This is my guilty pleasure book, and I won’t be dissuaded from my love for it.
Once upon a time, 25ish years ago, I was a kid struggling. My mom had just died, and we were learning to cope with life. My dad’s new wife (or girlfriend, I can’t remember what she was back then) got a box from one of those old book-of-the-month clubs. When the box was opened, there were two books - The Hobbit and To Your Scattered Bodies Go. I was a kid that read everything I could get my hands on, and no one was interested in these books, so they gave them to me. And so, To Your Scattered Bodies Go became the first sci-fi book I had ever read (I’ll let you figure out what the first fantasy book was)..
I absolutely adored that book when I first read it. And I read it repeatedly. There was something awesome and different about reading about a world outside of this world’s known possibilities that could be used to create something different. This kind of writing had no bounds at all, and you could use limitless worlds to explore whatever you wanted.
And I’ve always loved that about sci-fi, and still do.
I was nervous re-reading this book (I haven’t read it for nearly 20 years), because now that I’m older, wiser, and more importantly - more critical, I thought the Suck Fairy would have taken over the book. I also assumed she brought her BFF, the Sexist Fairy as well.
And they were there, but not enough to really destroy the book for me. Is it the masterpiece I thought it was as a kid? Probably not... but I can’t seem to un-love a book that brought me to an entire genre and way of thinking.
Back to the actual review:
The book has a great premise: What if everyone who had ever lived were resurrected to live together? Well, not everyone - Anyone under the age of five didn’t make the cut. Everyone resurrected in perfect health, with their 25 year old bodies. No diseases, genetic, viral, or otherwise. No pesky bugs or predatory animals. We all live in a great river valley, with all of our (physical) needs met and provided for us.
Apparently, some time in the future, an alien race (or just us, really advanced) created a planet with an endlessly long river for this ultimate social experiment. They never really get into why this was done (apparently we need to correct ourselves/make amends/etc), or how it was done. With a science-light explanation (science did it, but no details), we avoid any fantastical or religious arguments.
Our protagonist is Sir Richard Burton, probably one of the greatest adventurers ever documented. Larger than life, he is a great character to use for this story because he was an ethnologist that studies many cultures, and a polyglot who spoke many languages. He could either talk to people with languages he already knew or figure out the language and get through cultural barriers as well.
PJF seemingly inserts himself into the story as “Peter J Frigate” a 20th century sci-fi writer with a serious man-crush on Burton. There are some other auxiliary characters as well, a prehistoric man, a future-alien (which accidentally actually causes the end of the species in 2008) and others.
This book is a bit on the misogynistic side, keeping heteronormative and sexist values (seriously, the supply grails come with lipstick
). It’s all about the white man, all the time. Women are only around to be raped, have sex with, be “protected”, etc. The women just don’t do much at all, but I don’t expect a lot of an old white male author that is clearly a product of his time. It’s not an excuse, I just can’t get bent out of shape about it. It’s an old book. It’s my guilty pleasure. I still love it.