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The Fabulous Riverboat (Riverworld Saga,…

The Fabulous Riverboat (Riverworld Saga, Book 2) (original 1971; edition 1998)

by Philip Jose Farmer

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1,680214,252 (3.63)20
Title:The Fabulous Riverboat (Riverworld Saga, Book 2)
Authors:Philip Jose Farmer
Info:Del Rey (1998), Edition: 1st Ballantine Books ed, Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, BOX10
Tags:Science Fiction, Fantasy

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The Fabulous Riverboat by Philip José Farmer (Author) (1971)



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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld novels, was a fast-paced, highly creative, and extremely exciting story, so I was eager to continue the tale in the second novel, The Fabulous Riverboat. This part of the story of mankind’s resurrection onto a million-miles-long stretch of river valley focuses on Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) — one of the people who’ve been contacted by a traitor who hopes to use twelve special humans to disrupt the plans of the creatures (gods? aliens?) who are responsible for the Resurrection.

At the beginning of The Fabulous Riverboat, we meet Sam Clemens and his 800 lb Neanderthal bodyguard named Joe Miller. (Note: I highly recommend Recorded Books’ audiobook version narrated by Paul Hecht. Joe Miller’s lisping speech is difficult to read in print, but Mr. Hecht is brilliant with him.) Sam Clemens and Joe Miller are on a Viking ship that is searching for iron-rich meteors (the Riverworld has very few mineral deposits). The Vikings want the iron for weapons, but Sam wants to build a huge steamboat so he can sail up the river to its source and confront the beings who run the planet.

Sam gets some help from the mysterious traitor who tells him where to find required materials, but then he must work with tyrannical humans who want to hoard their countries’ natural resources or promote their political or religious agendas. Thus, there’s a lot more threatening, squabbling, political maneuvering, dealing, double-dealing, and war going on than actual ship-building.

It’s fun to meet real historical tyrants in Riverworld — they tend to rise to the top and become the leaders of aggressive city-states. It’s also amusing to watch the interactions of humans from such a wide range of time periods. For example, we see Joe Miller gradually becoming more cynical and humorous as he spends time with Mark Twain and we watch a 20th century engineer teach Twain how to store electricity to power the riverboat.

What’s not fun is that Philip Jose Farmer takes every opportunity to provide information about each of the characters who’s a real historical figure, and this is inelegantly done:

"I read about him in school!” von Richthofen said. “Let’s see. He was born in 1797, died about 1853, I believe. He was an artillery expert and a good friend of Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia. He was called ‘The Warlike Monk’ because he was a general who also had strict religious views. He died when he was about fifty years old, a disappointed man because he had been dropped from favor...

And sometimes the facts are repeated. For example, we’re told at least twice that John Lackland was such a bad king that the English swore they’d never have another king named John.

Also annoying is that Farmer frequently takes the opportunity to address topics such as racism and determinism by either having characters hold long philosophical discourses, or by obvious and clumsy manipulation of the plot. The end result is that there is lots of teaching and moralizing and little action in The Fabulous Riverboat. If you look at the book cover, you’d expect to be exploring Riverworld from the deck of Mark Twain’s steamboat, but the boat finally gets finished at the end of the novel.

It’s the wonderful world-building and intriguing questions that make this series so compelling: Why has humankind been resurrected? Who created this world? Who is the traitor? Is there a way out? What’s the purpose of dream gum? But we don’t get to explore much of Riverworld and we learn very little about it in The Fabulous Riverboat. I’m still so curious, though, so I’m hoping we’ll progress more quickly in the next installment: The Dark Design.

