The Fabulous Riverboat

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The Fabulous Riverboat
First edition cover
Author Philip José Farmer
Cover artist Richard M. Powers
Country United States
Language English
Series Riverworld
Genre Science Fiction
Publisher Putnam Publishing Group
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
ISBN 0-85391-197-5
Preceded by To Your Scattered Bodies Go, 1971
Followed by The Dark Design, 1977

The Fabulous Riverboat is a science fiction novel, the second book in the Riverworld series by Philip José Farmer.

A shorter version of the novel was serialized in If magazine as "The Felled Star" (July and August 1967) and "The Fabulous Riverboat" (June and August 1971).


Twenty years after humanity was resurrected on Riverworld, Sam Clemens is traveling with the crew of a Viking longboat, captained by Eric Bloodaxe, who is notable for having an axe of metal on the metal-poor Riverworld, where this is a rarity, to find the source of this metal. Clemens is accompanied by a prehistoric hominid whom he has named Joe Miller, who protects Clemens from Bloodaxe's crew. Clemens is also anxious to be reunited with his terrestrial wife, Livy. Unknown to the others, Clemens had been contacted by a mysterious being whom he named X, who claims to be one of the beings responsible for resurrection. X sends a nickel-iron meteorite into Riverwold, not far from Clemens. Clemens and his crew survive the resulting shock wave; but discover Livy dead, to be resurrected thousands of miles from him.

Following the shock, all survivors in the region are put to sleep by a strange fog, and awake to discover the valley restored to a pristine condition. In search of the meteorite, the crew are joined by Lothar von Richthofen, who becomes a trusted ally of Clemens against Bloodaxe. Where the meteor fell, the crew find a new group of resurrected, who have formed a nascent kingdom, which they annex. During mining, Clemens has Bloodaxe assassinated.

As metal is exhumed, the technology the area includes the reintroduction of firearms. Neighboring kingdoms become envious of this metal, especially one ruled by John Lackland, whose kingdom coöperates with another to invade Clemens's land. When Clemens offers King John to unite their lands, John forms the nation of Parolando with Clemens. As production begins of his metal riverboat, Clemens' wife arrives in the company of Cyrano de Bergerac, having herself become Cyrano's lover. Despite his discomfort, Clemens befriends Cyrano. Demanding greater payments for their resources, the nearby "Soul City", founded by black nationalists, attacks Parolando, until agents of John Lackland destroy a dam, releasing a flood against the invaders. Later, Clemens builds his riverboat, a side paddle wheeler named the Not For Hire. On the day of its christening, King John steals the ship, whereupon Clemens vows revenge.


Lester del Rey found the novel to be "a major piece of fiction. . . . Farmer pursuing one of his private delights to its ultimate end."[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reading Room", If, June 1972, p.113