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Riverworld - a travel through past, present, future and fantasy

Updated on January 4, 2017

Riverworld is a science fiction saga - with a twist

Philip José Farmer (PJF for short) has written a saga of five novels. This series of books demonstrates how ingenious science fiction writers can be, at their best. This is, what I am on about here: His saga of five books, known as the Riverworld saga.

The very cool thing in science fiction novels is the new world you are given besides the story. Most people like a good crime story, but the world is usually wellknown, but sci-fi expands the world with new places, lifeforms and possibilities. Hence, a crime story written by a sci-fi writer tends to be, a lot more unpredictable, at least the good ones.

The Hub image is called The Parseval's Journey and is made by fraterchaos. See a large version on deviantART and visit fraterchaos' gallery for other fantasy and sci-fi images. Used with permission.

The Riverworld Books by Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer has written and published many more books, but these five here are the books in the Riverworld saga.

Introduction to Riverworld

Riverworld is a planet, created by someone - who they are must be up to you, the reader, to discover. This planet consists of one large river going from the south pole to the north pole (the concept of poles are used to make it clear, how it looks). The river winds all way around the planet, making it extremely long. Between the river banks are very high mountains, unforceable in size. So it is not possible to travel from one bank to another by climbing over. And now the odd thing, and what makes an intriguing scenery: along this river, every soul ever alive on earth are reborn!

In the Riverworld books we meet a lot of history's wellknown characters. People like Mark Twain, Sir Francis Richard Burton, and also bad guys like Hermann Göring.

Welcome to a journey through history, future and fantasy. Oh, and of course the main character sets out to figure out who did this, and why!

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

First book of the Riverworld saga

In the first book everybody alive on earth, ever, from 5 years old and up is revied along the River in a body aged 25, but with all their memory from past life on Earth. We are talking someting along the line of 37 billion people.

The main character is Sir Richard Francis Burton. He soon sets his mind on finding out, who did this. In this book he doesn't, but he does discover some secrets.

He travels to several places on the river and learns about people, and how they rebuild societies, and fight wars. Burton also meets his "soul companion", a historic character that just seems to be, whereever Burton is.

On Riverworld you can not die, or actually you can, but you are resurrected in a new spot next morning.

The Fabulous Riverboat

Second book of the Riverworld saga

We have left Richard Burton to himself. But we do meet some of his mates as well in this book. Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain, has a dream that he is going to do anything to live out: build a boat noone ever has seen and never will see again on Riverworld. Luck strikes, or actually someone helps luck by allowing a meteor to crash close enough to Sam. Now there are metals on the planet. A big limitation up to now!

Metals are useful, and neighbours want in on the deal as well. Sam and John (Lackland aka Prince John) must go through a lot of trouble and make delicate political decisions to defend their land, and finish the boat.

A mysterious stranger contacts Sam and discloses some information, but nothing much useful.

The Dark Design

Third book of the Riverworld saga

After the Riverboat is finished and launched, the people left behind start building a blimp. The blimp can go high enough to pass over the mountains dividing the shores of the River, hence travel to the North Pole in a straight line, a much shorter path than following the winding river.

Life along the River has also changed and become a lot more valuable. We spend a lot of time with Peter Frigate and meet some other of Earth's great authors.

The blimp, Parseval, makes it to the North Pole of Riverworld, but things are not just over with that. A sinister plan seems to unfold soon.

The Magic Labyrinth

Fourth book of the Riverworld saga

Old friends meet again. Now the planet seems to be falling apart. Some of the grailstones stop working, and a in bloodbath of epic dimensions 17 billion (give and take) people are killed in 24 hours.

A large battle between the river boats and a long journey to the tower concludes the story.

What has happened to the rulers of this world? Who are in charge, and how many are actually agents and not just resurrected earthlings?

Many questions arise in the fourth book, and answers are in there, too.

The Gods of Riverworld

Fifth book of the Riverworld Saga

Burton, Frigate and the rest of the crew that got to the Tower are still there. The accompanying ethical is now gone. However, it seems that there are still someone else in the tower.

Using the Tower Computer to resurrect people in the tower, creating new societies.

Related to the books

- movies, games etc

Sci-Fi Channel owns the right to do a tv series on Riverworld. However, only a pilot episode has ever been recorded and aired. You can find information about the Riverworld DVD on Also watch a few scenes uploaded to YouTube below.

A computer game has been released as well by Cryo Interactive in 1998. Here are reviews on the GameOver website

Steven Jackson Games has released a roleplaying game book, GURPS (=Generic Universal Role Playing System) Riverworld. Read an article on the game book here at Steven Jackson Games.

Other sci-fi writers have teamed up, and written stories in PJF's universe, and released them in compilations together with other PJF short stories. The wikipedia pages and (links below), lists these books.

Related to Riverworld

Video games, DVDs and more books that relates to Riverworld.

River World
River World

This is the computer game.


The DVD with the pilot of the Riverworld TV series.

The Complete Riverworld Novels (Riverworld Series)
The Complete Riverworld Novels (Riverworld Series)

A compilation of all 5 novels. If you need all of them, buying the compilation may be cheaper.


Riverworld videos - A few scenes rom the Riverworld pilot episode done by Sci-Fi Channel. There were not recorded any more episodes.

The movie (or feature length episode, a pilot) set in the Riverworld scenery. The movie does not start in book one, but is (very) freely built on parts of book 2, with flashbacks to book 1. The movie does not give true credit to the books. A character like Sir Richard Francis Burtin is not appearing, and animals (horses for instance) are used, in the books there are no animals at all except a few species of fish. The film itself is not bad, but as a promoter of the story and scenery, it fails totally. Maybe that is why it was never continued?

Tell me what you think of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld saga.

Riverworld acknowledgements

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    • kindoak profile image

      kindoak 5 years ago

      Ive read all the old SF classic authors. Farmer is one of my favorites together with Philip K Dick and Heinlein

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 6 years ago

      I'd forgotten this series - now I will be re-reading it, and sharing it with my kids. Thank you!

    • sciencefictionn profile image

      sciencefictionn 8 years ago

      Your lens is very well done. Like you, I like journeys through history, future and fantasy...

      You may like my lens "Thinking worlds":

      Excellent job, I rated your lens 5*!

    • cstr profile image

      cstr 8 years ago

      [in reply to SciFiMystic] Thanx for your comment! I have not (yet) read Two Hawks from Earth, but I'll put it on my list :-)

    • profile image

      SciFiMystic 8 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Philip José Farmer has to be my favorite author of all time. Have you read Two Hawks from Earth? You covered the Riverworld saga wonderfully well in your lens.


    • profile image

      chazzmania 8 years ago

      I was pretty curious about Riverworld, and you've answered

      many questions! I gave you a Thumbs Up on Stumble-


    • profile image

      SciFi_Author 8 years ago

      Great lens! You've created a great overview of the whole Riverworld saga here. When you get a chance, I'd love it if you'd stop by my lens and say hello.

    • profile image

      steerpyke 9 years ago

      Loved these books when I read them as a sprog (child). A great homage to a wonderful concept and brilliant set of novels.

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Nice sci-fi lens! 5*

    • profile image

      Aika 10 years ago

      wonderful lens, I love sci-fi! ^_^

    • profile image

      rockycha 10 years ago

      Great lens! high fivers :) carrie