Riverworld is, according to science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer, where you go when you die. It was created by aliens to study the human race. It is a planet terraformed into one long river valley. They capture all the souls of everyone who croaked between 100,000 BC and 1989. So he uses celebritys and historical people as characters. Hermann Goering and Sir Richard Francis Burton duke it out with Elvis and Keith Moon.

The Riverworld series is a landmark of 20th century science fiction. Philip Jose Farmer's five+ volume novel anticipates the work of Tipler, but from a different angle.

    Riverworld is:
  1. To Your Scattered Bodies Go
  2. The Fabulous Riverboat
  3. The Dark Design
  4. The Magic Labyrinth
  5. Gods of Riverworld
  6. Riverworld (short story, collected separately)

A few notes about the Riverworld itself:

  • The river valley is about ten miles wide for most of its length. Each bank consists of a mile-wide grassy plain, with another two or three miles of foothills leading to unscalable cliffs.
  • The river runs from the North Pole, winding across one hemisphere, circles the South Pole, winds back up and ends at the North Pole again.
  • The grass that grows on the banks grows under the surface of the water, and continues to grow inside huts with no ill effects from local lack of sunlight.
  • It rains gently every night.
  • Food is provided for the inhabitants of the river by grails -- metal cylinders that everyone was resurrected with. They are placed on a special, mushroom-shaped stone three times a day. The stones, found at one-mile intervals on both sides of the river, generate a huge electrical current (with pyrotechnics) which operates a mechanism in the base of the grail. Through direct energy-to-mass conversion, the grail is filled with a random meal, but generally something not too dissimilar to what you were accustomed to eating in life -- although you may very well ocassionally get grubs or whale blubber, the normal modern westerner would get something along the lines of steak, potatoes and gravy, bread and butter, salad, bourbon, 10 cigarettes, and a joint. The grails also include a stick of a gum impregnated with a mild hallucinogen which can be habituating. Only you can open the lid of your grail.
  • When you die on the Riverworld you are reborn the next morning, naked, in a random location along the river, with your grail and a stack of magnet-tabbed fabric that everyone uses for clothes.
  • The only recources occurring "naturally" on the Riverworld are fish, wood, grass, bamboo, and flint. Because of the grails and the lack of seeds there is no agriculture. There is, however, slavery.
  • All men are reborn circumcised and without the ability to grow facial hair. Women are reborn with intact hymens. All resurrectees are sterile.
  • Noone under the age of five is reborn on the Riverworld.
  • The Riverworld is closer to the center of the galaxy than Earth, and has a spectacular night sky, with some stars visible in the day.
    One of Farmer's trademarks is the inclusion of real historical figures in his Edgar Rice Burroughs-flavored adventures. Riverworld provides him with the opportunity to write about everyone who ever lived before the end of the 20th century.

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