To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Riverworld 1 Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Riverworld 1

It is the beginning of the Riverworld series where all the human beings who have ever lived are resurrected on a planet with a huge river running the length of it. Sir Richard Francis Burton is a famous British explorer who on earth discovered the source of the Nile and now finds himself in a strange place suddenly and has to figure out where he is. He was dying of gout in a city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1890 and then all of a sudden finds himself floating in midair turning as though on a spit in a blank white space surrounded by other bodies evenly spaced doing the same. He is the only conscious body while they are all unconscious and can barely move, a force around him impelling him to stay and rotate his body gradually. He tries to reach a long pole or rod that stretches upwards and downwards seemingly forever but is heavily resisted by the invisible force. Finally he reaches it and at that moment all the bodies begin to fall through space as he holds onto the rod his body wanting to fall as well. Bodies and bodies and bodies fall past him and a canoelike machine suddenly appears and two faces sitting in it peer at him. Icelandic in features and speaking a language that sounds Polynesian, they speak to him and he tries to resist as the invisible force that was around him previously reemerges and grows stronger until he goes unconscious again, into oblivion.
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He awakens on a valley floor next to a giant river among a multitude of other human beings awakening as well. He finds he is in a group among Alice, a famous British woman of his era, Kazz, a subhuman, one of the earlier humans to exist from hundreds of thousands of years ago, Peter Frigate, a westerner from after Burton's era who was Burton's biographers and other humans from different times and eras. They realize the land extends well beyond they can see with a giant river running alongside it. Dotted every few miles is a grailstone with indentations where the canisters they find with them can be placed. It provides them with food and other goods a few times a day.

Burton has a burning hunger to find the source of the river and find out why they have been resurrected in this world. He builds a boat and begins to travel up the river. The band he travels with are captured by Herman Goring and the people he leads who have begun enslaving many people. Burton and the others after a short while being imprisoned, revolt and overtake their captors. He is installed as one of the leaders of the encampment. From time to time he is visited alone by a mysterious figure he can hardly make out. The 'mysterious stranger' compels him to continue to find the source of the river and reveals that he is one of the ethicals or founders governing this world. The people of the new nation discover they have an agent of the ethicals among them but he dies suddenly before they can capture him. They find a small ball in his brain that must have allowed him to die upon will on an autopsy of his body.

The mysterious stranger visits Burton and discloses that the Ethicals want to capture Burton and are close to doing so. Burton has realized as well as the others in this world that upon death, they are resurrected in another area of this planet. He subsequently kills himself to escape capture by the Ethicals and continues finding himself in the process seeing much of the river planet. Finally he is resurrected in the headwaters, in the Dark Tower, itself and is interviewed by the Ethicals. They try to convince him to disclose the identity of the mysterious stranger, and when he will not, inform him that they will reawaken him back in the river world without any memory of having spoken to them, the stranger, or to have awoken in the space with the other bodies pre resurrection into the world. He finds himself back in the world but with his memory still intact due to the intervention of the mysterious stranger.
Best part of story, including ending: It is a fascinating premise and follows the character's envelopment very well.

Best scene in story: It was the scene where Burton is continuously committing suicide to avoid capture by the Ethicals and reawakens in different parts of the planet. He finds himself this time in a freezing area full of ice and sees in the distance huge beings, presumably neanderthals, fighting each other for dominance. He also notices beyond the mountains a looming tower and concludes he must be close to the source of the river.

Opinion about the main character: I like Sir Richard Francis Burton most for his intrepid and ingenious thinking which allows him to engage in dynamic action and learn quickly how to access the move that will place him in the most strategic position.

The review of this Book prepared by Victor Bowman-Rivera a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

All of humanity from the history of Earth wake up alive again on a world that is a continuous river to be studied by a superior alien race. Explorer Richard Burton dies on Earth and awakens on the bank of a river surrounded by others from different eras of history. The Planet is a river valley with walls too high to climb beyond each bank. Burton teams up with other 20th century humans, a caveman, and an alien that witnessed and was possibly responsible for the destruction of Earth many centuries after Burton's lifetime. After living in the river valley a few days being fed by grails that produce meals for all the revived humans, one of the aliens visits Burton in the night and warns him that the aliens called Ethicals have a darker plan for humanity.

Burton takes his group on a raft down the river which winds around the entire planet. They discover that people that are killed on River World reappear somewhere else on the bank all over again. They meet other people trying to travel and trade information, but don't fine out much. They are warned of a wide lake farther along the river with a hostile kingdom. Burton goes anyway wanting to reach the end of the river.

The group is captured by a primitive army led by Goering, a Nazi leader from World War II. Burton leads a revolt. One of his people kills Goering and Burton becomes a new leader.

He decides to kill himself to travel faster along the River. Burton awakes in the midst of a battle of primeval giants near one end of the river. He is stepped on and killed.

Burton continues to drown himself to keep jumping to new places. He discovers that his first appearance near the passage to the Ethicals was on purpose because of the secret alien friend that visited him at the beginning. He also learns they are looking for him.

Finally, he wakes up after his last death in the lab of the Ethicals who found Burton because he died the most times and the counter on his revival pod gave him away. They refuse to answer his questions and try to find out who the traitor is that's helping Burton. They decide to send him back to the valley and to wipe his memory. He wakes back up with his memory and finds out the stranger helped him again. The novel ends with the revelation that the Ethicals are abandoning the project and death has become permanent again in River World. Burton sets out to find the Ethicals again.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked the fictional interactions of famous people from different eras of history.

Best scene in story: The rebellion where Burton and the other slaves escape their bonds. It is an old style pulp adventure.

Opinion about the main character: Burton could have been more well-rounded. The lessons seem to be learned by the characters around him and ignored by him.

The review of this Book prepared by Jay Wilburn a Level 2 American Robin scholar

The 19th century British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton wakes up, along with every other human being of normal intelligence or above who ever made it to adulthood, on the shore of a river that is estimated to be 20 million miles long.

The concept is that for millions of years, planet Earth was being watched by a benign group of aliens who were able to record the life-force of every sentient being on the planet and decide to bring all "normal" adults back to life simultaneously after Earth is destroyed in the early 21st century.

Burton is convinced that the answer to the puzzle of who the aliens are and how they've done this can be found in the gigantic tower which stands at one end of the river. Along with others, including Samuel Clemens, King John of England and Alice Liddell Hargreaves (inspiration for Alice in Wonderland etc.) he sets out to sail down the river.

Along the way, he encounters the aliens and dozens of well-known figures from history.
The review of this Book prepared by Mike McGowan

Chapter Analysis of To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Riverworld 1

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 20%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 36.7%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 23.3%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 20% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Explore/1st contact/ enviro story    -   Yes Explore:    -   exploring a wondrous planet or phenomena Tech./$$$/Info hunt    -   Yes Stealing/recovering/destroying    -   info about lifeform(s)/society/phenomena Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Cultural problems, alien culture    -   Yes

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   explorer Age:    -   20's-30's


Terrain    -   Water    -   Forests A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   humans in a primitive/fantasy society Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   descript of kissing How much dialogue?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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