
To Your Scattered Bodies Go Cover

To Your Scattered Bodies Go


Before jumping into my review, I have a confession. Although I have known about the Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer for years, I have had very little interest in reading any of the books. The overall premise seemed odd, forced, and not very realistic. I like my Sci Fi / Fantasy to "seem" real – e.g. it takes itself seriously, and the universe it is "plausible". To me, the descriptions of Riverworld just didn't fit into my mold. However, I decided to read To Your Scattered Bodies Go in the WWE Grandmaster Reading Challenge; mostly because I could check off a GMRC book and a Hugo winner at the same time. Plus, isn’t it considered a classic? So I held my nose, bought the book and began reading.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go captivated me from the start, and kept me turning the pages. I love a good mystery and I love a good adventure of which this book has both.


To Your Scattered Bodies Go is the first in a series of novels and short stories which are collectively referred to as Riverworld. It is set on a huge world consisting of an almost endless river bordered by high unscaleable cliffs. Winner of the 1972 Hugo award, the book begins with the resurrection of everyone who ever lived on earth, emerging from a river, naked, having absolutely no idea why they were there, or even how they were to survive.

The story’s main character is Sir Richard Burton (not the actor), a well known British adventurer of the 1800’s. Meticulously researched, Farmer delves deeply into the background and character of Burton, bringing him realistically alive in the novel. One almost feels that you know and understand Sir Richard by the end of the story. Burton, joined by a band of characters from various eras of history, struggle together to survive this unfamiliar and potentially hazardous environment. With the strength of Sir Richard’s character, he leads this group through various challenges and conflicts, ultimately building a boat to sail upriver, searching for its source. I find this an interesting direction for the novel, as the real life Burton, supported by the Royal Geographical Society, lead expeditions seeking for the source of the Nile, discovering (at least from an European sense) Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyinika.

During their adventures, they encounter an equally strong individual, the former Nazi, Hermann Goering. Goering leads a society built on slavery and provides a rival and nemesis for Burton. I won’t give away the overall story, but Burton’s quest is relentless; striving to discover who has brought them to this world and for what purpose. The book almost reads like a mystery novel; where subtle clues are offered throughout the story, but the solution always seem just beyond the grasp of the characters, and the reader. While the book does have a satisfying ending, it only provides hints to the big questions of who gathered humankind to this world, and why. Obviously one needs to read the rest of the series to find out.


As indicated in my introduction, I found the book a really good read. The world setting wasn’t as “forced” as I anticipated, and actually becomes one of the main characters itself. Overall, I am a pretty simple reader. I enjoy a good story, mystery, adventure, exploration and interesting characters. To Your Scattered Bodies Go delivered. The novel is an obvious product of the 70’s (or maybe just the author), it seems to have a funny fascination with nudity and sex, with an obvious sexist view of women. To me, this is easily overlooked as one would expect such diverse attitudes from people who were gathered from all eras of history. Despite my initial reticence, I have now added the rest of the series to my reading list. I look forward to revisiting this world, ultimately finding out the reason Riverworld exists, who has resurrected all of humanity in such a place, and of course – why.