Jerry House mentioned that an early draft of Philip Jose Farmer’s epic “Riverworld” novels was published back in the 1980s. I’d heard rumors about this book, but until Jerry jogged my memory, I’d forgotten all about it (making River of Eternity a truly “forgotten” book in this case). I tracked down a copy of River of Eternity and read it in one day.

Philip Jose Farmer is known for his mind-blowing concepts and Big Ideas. How Big are Farmer’s Ideas? How about a River 40 million miles long! How about every person ever born on Earth resurrected and living along this incredible River! Is that Big enough for you?

Admittedly, Philip Jose Farmer’s Ideas are his strength. His weakness is sketchy characterizations. When Farmer introduces Samuel Clemens, I’m not seeing Mark Twain. There are mysteries and puzzles to solve in Farmer’s “Riverworld” series. River of Eternity has a complicated history that Farmer discusses in his “Author’s Introduction.” I’m glad Phantasia Press published River of Eternity back in 1983, but it reads like a rough First Draft of something much more complex and involving. Are you a fan of Philip Jose Farmer’s “Riverworld” series? GRADE: C+
To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971) – Hugo Award winner
The Fabulous Riverboat (1971)
The Dark Design (1977)
Riverworld and Other Stories (1979) (a Farmer anthology with one Riverworld story titled “Riverworld”)
The Magic Labyrinth (1980)
Gods of Riverworld (1983; later published as The Gods of Riverworld)
River of Eternity (1983) – an earlier version of Riverworld
Tales of Riverworld (1992) (includes one story written by Farmer: “Crossing the Dark River”. A second story, “A Hole In Hell”, was written by Farmer under the pseudonym Dane Helstrom)
Quest to Riverworld (1993) (includes two stories written by Farmer: “Up the Bright River” and “Coda”

21 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #536: RIVER OF ETERNITY By Philip Jose Farmer

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    I’ve read some of Farmer’s books, but haven’t read any of the Riverworld series. The premise sounded interesting, but they never really appealed to me.

  2. wolf

    Maybe I’m wrong but I think I read the first as part of a serial – yes, it was in 1965 Worlds of Tomorrow (edited by F Pohl) which I bought second hand on one of my shopping trips to London. Those were the days!
    It made a really big impression on me, like Farmer’s World of Tiers series and Dayworld – totally different from the SF that I was used to reading. I soon tried to find all the books by him and waited anxiously for new stories – early 70s when I made enough money in my job and had the opportunity to take my car to London over the weekend between to consulting/teaching projects.
    And of course there was “The Lovers” – jst fabulous!

    1. wolf

      Sorry, that should have been TWO projects.
      To give you an idea how crazy about SF I was:
      In extreme cases I would finish my job say in Cologne (not too far from the Belgium border), then drive through Belgium to Oostende and get on the midnight ferry to Dover.
      The ferry would take around 5 hours which I spent sleeping – on a bench if I was lucky or in an armchair …
      After bordercheck I’d take my car to London – in those days there were parking sites where you paid less than 5 pounds, but you had to tell the attendant when you would leave again and leave the key. So my car would sit in the farthest corner and I’d come there several times a day maybe with my shopping stuff. The parking attendant would always wave at me because I brought him a can of German beer and/or some Ritter Sport chocolate
      In the evening I had a beer with the people from the SF store – first it was “Dark they were and golden eyed”, after that went bankrupt “Forbidden Planet”. Then I’d drive back to Dover or Folkestone and after another few hours of sleep on the ferry drove on to Germany so I’d be at my next address for work by Sunday afternoon to relax, work started again on Monday …

    2. george Post author

      Wolf, Farmer’s WORLD OF TIERS series and DAYWORLD also contain High Concept ideas. I found all of Farmer’s books fun to read although he’s weak on characterizations.

  3. Michael Padgett

    I read and loved the first two but seem to recall that the series really declined sharply after that. Somewhere in the third or fourth I dropped out. Except for a few shorter works I can’t recall reading much of Farmer after that.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, it was hard for Farmer to sustain his High Concept ideas in the Riverworld series. A lot of readers bailed out after a couple of books.

  4. Jerry House

    The original novel that Farmer wrote is long-lost. He recreated it the best he could from memory in RIVER OF ETERNITY, which may be why it reads as it does.

    You made no mention of Sci-Fi/Syfi Channel’s atrocious attempts to franchise the series. Just as well — I’d hate to see you pollute your blog with such dreck, George.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, thanks again for motivating me to read RIVER OF ETERNITY! I read the reviews of the terrible Syfi Channel’s attempt at a Riverworld franchise. I didn’t bother checking it out.

  5. Rick Robinson

    I’m not a Farmer fan, but I read the first Riverworld novel – if you can call it that – and was quite disappointed. I have no interest in revisiting his work or that series. So this early effort towards those books is a miss for me. Interesting cover. Is the artwork credited?

  6. Steve Oerkfitz

    I find Farmer better at short fiction than novels. I especially enjoyed the Father Carmody stories and Sail On! Sail On!

  7. Steve Lewis

    George, as far as I was ever concerned, Farmer was big on ideas but not nearly as good on following through. I read the first Riverworld book when it was serialized (as I recall) but never another.


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