Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hugo Winner Review: 1972 To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Philip José Farmer
Read 3/2013, reviewed 4/21/2013
3 stars

I really loved this book.  The premise is awesome.  All the earth’s “human” inhabitants, past, present, and future, are resurrected into a world which seems to be controlled by aliens.  The plot is the struggle of a few of these humans to survive this new environment and figure out what is really going on. 

The key to the story was the struggle to make sense of the new world, and to not fall into the trappings of recreating “tribes” that are as uncivilized or even more savage than that in which they lived while on Earth.  Unfortunately, Farmer focuses on larger concepts such as Nazi-ism and savagery rather than the breaking of social stereotypes. 

The journey of the hero and his community is an amazing one.  The hero is full of machismo, but that is what he comes from.  He relies on this to from his own tribe, interact with other tribes, fight the oppression of evil tribes, even from the 20th century, and find the creators of this world.

It works.  The story is very engaging.  He expects others to rise from their dark pasts, but only up to the late 19th century, the era of his origin.  Since most of those he meets and interacts with are from earlier eras, the challenge feels good.  However, he himself is not challenged to rise beyond that.  Even the people from the future don’t challenge his views of society.  They only help him to understand the history of world from the point of his earthly death forward.

I give this book 3 stars because the premise is so unique.  Some readers take great issue with the machismo, misogyny, racism, and homophobia in the story.  This also bothers me greatly, but having already read most of the pre-1980 Hugo winners, I’ve come to accept that many writers were reflecting the society they knew, and often couldn’t rise from their social myopia.  If this book were written in the last 20 years, I would have had a much more hostile reaction to it.  I realize that if I was an adult in 1972 and read this book at that time, I would have accepted it as being a normal condition.  If Farmer did rise above his social stereotypes, I’d claim this book to be brilliant.  Instead, I’ll call it a really good story.

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