Riverworld is a novel series by Philip Jose Farmer detailing the adventures of humanity in a world reshaped into one long river-valley. All humans that have ever been born are mysteriously restored to life with a body in its prime, and left to live in this world. There are no ores to make tools more advanced than Paleolithic, so humans are incapable of getting to the other side of the mountains that block the sides of the river. Humans that are killed awaken the next day somewhere else on the river.The novels are told from the perspective of different characters, the first is centered around Sir Richard Francis Burton and the second; Samuel Langhorn Clemens.The books, in order, are:
"The Day of the Great Shout" (1965) (Novella)
"The Suicide Express" (1966) (Novella. The novellas were later combined into the first book.)
To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971)
The Fabulous Riverboat (1971)
The Dark Design (1977)
The Magic Labyrinth (1980)
Gods of Riverworld (1983)
These were followed by a pair of anthologies, featuring short stories by Farmer and a variety of other authors.
Tales of Riverworld (1993)
Quest To Riverworld (1993)
There was also a GURPS setting adapting the novels (copies of it were given to the writers of the anthology stories as references), a video game and two adaptations on the SyFy Channel. Aside from the basic concepts, neither had much to do with the original.
Author Avatar: Recurring character Peter Jairus Frigate (note the initials), who is, of course, a writer of science fiction who was defrauded by a publisher no less. Rather than being idealised, Peter is scared of fighting; a bit of a weenie compared to the rock-ribbed Burton.
Death Is Cheap: The same advanced alien technology which resurrected everyone on Earth who had ever died remains active. Anyone who dies on the Riverworld is brought back to life the next day somewhere else. A few characters use this "Suicide Express" to deliberately, though randomly, explore the Riverworld. Later on, the machinery breaks down.
Our Souls Are Different: The soul is an artificial construct implanted by Applied Phlebotinum, recording one's life, memories, and existence to allow people to reincarnate on the eponymous Riverworld, eons later, and work their way to some kind of Redemption/Ascension/Crystal Dragon Nirvana. One striking scene shows a a holding vat holding thousands of souls: this is metaphysics meeting mass manufacture. Imagine: machinery handling souls like a billion ghostly coke bottles on a production line. In a supreme irony there is no proof for the final afterlife: the spirit engineers are profoundly religious.
Patchwork Story: As mentioned above, To Your Scattered Bodies Go started its life as a pair of novellas.
Secret Test of Character: Riverworld's true purpose was to give all of humanity a second chance since the best of humanity proves them worthy of joining a long line of alien creators, yet the worst of humanity proves them unworthy of such an honor.
Cool Boat: Averted in 2010; obviously it would be impractical to construct a huge paddlesteamer/aircraft carrier with Steam Punk machine-guns, but would it kill them to mock up some armor and gatling turrets, as opposed to a small black powder cannon and sandbags?
Death Equals Redemption: The suicide bomber in the 2010 version, responsible for killing all of the protagonists, later redeems herself by helping Matt escape, at the cost of her own life.
Evil Brit: Burton is made the villain of the 2010 movie, even though he's the hero of the novels!
Giving Up On Logic: Presumably why in both versions, no-one's particularly fazed for very long upon discovering they're back from the dead, young again in some cases, or that the world was destroyed by aliens.
Gladiator Games: (2003) Nero is captured and placed in the arena to fight to the death. Unfortunately he's in his element (not quite true as Nero entered the arena to race chariots) and not only quickly defeats his opponent, but also the local Big Bad, taking his throne. In the 2010 movie Burton thinks this is the true purpose of Riverworld.
Storming the Castle: The 2010 movie has a scene involving jumping from a burning zeppelin onto the deck of the Not for Hire to battle Burton's men. The sequence is rather underwhelming.
Suicide Attack: A female suicide bomber kills the protagonist in the 2010 adaptation. She is not happy when she wakes up in the afterlife and discovers it's full of infidels.
Too Dumb to Live: Dan in the 2010 movie, to the point where you can't really disagree with Pizarro's later comment that he finds Americans rather arrogant. Seriously, what kind of moron walks up to a bunch of heavily armed conquistadors, hellbent on flaunting their law degree at them?
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Burton (perhaps unintentionally) comes across as this, since he's basically right about the Riverworld being a giant game for someone else's amusement and no-one ever presents a valid counterargument to the question of why they should save it?