Later addendum: When I began downloading the audio version of The Dark Design, I realized it was 18 hours long — twice the length of the previous novels. I decided to investigate before committing and was disappointed to learn from other reviewers that the series degenerates after The Fabulous Riverboat. Readers cite the same issues I’ve mentioned here and other issues that killed their enjoyment of Riverworld. There was such a consensus that I feel I should believe them and not waste my time on a series that will ultimately disappoint me. I’m sad to say that I’m going to quit here — I just don’t have time to read bad books. This is especially upsetting because I really loved To Your Scattered Bodies Go. I also want to find out the answers I posed in the previous paragraph. If you know the answers, please tell me in a comment below. If nobody knows, I’ll just skim through the last half of book 4, The Magic Labyrinth, to find out. According to readers, that’s where the uninspiring answers are to be found). ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Well this book was a bit of a disappointment to me. I loved book 1 but book 2 , I do not know, It seems to me it was more a war book. There were still scenes I thought interesting, like the relation ship between Sam and his earth wife and I liked The Big guy but hated the way he talked. It was hard for me to understand what he was saying, but overall I was just glad to end it.
I will give book 3 a try. I am reading it right now and glad to be back with Richard F. Burton to be honest. Maybe that was another reason, so many new people and I did not really like Sam as much. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
Why the change to Mark Twain? I liked the Burton story. ( )
  Vonk76 | Mar 31, 2013 |
The Fabulous Riverboat is a good follow up to To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in the Riverworld series. I shouldn't have read some reviews about this one while I was reading it because it did colour my feelings about the book a little. Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) isn't his witty best in this story. There's no one funnier than Twain in full flight. One of my favourite books by him is The Innocents Abroad and it is hilarious, the satire is scathing. Farmer's Twain is more humourless. Possibly the circumstances of his re-birth and life on Riverworld has made him more earnest and mopy. That said I still liked the book for the ideas expressed and the plot moves along at a nice clip. There's more than enough intrigue to continue. Richard Burton, the explorer and main protagonist in the first book - not the actor , returns in book 3 of the Riverworld series so I'm looking forward to that.

A quick edit to note that SF&F books prior to the 1980s are notable for being short compared to now. This probably a good thing. The Fabulous Riverboat is no exception. It only runs to about 230 pages. If it had been written now Farmer would be expected to punch out 4 or 500 pages. A couple of hundred pages is easily more digestible and less intimidating that 500 page door stopper. ( )
  shagger | Nov 24, 2012 |
I had purchased the first two books of the Riverworld series together at a used book store several years back, but then found myself quite disappointed with To Your Scattered Bodies Go. So this had been languishing in my "to be read" stack for a long, long time when I decided to pick it up for a quick read before digging into heavier duty anticipated Chrismas gift reading materials.

I am happy to report that I liked it more than the first book of the series (doesn't it usually seem to work the other way?). Samuel Clemens is not particularly believable, but I found him more sympathetic as a protagonist than Richard Francis Burton. Indeed, while the characters here are often annoying, they are at least drawn in more realistic shades of gray than I remember from the first volume. And at least some of the billiions of women from the history of humanity seem to have some purpose higher than having carnal knowledge of the protagonist. The ending offers no sense of closure whatsoever.

By the end of this volume I can almost begrudingly admit that I have at least a moderate level of interest in finding out who created this world and why and which of them is out to thwart their grand plans and why. But the moderately interesting meta story seems to me the limit of what the series has to offer. ( )
  clong | Dec 25, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Farmer, Philip JoséAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Di Fate, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Peter A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevens, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the unholy trinity of Bobs: Bloch, Heinlein, and Traurig - may I meet them on the banks of the River, where we'll board the fabulous Riverboat.
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'Resurrection, like politics, makes strange bedfellows,' Sam Clemens said.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345419685, Paperback)

In To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer introduces readers to the awesome Riverworld, a planet that had been carved into one large river on whose shores all of humanity throughout the ages has seemingly been resurrected. In The Fabulous Riverboat, Farmer tells the tale of one person whose is uniquely suited to find the river's headwaters, riverboat captain and famous Earthly author Sam Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain). Clemens has been visited by "X," a mysterious being who claims to be a rebel among the group that created Riverworld. X tells Clemens where he can find a large deposit of iron and other materials that Clemens can use to build the greatest riverboat ever seen. Since there is virtually no metal on the planet, it will also give Clemens an unbeatable edge when it comes to battling the various warlike societies that dominate the Riverworld.

But Clemens is not alone in his quest for the iron, which arrives on the planet in the form of a giant meteorite. In fact, Clemens is besieged on all sides by forces determined to seize the precious ore, leading him to make a deadly pact with one of history's most notorious villains, John Lackland. Lackland's crimes during his reign as king of England were so hideous that no other English monarch will ever carry his name, and he's up to equally nefarious tricks on Riverworld. However, Clemens has a guardian angel in the form of Joe Miller, a giant subhuman with a big nose, a serious lisp, and a cutting wit. Miller has also been to the very headwaters of the river, where he saw a mysterious tower in the middle of the North Sea and where the creators of Riverworld are thought to reside. He will be an invaluable ally in completing the riverboat and sailing to the headwaters, but even an 800-pound giant may not be enough to help Clemens fulfill X's mission. --Craig E. Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:20 -0400)

Samuel Clemens, resurrected on the banks of Riverworld with the rest of humanity, wants to build a riverboat and steer it up his new home planet's waterway to discover its source, but first he must undertake a dangerous voyage to unearth a fallen meteor.… (more)

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