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Unfortunately as this series has progressed, the quality has continued to deteriorate. Much of the opening portion is largely concerned with vain attempts to list every human that was ever born and studiously report their birth year and death. Sam Clemens has been reduced to a paranoid, psychotic mess merely seeking revenge (he should have been sent to Gardenworld). Most of the middle portion involves a naval battle that could probably have been outlined with as much detail as found in 3rd grade textbook renditions of the Merrimack and the Monitor in terms of what it actually contributes to the overall story.Also, Heman Gohring as a new age spiritual pacficist is also a bit of a stretch and his final appearance just comes out of nowhere. He appear to be inserted whenever the plot bogs down.
The final resolution of what began as a promising conceptual series consumes only about the last 2.5 hours and arrives after a detailed trek that is remarkable for only it unremarkable quantity of cliche. Even more unsettling is the notion that "ethicalness" which is major theme throughout the series has actually been somehow quantified and made measureable such that machines can exclude individuals who don't measure up. The "trick" at the end to finish is totally derivative from a Star Trek episode that displays the quaint 60's concept for dealing with uncooperative computers.
Unfortunately, the whole tale is trapped in a time warp of post-Vietnam pacificism combined with a new age "Zardoz" type spiritualism that doesn't resonate well today with a more complex and nuanced worldview. The "watan" origin was probably most interesting, but was rushed only to drag along after that. What was launched as a grand concept has floundered from a lack of imagination.
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Book 4 ties up a lot of loose ends and answers almost all the burning questions that have come up during the first three novels. The pace and action are right on par with the third book. Book 4 was meant to be the final novel in the series. However, Farmer went on to write a fifth book that completely turned the Riverworld mystery and why the inhabitants are there on it's head. If you've made past book three, this is the payoff you have been waiting for.