Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer Dead at 91

It is another sad day in the literary world.

Philip Jose Farmer, one of the Kings of Science Fiction, author of one of the book series I most enjoyed in my whole life (the Riverworld books) died yesterday in his sleep.

From the Chicago Tribune:
The longtime Peoria resident wrote more than 75 novels, including the Riverworld and World of Tiers series. He won the Hugo Award three times and the Grand Master Award for Science Fiction in 2001.

Farmer was "one of the great ones," according to a statement on the web site of Subterranean Press, which published his later novels.

"He was always a joy to work with, and we will dearly miss his intelligence and good nature," the statement said.
I remember being so excited when I discovered the Riverworld books that I gave the whole set (four paperbacks at that time) to friends and co-workers for Christmas one year. I lost myself in those books in a way that has seldom happened since, in fact. Just picture the premise: every human being who has ever lived wakes up one morning, naked and bewildered, along the banks of what seems like a never-ending river. Picture Mark Twain, Hitler, cave men, Sir Richard Burton, Alice Liddel and many other famous people interacting and teaming up for a battle of good vs. evil. Throw in the fact that anyone dying along the river wakes up somewhere else on the river the very next suicide a way to travel to a more pleasant part of the river bank, a way to escape captivity, a way to search for a loved one?

If you enjoy this kind of fantasy and have somehow missed Riverworld, do yourself a favor and read at least the first volume now in honor of the wonderful writer who imagined and shared them with the rest of us. I can't think of a better tribute to Mr. Farmer than a few thousand people reading Riverworld all over again.

These are the first two books in the series (and my favorites) for anyone wanting to look into them a little more:

Another great one is gone...damn.


  1. You can count me in as a fan of the Riverworld books, too. I remember back in high school one regular subject of debate among my admittedly nerdy friends was whether or not Farmer wrote the Kilgore Trout novel Venus on the Half Shell.

    Wish I still had a copy of that.

  2. I'm going to try to find my old paperbacks, CB...although I'm almost afraid to reread them. I fear that their reality will not hold up to where I am today. There's always a possibility that I'm such a different person today than I was when I discovered the book that they will not impact me in the same way they first did.

  3. It's always sad when an author who has connected with you dies. I haven't read any Farmer but I see he wrote a book involving Phileaus Fogg of my childhood favourite Around the World in Eighty Days, so I might change that.

    I also want to thank you Sam for recommending Soldier's Heart a while back. I hadn't heard of it before reading your review, and having just finished it am glad I did.

  4. Sarah, I haven't read that particular piece by Farmer, so let me know what you think of it.

    I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed "Soldier's Heart" as much as I did. It was filled with interesting insights into the modern military, especially its officers, and I found it fascinating.


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