Imagine that you wake up and the last thing that you remember is dying. You're lying on a riverbank surrounded by strangers who are naked and hairless just as you are. As you explore your surroundings, you find that you are no longer on Earth and the people around you are all the people from the beginning of time who have lived and died on Earth. Furthermore, there are no animals or insects, but there are plenty of fish in a river that seems never never to end. Meals and wants like cigarettes, alcohol, and clothing are provided daily from unseen benefactors.
The main character of the story is Richard Francis Burton, a famous British explorer from the last half of the 1800s. He's the perfect character to follow around in such a world because of his wide acquaintance with various cultures and ability to speak 29 different languages. Joining him (wanted or unwanted) are characters such as a caveman, an alien (responsible for the destruction of most of the human race in 21st century), the real life Alice who was the inspiration for the fictional Alice in Wonderland, Nazi leader Hermann Göring, and a well-read American.
When my husband mentioned the premise of this series to me, I knew I had to read it. He also said that it's going to be a 4-hour movie event on the SyFy channel
. Unfortunately, Richard Burton isn't going to be the main character because they were worried that Americans would think of the wrong Richard Burton -- the one that was an actor and Elizabeth Taylor's husband. Are we really so dumb that we couldn't differentiate between a little-known actor and a well-known explorer? Some other things that I bet won't make it into the series are people waking up naked and hairless, marijuana and hallucinates, lots of suicides, lots of love and war, and people's questioning of their religion since the afterlife is different than they were told. Oh, what am I talking about? I'm sure they'll show war. That at least is socially acceptable on television. *rolls eyes*
I'm giving this 5 stars because I actually want to read the next book in the series when I'm usually not a reader of book series. The next book in the series The Fabulous Riverboat features Mark Twain as the main character rather than Richard Burton. While the first book gives a small idea of who created Riverworld and why everyone is there, it still leaves enough questions unanswered that I'm curious about. For one thing, there's the end/beginning of the river and a fabled Tower to reach. As for the television series, I'm not nearly as optimistic about it. I'm sure Philip José Farmer would roll over in his grave to see the changes they'll surely make.