Some time ago – maybe a decade or so – I read a collection of short(er) stories: Riverworld and Other Stories that left me with a very good impression of Farmer and his work. So finally, I decided to read the Riverworld series in its entirety. Again, I start with book one.
To Your Scattered Bodies Go introduces the resource-barren Riverworld were most of mankind is resurrected. A world that is home for some 36 billion humans, a world that is one long river that flows not to a sea but back to its origin, a world that is controlled by some mysterious aliens (?).
Most of the story focuses of Sir Richard Franics Burton’s quest to find the origin / end of the River and confront the secret rulers of the Riverworld. A quest that Burton himself calls the Suicide Train. After each death he is resurrected somewhere else (the same happens to any unlucky river dweller dying), maybe somewhere closer to his goal and so he does not really mind to commit suicide every once in while…
Riverworld has no noteworthy resources, no metal ores, no agriculture. The people are fed by “grails”, a kind of energy-matter-transformer provided by the secret rulers to every river dweller. Nevertheless, the world is inhabited by modern engineers, too. So it makes a very nice background for any steam punk role playing game. And indeed, there is – or rather was; it is out of print – at least a GURPS resource book for the Riverworld.