Philip José Farmer: TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO

Published: 1971
Winner or Rec? Hugo winner 1972
Started reading: September 23, 2014
Finished reading: September 23, 2014

TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO is extremely concept-heavy but does not, unfortunately, follow through on its initial promise. Farmer promises great things, includes a sweeping cast of characters (including actual historical figures), and… it falls flat.

Too much metaphysics and philosophy in a book that’s trying to do too much all at once. Personally I don’t like the inclusion of the historical figures, as it makes the novel read too much like poorly-thought-out fanfiction. If you’re going to the trouble of making up this whole complex premise, why not go the whole nine yards and make up your own characters, instead of borrowing from history? It feels like a cheap shortcut, for example, to use Hermann Goering as a central antagonist — we are supposed to bring our own knowledge and attitudes towards him into the story; we’re supposed to hate him as a real person, and then Farmer (conveniently) doesn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. It just smacks of lazy writing, and the actual characterization of them doesn’t help either — at no point did I ever really believe that these figures were themselves. They just seem like mostly blank canvases with a helpful nametag pinned to the front so we know who they’re supposed to be and, therefore, what we’re supposed to think of them.

In conclusion: Eh. Your mileage may vary. If you like concept and you really don’t give a fuck about characters, you may enjoy this.

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