Futurism logo

Welcome To Riverworld

The River is all that Matters

By Mike Singleton - MikeydredPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

Note this , by its very nature , will contain spoilers , Philip Jose Farmer has written some of my favourite books such as “The Wind Whales of Ishmael” and “The Other Log of Phileas Fogg” both nodding to fiction classics which you can guess. I will try and keep it as high level as possible naming characters , concepts in the hope that you may want to visit Riverworld.

Philip Jose Farmer wrote a series of five books in the Riverworld saga. I have not read them for years but they left as big an impression on me as JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. The five books are:

  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971)
  • The Fabulous Riverboat (1971)
  • The Dark Design (1977)
  • The Magic Labyrinth (1980)
  • Gods of Riverworld (1983; later published as The Gods of Riverworld)


  • River of Eternity (1983) – an earlier version of Riverworld

I still have the books in my library and there are numerous related short stories but it is one of those concepts that can always be added to.

The story starts with Richard Burton the Victorian explorer waking up in a room full of half formed bodies where he was blasted by a weapon by men in a flying machine and wakes up naked and hairless next to a river.

Burton has died and been resurrected on “Riverworld” . All around him there are people in a similar situation and just as unaware of what has actually happened. But they are here , naked , hairless , with “grails” on their wrist that give them food when placed on a “grailstone”.

Pulling back , Riverworld is some kind of terraformed “super earth” with a polar ice cap that feeds the single twenty million mile river which zig zags down the planet's length and is always central to all the stories and events that happen here.

The only animal life consists of fish and soil worms. The vegetation is lush and of great variety, including trees, flowering vines, several kinds of fast-growing bamboo, and a resilient mat of grass which covers the plains. The Riverworld has no visible moon, but a great number of stellar objects in the sky, including gas sheets and stars close enough to show a visible disk.

Burton groups with others and is visited by a mysterious stranger who instructs him to find the headwaters of the river but his group is captured and enslaved by Hermann Goering and a Roman General.

The Riverworld series uses many historical figures from many time zones who group together , fight each other as they move ever towards the pole.

It is discovered that if you are killed you are resurrected and appear further up river. And people start to use this as a way to get to the headwaters more quickly,

The beings that run Riverworld are kept in the shadows.

As the books progress Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) builds and captains the “Fabulous Riverboat” titled in the second book , but this is fought over with King John and Richard Burton and I believe Julius Caesar makes an appearance as well.

As we progress through the books and further up the river mechanisms start to fail , grails and grail stones don’t recharge and the resurrections stop , completely changing the dynamic. Although this is a second life at least for everybody , if you know that if you are killed then that is it , then you become a lot more careful.

The finale is in The Gods of Riverworld and you get some idea of what is going to happen there.

There was an aborted TV series which was released as a three hour film in 2003 , but obviously that missed so much out, it was Ok in itself but was nowhere near the books.

I was trying to think of what music to go with and Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” is appropriate.

book review

About the Creator

Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

Weaver of Tales, Poems, Music & Love

7(1.2m) ֎ Fb ֎ Px ֎ Pn ֎

X ֎ In ֎ YT (0.2m) ֎ T

Vocal Tips


Call Me LesGina HeatherCaroline


DaphsamMisty MelissaMa Coombs

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (1)

Sign in to comment
  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran2 years ago

    Such an interesting concept!

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.